Possibly the biggest surprise brought about by the release of Exchange 2016 is… how similar it is to Exchange 2013. In fact, in terms of email signature management it’s pretty much identical (if you’re familiar with the 2013 version of Microsoft’s email server, you’ll see what I mean). However, many of you may have never had the opportunity to poke around Exchange 2013, so let’s get to work:
NOTE: This solution comes with several limitations, which I discuss in the last section of the article.
Steps to set up signatures in Exchange 2016
- In an internet browser access your Exchange admin center (typically it will be available under: https://<CASServerName>/ecp or https://mail.contoso.com/ecp) using Transport Rules administrator credentials.
- In the feature pane on the left select mail flow and then select the rules tab:
- Click the new rule button (+) and select Apply disclaimers…*:
* This is a minor shortcut. If you select Create a new rule…, you will have to navigate to manually select the Apply disclaimers action in the subsequent new rule window, that’s all. Regardless which option you choose, the new rule window always gives you the option to change the action to another one.
- Type in a name of your signature rule (in the example below it’s “External signature”) and in the *Apply this rule if… section select the condition you want emails to meet to trigger the rule.
Since I want the signature added to all emails going out to external contacts, I’ll go with The recipient is located… and in the resulting window select Outside the organization.
NOTE: If you want to add more conditions or exceptions, click More options… at the bottom of the new rule window.
- The *Do the following… section should already have the Append the disclaimer… action selected (if it doesn’t, use the dropdown to add it), so just click Enter text…:
- In the resulting specify disclaimer text window provide your email signature text or HTML code.
Keep in mind that you can use Exchange mailbox variables formatted this way: %%[name of variable]%%.
- After saving the disclaimer text, click Select one… and decide what action should be taken if a message cannot be processed by the rule (this can happen when the email is e.g. encrypted).
The available options are:
Wrap – The original message is added as an attachment to a new email, which is then processed by the rule.
Ignore – The original message is sent to the recipient without being processed.
Reject – The original message is rejected.
- In the Properties of this rule section, you can modify the default settings. Those settings are:
The rule’s priority in relation to other rules (0 is processed first, 1 second, etc.):
The rule audit setting (this lets you track the rule’s performance via Exchange reports, a feature available only in Exchange Online so far):
Choose one of the 3 modes in which the rule will be saved:
Enforce – The rule is active upon saving.
Test with Policy Tips – Applies only to DLP rules (more in this Microsoft article).
Test without Policy Tips – The rule is not active upon saving. Note that, to actually be able to test it, you will need to add the Generate incident report… action to your rule (learn more about adding multiple actions to rules).
- Click Save in the lower-right corner of the window and test your rule.
If you want your rule to include multiple conditions, exceptions and actions, click More options… at the bottom of the rule editor window:
Having done this, you will notice that you are now able to add more than one condition, action and exception to your rule.
The rule editor will also now allow you to:
- define the rule’s activity period (no recurrence setting unfortunately),
- decide whether subsequent rules should be processed or not,
- decide if the message should be deferred if rule processing doesn’t complete
- define whether the sender should be matched based on the message header, envelope or both,
- and provide comments for the rule.
Limitations of the native Exchange 2016 email signature solution
In terms of limitations, not much has changed since the previous edition of Exchange Server. Exchange 2016 mail flow rules still do not allow for, e.g.:
- Adding signatures directly under latest emails;
- Displaying the signatures in users’ Sent Items folders;
- Embedding images in signatures;
- Using other Active Directory variables than the ones corresponding with the variables I listed above.
To be able to overcome these limitations, as well as enjoy features such as limited remote access to email signature rules and a WYSIWYG HTML template editor, use CodeTwo Exchange Rules 2016.