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Programmatically set Out of Office flag for users

An Exchange admin wants to be able to set the Out of Office flag for users who unexpectedly call in sick. Expert David Sengupta weighs in on this privacy issue.

As an admin with access to all users' mailboxes, I would like to be able to programmatically set the Out of Office flag and the value in the auto-reply field for our users, because they never really know when they're going to be sick. Do you know of an Exchange server API that allows me that kind of access? Alternatively, if it came down to it, does a program exist that does this?
VIEW MEMBER FEEDBACK TO THIS ASK THE EXPERT Q&A.

I am assuming you are using Exchange 5.5 server, since global access to mailboxes as you're referring to has been blocked in Exchange 2000 and Exchange 2003 due to privacy issues. I should caution you against opening other users' mailboxes unless you have documented procedures, management approval and employee releases (i.e., signed corporate e-mail policy) allowing you to do so. While it is commonly argued that employee mailboxes represent corporate-owned data, there are numerous legislations that vary from region to region and which govern what you can and can't do legally.

That said, there is no public Exchange Server API permitting programmatic access to the Out of Office (OOF) flag as you request, and there is no way I'm aware of to achieve this using third-party applications. I recommend you leave this to your employees, if possible, and have them at least change their voice mail remotely if they cannot report to work due to sickness.


MEMBER FEEDBACK TO THIS ASK THE EXPERT Q&A:

Both Symprex and SeliSoft have Windows applications that can set and turn off Out of Office messages. They are by no means complete solutions, nor do they allow full control like the Out of Office Assistant in Outlook 2003, but this can be done.
—Alan L.


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Related information from SearchExchange.com:

  • Step-by-Step Guide: E-mail compliance to-do list
  • Tip: Protect mailbox confidentiality
  • Resource Center: Compliance tips and resources

  • This was last published in December 2005

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