The Exchange Admin Center has some flaws concerning the configuration of users’ auto-reply (better known as out of office message).
Perhaps the biggest problem is that you can’t configure a schedule with the Exchange Online Admin Center. Instead, you can only enable or disable auto-reply.
This is why many admins often need to use PowerShell to get the job done.
How to Configure a User’s Auto Reply using AD Users & Computers
It is a surprise to many Office 365 admins that they can configure automatic replies on Exchange Online mailboxes directly from the AD Users & Computers tool.
With Easy365Manager version 1.7 or later, you can manage automatic replies directly from AD user properties.
The Auto Reply configuration in Easy365Manager resembles the Outlook implementation more than the Exchange Admin Center implementation.
This means that with Easy365Manager, you can also view and manage the scheduling of auto-replies:
Contrary to the Exchange Admin Center, Easy365Manager supports all the main properties of the auto-reply configuration.
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How to Use Set-MailboxAutoReplyConfiguration
The Set-MailboxAutoReplyConfiguration CmdLet is part of the Exchange Online Management module.
The Set-MailboxAutoReplyConfiguration CmdLet has several switches. These are the most important ones:
- Identity – Set the identity of the mailbox you want to configure.
- AutoReplyState – This can be set to “Enabled,” “Disabled,” or “Scheduled” and determines the overall scope of reply messages.
- InternalMessage – The reply message that is sent to internal senders.
- ExternalMessage – The reply message that is sent to external senders.
- ExternalAudience – This can be set to “All,” “Known,” or “None,” and determines the scope of reply messages sent to external senders.
- StartTime – The start time for reply messages. This parameter is ignored unless AutoReplyState is set to “Scheduled.”
- EndTime– The end time for reply messages. This parameter is ignored unless AutoReplyState is set to “Scheduled.”
One odd thing to notice when scheduling automatic replies is that the StartTime and EndTime are read from the configuration as local time (adjusted to your time zone). But they are written in UTC (!).
Examples of Set-MailboxAutoReplyConfiguration
The section will show some examples you can modify to suit your needs.
Example 1: Enable automatic replies without any schedule (on until disabled) and only send to internal senders and external senders who match user contacts.
Set-MailboxAutoReplyConfiguration -Identity "Lene.Hau" -AutoReplyState "Enabled" -ExternalAudience "Known" -InternalMessage "I'm out..." -ExternalMessage "I'm out..."
Example 2: Enable automatic replies with a schedule and don’t send to external senders.
Set-MailboxAutoReplyConfiguration -Identity "Lene.Hau" -AutoReplyState "Scheduled" -ExternalAudience "None" -InternalMessage "I'm out..." -StartTime (Get-Date) -EndTime (Get-Date).AddDays(7)
Example 3: Disable automatic replies.
Set-MailboxAutoReplyConfiguration -Identity "Lene.Hau" -AutoReplyState "Disabled"
How to Configure a User’s Auto Reply Using Exchange Admin Center
Finally, you can configure the user’s auto-reply using the Exchange Admin Center.
The Exchange Admin Center doesn’t support the scheduling of automatic replies. If an auto-reply is configured with scheduling, the Exchange Admin Center will show it as disabled, which is quite misleading.
To configure auto-replies for a user with the Exchange Admin Center, click on the user, click on Other, and then click on Manage automatic replies:
You can now view and configure the automatic replies for the user’s mailbox: