Enable a distribution list's moderation features in Exchange 2010

IT pros can better control message proliferation in their organization by enabling a group for moderation in Exchange 2010. Scott Lowe walks you through the process of enabling moderation features.

Exchange 2010 includes a feature that has been needed since Exchange started supporting distribution groups: moderated distribution groups. With distribution groups, users who have the rights to send messages to the list can do so with unfettered access. If you're able to send to the list, you can send anything as often as you like. This may create a situation in which users get too much mail that, in many cases, won't pertain to them. It increases server load, and even worse, it's an inefficient way to do business. I speak from experience.

We have three common distribution groups at Westminster College -- we have one for students, one for faculty, and one for staff -- with way too many people allowed to send way too much mail. One of the reasons that our college is moving to Exchange 2010 is that we're planning to make significant use of moderated distribution groups in Exchange 2010. We'll couple the implementation with some other policy- and technology-based mechanisms to better target messages at groups to which the messages pertain and get rid of our current scattershot approach to messaging.

The group creation process

The creation of a moderated distribution list starts out like any other list; in fact, you don't actually create a moderated distribution list -- you enable moderation features on an existing distribution group. You probably already know how to create a distribution group in Exchange, but if you don't, here's a quick run through: From the Exchange Management Console, go to Recipient Configuration | Distribution Group; from the Actions pane, click New Distribution Group and follow the wizard's instructions.

Group moderation features

Once a group is created, you can enable moderation features by opening the group properties (right-click the group and choose Properties). On the Properties page, go to the Mail Flow Settings tab (Figure A). In this dialog box, select the Message Moderation option and then click the Properties button to open the Message Moderation window (Figure B). Figure A

The Mail Flow Settings tab for the distribution group
Figure B

The Message Moderation window

In the Message Moderation window, select the checkbox next to Messages Sent To This Group Have To Be Approved By A Moderator; this enables the list's moderation features. Next, choose which users will be designated as moderators for the group.  If you don't choose anyone, the group owner -- that is, the person who created the group -- will be responsible for message moderation.

Look at Figure C, and you'll see that I attempted to send a message to the new list, and the moderator has been notified. It's up to the moderator to decide whether to approve or reject the message. Clicking the Approve button simply allows the message to be sent. Clicking Reject brings you to a question: Simply Reject The Message, or Reject With Additional Comment. In Figure D, you see the message that is sent to the sender when a message is rejected. Figure C

Approve or reject the message
Figure D

The message was rejected.

Important note

Before you make heavy use of moderated distribution lists, you should make sure that the message doesn't have to pass through any non-Exchange 2010 Hub Transport servers. Older Hub Transport servers will simply pass messages on to group members and ignore moderation options.

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By Scott Lowe

Since 1994, Scott Lowe has been providing technology solutions to a variety of organizations. After spending 10 years in multiple CIO roles, Scott is now an independent consultant, blogger, author, owner of The 1610 Group, and a Senior IT Executive w...