Email forwarding allows you to:
- Get emails to multiple people at your company
- Use role-based emails like firstname.lastname@example.org
- Send and receive emails under multiple brands or domains
It gives you a lot more flexibility on how to send and receive email.
What is email forwarding?
Email forwarding redirects incoming mail from one inbox to another. It’s just like mail forwarding, where you’d send someone’s letters on to their new address.
You can use email forwarding to present a different email address to different contacts, to funnel all your incoming email into a single inbox, and for many other uses, which we’ll go into in more detail below.
If you’d like to get into the technicalities of server-based vs client-based forwarding and the underlying code, check out his Wikipedia page. We’re going to focus on what email forwarding can do for you and how you can get it if you decide it’s what you want.
Benefits of Email Forwarding
You can use email forwarding to solve several common business problems, making email more adaptable and agile.
Manage Multiple Brands
You can use it to connect multiple brands to the same inbox. If you handle all your consumer-facing business under retail.com and all your enterprise-level business under biz.com, you can funnel everything from both brands into the same inbox so you don’t need to have a dozen tabs open just to check your messages.
Manage Emails In Another Email Tool
Sometimes, organizations use G Suite as a company hub. Sometimes, folks prefer to use another email tool like Outlook.
If that’s the case, using forwarding lets them keep their G Suite account but see their emails in the inbox that they actually use.
You can also use email forwarding to set up role-based email addresses like email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, or email@example.com.
This gives your customers a one-stop email address based on what they need. Support issues go to firstname.lastname@example.org, then belong to whoever answers the message. But customers don’t have to figure out who they need to talk to and then find that person’s email address.
Additionally, you can set up forwarding so that emails sent to one address go to multiple inboxes. For example, every message to email@example.com goes to a few key people that have the authority to respond.
There’s also the advantage that you can use forwarding to conceal your main inbox address. The only public email addresses that people can find aren’t used for any logins. This keeps your personal email less cluttered and more secure since fewer people will have it.
Catch Near Misses
You can use email forwarding to handle misspelled names. If you have team members with names that are susceptible to being misspelled — Robin/Robyn, Amy/Amie/Amey, or surnames that are relatively difficult to spell, like Krzyzewski, it makes sense to set up aliases for those misspellings so that emails reach their desired recipients even if some letters are in the wrong places.
Email Aliases in Gmail
Email aliases are alternate email addresses that deposit incoming mail into a given user’s inbox. Gmail lets you assign up to 30 aliases per user, but to send emails from a different email address, you need to set up a custom From field in Gmail. You also have to do this if you want to receive emails you send to your own email addresses.
Isn’t an email alias and email forwarding basically the same thing? Not quite; aliases are different name-tags attached to the same inbox; forwarding involves moving emails from one inbox to another.
Two Email Forwarding Options in G Suite
G Suite comes with two types of email forwarding, each with its advantages and disadvantages. A third type of forwarding, end-user routing, was discontinued recently and is no longer usable on G Suite. Bot extant types of forwarding are handled by users themselves rather than administrators:
1: Forward Email to Another Account
This is the option we’ve mostly been discussing: forward incoming emails to another account. You create a new account — firstname.lastname@example.org — then, when customers email that account, you forward incoming emails to the accounts held by actual human users.
You can only set this up on desktop; it’s not available through any of Gmail’s mobile apps. So the first thing to do is open Gmail using the account you want to forward from.
Go to Settings > Forwarding and POP/IMAP and click Add a forwarding address.
Enter the address of the account you want to forward emails to. Click Next > Proceed > OK, and Gmail will send a confirmation email to the address you’ve entered, so you’ll need to open that account and click the verification link. You’ll need incognito mode or another browser here.
Then go back to the account you’re forwarding from, refresh the page and click Forwarding and POP/IMAP again. This time, select Forward a copy of incoming mail to and choose what happens with the originals of the mail that comes to this email address. It makes sense to keep copies, at least initially.
Why use it?
- It’s easy to set up and users can set it up themselves, though only G Suite admins can add user accounts to a G Suite account.
- Users can choose where their mail gets forwarded to.
That means this is a good choice if you use Gmail as a hub for lots of users who actually prefer another inbox, for instance.
What are the downsides?
- It’s restrictive — users can only set up one forwarding address
- Admins don’t have visibility or control over this. If you’re an admin and you don’t like the sound of that, don’t worry — you can turn the feature off for all users in the Admin console, under Apps> G Suite> Gmail> Advanced settings.
If you’d rather forward only specific emails, you can use filters instead of account-based forwarding. Taken to the extreme, you can create a set of if-this-then-that rules for multiple chained inboxes, directing messages to the right person or account, archiving messages and more without doing any manual work at all.
Click the down arrow next to the search box in the Gmail account you want to set up filters for. Enter search terms, just as if you were doing a normal search.
Then select ‘Create filter’ to turn that search into a permanent filter. Decide what you want it to do from the list of options, and confirm Create filter to set it up.
If you choose to forward these emails, you’ll have to add a forwarding address; select that option and it will dump you back in the POP/IMAP section of Gmail. Here you’ll add the email address you want the emails forwarded to. Don’t click ‘creating a filter’ — that will take you back to the start of the filter creation process.
You can also create a filter direct from an email in your inbox. Tick the box next to a message or a group of messages, then go to the three stacked dots on the right of the menu of options and select it to get this:
Choose ‘filter emails like these.’
Why use it?
It’s more adaptable. You can forward emails based on what’s in their subject line, in the body of the email, and more. That’s especially useful for role-based email setups, letting you segregate emails to support based on the feature they mention, for instance.
What are the downsides?
- Users can create up to 20 filters pointing to other inboxes. That might not be enough, or it might be plenty to create confusion that makes things worse, not better.
- Admins don’t have control or visibility — just like account forwarding this is entirely user-led. (And again, Admins can’t do it but they can turn it off for everyone in the Admin console.)
Can Admins Manage Email Forwarding?
The two types of forwarding we talked about above are managed by users. What about a situation where an admin wants to manage forwarding across the organization?
Admins can do this using recipient mapping, creating a virtual user table which redirects emails according to a central plan.
In your Admin console, go to Apps > G Suite > Gmail > Advanced settings and ensure that the top level of your organizational table is highlighted in the top left of the screen.
Scroll down to Recipient Address Map, it’s under Routing, the final subheader on the page, mouse over it and select Configure.
If you already have some rules set up here — perhaps enacted by a previous administrator — you’ll see Locally applied or Inherited under the Recipient address map, and you’ll need to edit them.
You can select either All incoming messages, or Only external incoming messages. If you choose “Also route to original destination”, these emails will go to both the new address you’re about to specify, and their original target inbox. Otherwise, only the new address you specify will receive them.
Then, enter the address maps. These must be two addresses to a line, separated by a comma. First add the original target address, then the address you want the emails to be redirected to.
These must be complete working email addresses, and they’re case-sensitive.
Managing email forwarding this way lets you control email forwarding centrally, better manage role-based emails and department or organizational unit-wide email forwarding, and avoids the need for individual user-level forwarding. Because it’s admin-managed, it also prevents the kind of chaos that can ensue in a large organization where people handle this kind of technical issue themselves.
It does have a few limitations:
- You can map a maximum of 5,000 recipient addresses to other addresses.
- You can map each individual recipient address to a maximum of 12 addresses.