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Shared Mailboxes or Distribution Groups in Office 365?

October 29, 2015 By Chris Lee - Cloud Deployment Engineer
This question has come up more than once so I thought I would put up some thoughts on the topic. The short answer is that for most cases, organizations should take advantage of shared mailboxes—especially in Office 365/Exchange Online.
What are shared mailboxes?
These are communal mailboxes that are assigned to a group of users to access, receive email into, and send email from. These mailboxes will show up on your Outlook Web App (OWA) and Outlook client as a separate mailbox (similar to an attached PST). Shared mailboxes *DO NOT* require an Office 365 license.

Example Scenario:
What are distribution groups?
These are simply forwarding lists. Any emails that are sent into a distribution list are forwarded to all members. Distribution lists *DO NOT* require an Office 365 license.

Example Scenario:
Both shared mailboxes and distribution groups allow for receiving emails from a shared email address. Both allow for replying from that shared email address. However, shared mailboxes have the added benefit of being a central mail repository for all replies and outbound messages. In addition, members of your team will be able to better collaborate and minimize the risk of duplicate work. Lastly, shared mailboxes do not require an Office 365 license.