Sending and Receiving mail as an Alias with Amazon Workmail


Email communication is a critical part of any business. Amazon Workmail provides a convenient managed mail server to power your organization. Amazon Workmail also supports aliases for your users. This means you can setup aliases like support@example.com and sales@example.com to be delivered to your inbox john.smith@example.com .

However, anyone wishing to send email as one of their aliases may find this is quite as easy to accomplish as it was to setup your email alias. In fact, Amazon has not yet implemented this feature at all. As of Jan 16, 2017 Amazon is still promising this feature, but has no available timeline. Another critical issue with aliases is that when you receive email sent to your aliases, there is no indication as to which alias the email was sent. In other words, if you have an alias setup in the traditional manner, an email sent to alias.user@example.com will appear to you as if it were sent directly to user@example.com this happens both in Outlook clients and the Workmail Webapp.

Luckily, there is a workaround for anyone needing to send mail as their aliases AND be able to see the correct alias appear in the "to" field of the email received. This is done by implementing aliases as groups. In this example, we'll suppose that you want to setup an alias support@example.com for user@example.com. Using groups also lets you delegate an alias to multiple user accounts, but we'll stick to just one for this example. We'll also assume that you do not currently have any aliases setup (if you do, you should remove them before following this guide)

Setting up an alias group to receive mail

  1. Log into the AWS console and navigate to the WorkMail service for your organization.
  2. Click on the Groups tab and create the group with the Create Group button.
  3. Input a group name. This can be any name you want to use to remember this group. We'll use support for this example
  4. Input the email address you want to use for this alias, IE support@example.com
  5. Add group members into the group. In this case, we'll just have one member user@example.com

That's it! In just a few easy steps, we've vastly improved the Amazon Workmail experience. You'll now find that emails sent to support@example.com are now delivered to user@example.com with an appropriate to: field so that you can tell where the email was originally addressed to.

Sending mail as your group alias.

Unfortunately, sending mail as your alias is not quite as easy. If you were to simply try to send mail as an alias as you might do with other email services, you will receive a cryptic bounce-back message from the AWS SMPT server stating "You are not allowed to send as user or group support You may need to contact your e-mail administrator to solve this problem." But fear not, for where there is a will, there is a way. To do this we'll be using the AWS SES service. You'll have to sign up for the service and request to be moved of the sandbox environment beforehand. This also requires that you use a 3rd party mail client to send mail as your alias.

  1. Log into the AWS console and navigate to the SES service offering.
  2. Under Identity Management select Verified Emails and Verify new email address
  3. Verify the email address support@example.com by logging into the email account and using the verification link.
  4. Obtain your SMTP credentials by going to SMTP Settings and clicking Create my SMTP credentials
  5. Setup a send-only account in your mail client for support@example.com using your SMTP credentials. This will vary based on the mail client you use.

From here, you should now be able to receive and send mail as your alias. However, there are still a couple of caveats. One caveat is that emails you send by this method won't end up in your sent/outbox of your regular user account. Since this is important to me to keep track of whom I have and have not responded to, I BCC myself on all outgoing emails of this kind.

A second consideration is that SES is billed separately from Workmail. Because of this, you may end up paying for some overhead of sending emails. However, you may actually end up saving money through this setup if you use Amazon's EC2 (or Beanstalk) for sending email. If you send less than 62,000 outgoing emails per month (the AWS free tier allowance for EC2 call to SES) fewer emails are sent using the Workmail service, which means lower usage costs for Amazon Workmail.

Help resources

SES Quickstart Guide

Obtaining SES credentials

Free Tier Pricing