back to article Go on, hit Reply All. We dare you. We double dare you. Because Office 365 will defeat your server-slamming ways

Microsoft may just have made Reply All storms a thing of the past, by adding a suitable blocker to Exchange in Office 365 environments. The new measure was promised in November 2019 as a “feature to better help thwart, or at least reduce the impact of, Reply-All Mail Storms.” It’s now landed in Exchange Online, and looks out …

  1. MrMerrymaker Silver badge

    User education

    Could be useful once fleshed out with custom thresholds etc though I have a mental image of a user seeing the restriction message, not reading a single word of it, and immediately ringing IT about an "email error" and how they absolutely need to send this picture of their cat but the email is broke.

    1. AndrueC Silver badge

      Re: User education

      To be fair I find that a lot of IT support staff are guilty of 'speed reading' as well. I've often wondered if it's laziness, an automated system or ignorance. Perhaps they've learnt that most of the time their guess at what someone is complaining about is correct so there's no need to waste time carefully reading the first message.

      But in my experience you mostly only get a thoughtful and accurate response on your follow-up query.

      1. Muscleguy Silver badge

        Re: User education

        Agreed, though it is annoying to carefully craft a question/complaint and find it has not been read.

        1. Warm Braw Silver badge

          Re: User education

          What I used to find most annoying was the users seemed incapable, when asked, of being able to read out exactly the words on the screen in front of them.

          "What does the message say?"

          "Something about an error"

          "Can you read it exactly?"

          "Something about something being denied"

          Repeat ad infinitum...

          1. Allan George Dyer Silver badge

            Re: User education

            I find the conversation often goes:

            "What does the message say?"

            "Something about an error"

            "Can you read it exactly?"

            "No, I deleted it because it wasn't useful"

            Which does, fortunately, avoid the ad infinitum, but can get me told off for shouting at users.

            1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

              Re: User education

              I've very occasionally done something like that in the past, but not for a long time as I learned to at least read the messages...

              The worst techie example was a previous IT assistant that I had, who wasn't exactly the most talented despite his opinion of himself, who had a problem with his system and by the time he thought to raise it with me he had rebooted two core servers, restarted a firewall, restarted various services, restarted his own PC at least twice too and still couldn't resolve the problem. I had him demonstrate the problem to me and quick as a flash he closed the error dialog and continued with the process that he was having a problem with. I had him go back and start again and asked him this time to not close the error dialog and to instead read it. Frustratingly enough his muscle memory closed the error dialog a second time, but I managed to read a little of it and I knew that it would be reporting the problem. The next time he stopped and I had him read the error message: a user access level error that took us moments to fix. He'd been working on this problem for a day and a half.

              1. Nunyabiznes Silver badge

                Re: User education

                And because a warm body is better than nobody, he still has a job, right?

                We can't afford to let anyone go, even now. We just limit what they have access to, to keep extra work to a minimum.

            2. Immenseness

              Re: User education

              OTOH, a pet hate of mine is the whole plethora of "modern" error messages along the lines of "Oops - Something went wrong", which removes the last bit of useful meaning from the end result of the conversation described!

              1. Allan George Dyer Silver badge

                Re: User education

                And people wonder why techies ask them, "Have you tried turning it off, throwing it down a coal mine, jumping in after it, asking a friend to fill the coal mine with concrete, and turning it back on again?"

      2. arctic_haze

        Re: User education

        I noticed the same today. I informed the IT guys that I have myself solved the problem I had asked them to look into and got a reply "Does it work now?"

        1. Nunyabiznes Silver badge

          Re: User education

          To be fair, I've had users "fix" the problem by stealing their vacationing cow-irkers gear and tell me "It's all good!"

    2. TeeCee Gold badge

      Re: User education

      I'd be more worried about the possibility of God's boss calling down in a lather with something like: "I need to tell everyone to stop replying to this bloody mail AND IT WON'T LET ME!".

    3. Helen Waite

      Re: User education

      I'd like to customise the error message, replacing "How to Fix It" with "This Yor Folt."

  2. cbars

    It's not possible to set up arbitrary email accounts in exchange server...? You know..... for testing...?

    I suppose a lack of knowledge such as what the word "test" means would be career defining

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      This is Microsoft (or whatever TPTB at el|Reg Virtual Towers have decided it shall now be known). Isn't testing always a career defining monment there?

    2. theDeathOfRats

      Test? As in beta testing?

      As per the article, there aren't [m]any options right now, so: 10 $moneys say it's just an ON|OFF setting.

      I LOVE scream tests, but I'm not so sure about this one...

    3. doublelayer Silver badge

      "It's not possible to set up arbitrary email accounts in exchange server...? You know..... for testing...?"

      I'm sure it is possible, but there are far too many caveats to want to do so. First, in order to trigger this, you need to set up five thousand such accounts. I don't know whether it's possible to run a batch setup process for that many accounts and then run a batch delete once testing is completed, but if it is at all painful I'd choose not to. Second, having that many test accounts puts a strain on resources. Five thousand mailboxes would take up a lot of disk space, whereas five thousand aliases going to the same place might not be counted as separate recipients for testing. Third, at least some systems are charged per mailbox, meaning you would pay a healthy sum for the privilege of testing.

    4. skuba*steve

      It's O365, so you'd need to set up enough mailboxes to be able to trigger the threshold, and also license them.

  3. Danny 5

    That sucks!

    I'm a long time Exchange admin and obviously work with Exchange online too. Collecting reply-to-all storms was a fun little thing I liked to do, people being stupid can be quite amusing. I do NOT like Microsoft putting the kybosh on that!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: That sucks!

      I still have a folder on my account with their mailstorm in it.

      Whenever I am concerned I have forgotten about the mental powers of middle management, I just open a couple of them. I am reminded of the inability of so many of them to do simple things like read and think!

      1. steviebuk Silver badge

        Re: That sucks!

        True. That is the one of the main issues of the NHS middle management and too many of them. Managed to get a phishing email at work from an account. Checked the logs and it wasn't spoofed. Bit worrying knowing an account was compromised.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: That sucks!

        "I am reminded of the inability of so many of them to do simple things like read and think!"

        Thats why we need so many NHS managers - for every management position, there's one to think, one to read and one to keep an eye on two dangerous intellectuals...

      3. steviebuk Silver badge

        Re: That sucks!

        This was some years back but I also remember listening in to some consultants that were in, being paid good money, getting to make up their own job title and one such knob being on the phone "Yes. I'm only doing half days so then I can go and play golf".


        1. AndrueC Silver badge

          Re: That sucks!

          I'm not following your complaint. If someone is only working half days and being paid accordingly where is the problem? I'm not that far off retirement myself (though I'm not a consultant) and one way my boss could persuade me to stay a couple more years would be a reduction in hours during the summer months precisely so that I could play more golf.

          If you're arguing that consultants are overpaid then that's another discussion but being overpaid for half a day's work is actually slightly less aggravating (to others) than being overpaid for a day's work. Similarly I'd rather that a 'knob' only be working for half a day because then they have less time to be a nuisance. Although if they are a 'knob' outside of work then I would rather they stay away from golf courses in their free time :)

          1. steviebuk Silver badge

            Re: That sucks!

            You have a point but he was acting in a manor which requires the term cunt. He did fuck all most days, got paid well for it, didn't mind using the work phone for personal calls. But yes, guess management should really be blamed for hiring him.

            He was still a cunt.

  4. Ian Johnston Silver badge

    Does it know that all-staff-list is ten thousand people but that my-group-list is three?

  5. Philip Storry

    It won't help.

    The universe will just build a better idiot.

    It always does.

    It's how we got here. :-(

    1. DJV Silver badge

      Re: It won't help.

      Yes, but we really do need to learn to stop voting the idiots into power (and that applies to both sides of the Atlantic).

      1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

        Re: It won't help.

        Here east of the North Sea we seem to manage that quite well (as long as you stay west of the Oder and the Neise).

  6. Claptrap314 Silver badge


    And here, it's only been 23 years since my company's mail server was brought to its knees by an r-a storm.

    That some serious responsiveness there. You can really tell what u$'s priorities are, that's for sure.

    1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      Re: Amazing!

      Luckily for me I only wound up having to deal with a single email storm and it wasn't a reply-all one. It was a stupidly configured server with an "out of office" auto-responder which responded every single time an email was received rather than just once to each sender. The sender, in NZ as it happens therefore a good 8-12 hour delay before I could contact their IT team, had sent an email to an invalid email address on our domain. Our server correctly responded at the SMTP conversation level that the email address was invalid at which point their server created a response for their user which generated a fresh "out of office" message to the invalid email address, which our server responded to and so on...

      In the end I temporarily blackholed their domain and waited for the thousands of pending email messages and their responses to go through the queues.

  7. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    1. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: Bad Solution

      Occasionally, it's a message that is of use to most of the company, or at least comes from a high-enough level that you can't just fire them. Instead, inflict that punishment on anyone who responded to the address with something pointless. The punishments go as follows:

      Person who sent out original email and didn't block reply all: Warning on first offense. Loss of send-to-more-than-three privilege on second one.

      Person who first sent a message on reply all with some related query (or people if multiple sent at same time): Presume they didn't check the headers. No action.

      Person who sent related message to all after having received other people's messages on the thread: Warning on first offense. Similar loss of privileges as thread origin if the problem continues.

      Person who sends unrelated email, not knowing reply all is in effect: Various penalties depending on how merciful you want to be.

      Person who sends unrelated email, knowing that reply all is in effect: Fire them immediately, but not just by having their manager inform them. I suggest having security chase them out of the building and posting video of it on the intranet. We all need some distraction, but on our own terms. I'm guessing that watching that person get chased out of the building will be more entertaining than whatever email they sent.

      1. Anonymous Coward Silver badge

        Re: Bad Solution

        If it's that important to send the original message, use the BCC field. That's what it's there for.

  8. This Side Up

    Why stop there?

    It would actually help if they could ban top posting and quoting the whole of the preceding conversation unnecessarily.

    Also users should stop gumming up the internet by sending megabytes of html, css, js, logos, tracking links, etc when a simple text message would do.

    1. Nunyabiznes Silver badge

      Re: Why stop there?

      My favorite is the posts we get that are trying to pawn off some bit of tattered office furniture. Sent to all instead of just admin assistants and of course it is in National Geographic picture quality. Everyone replies to all - No thanks and includes attachments. :rolleyes:

    2. AndrueC Silver badge

      Re: Why stop there?

      Because it's annoying.

      > What's wrong with top posting?

  9. Anonymous Coward

    I thought it was called Microsoft 365 now...

    just sayin'

    1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      Re: I thought it was called Microsoft 365 now...

      Microsoft 335 by now ;)

      1. Dr_N Silver badge

        Re: I thought it was called Microsoft 365 now...

        Office 366 this year, Shirley?

  10. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge


    how are we mere employees supposed to find out things like wage rates in the C level or which plant/employees are for the chop if exchange prevents the C level manglement from hitting reply all?

    1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      Re: spoilsports

      Go to the printers as the C-level will print whatever document they have to the first printer in the list. If it doesn't turn up on the expected printer they'll typically print it again. After a few times they may try printing it to a different printer if they are particularly adventurous, but usually it will involve shouting for their PA to fix the printer (which has been working just fine and by now has printed out a dozen copies of a confidential report to a printer in a different room/office).

      1. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

        Re: spoilsports

        Good point.....

        And sounds a lot cleaner than my old habit of dumpster diving in order to find out stuff we shouldn't know..

        <<remembers the happy times of looking for stuff to burn during a boring night shift and finding 3 yrs of financial records...... (duely burnt, but not before committing the important bits to memory)

  11. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    One company I worked at found a different solution

    They removed the Reply All button from the ribbon. As it was an admin profile thingy, people couldn't put it back.

    I think that's a great solution. There's not very many cases where absolutely everyone needs to know that you prefer pizza.

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: One company I worked at found a different solution

      I was going to suggest the best thing to do was remove the Reply-All button and put it a couple of menu items deep so it's still there, but far less convenient than typing in the group list server address. A couple of pop-up dialogs asking "Are you sure you want to reply to all?" would not go amiss.

      Another good fix is to have auto-responders that people put on when on holiday not reply if there are more than X recipients on the email or if the sender's address has "list-Serve" in it or some other similar wording. When the person comes back they will have all of those group messages and there was no need to have the auto-responder broadcast that they were out each time one was sent.

    2. Phones Sheridan

      Re: One company I worked at found a different solution

      You must have worked at the same place as me, cos I removed the button from everyone's Outlooks the day an email that should never have left the 4 walls of the company I worked for, ended up in the inbox of a supplier. Luckily the sender of the email belonged to the C department, so it really was his fault he didn't look who had ended up included into this email-storm that had been brewing over the best part of a day.

  12. Lorribot Bronze badge

    Maybe its just me but a simpler fix would be that if you send an email to x or more people Exchange automatically moves everyones addres to the BCC field so reply all does not work at all, and avoids that social faux pas of forwarding on a mssive list of email addresses to whoever you forward emails to.

    Also 5000 maill recipients? How about more than 10?

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    While they're at it...

    ... can they disable the ludicrous and frankly dangerous @mentions in Outlook?

    1. Foxglove

      Re: While they're at it...

      Oh please yes.

      My inbound emails are full of that @shit recently.

      And my department has recently set up Yammer for us all, what a fucking waste of time.

      There is already a 'pets' section FFS.

      I despair, I really do.

  14. ReadyKilowatt

    It's company culture now.

    Geez, if our company implements this I'll never get a message again.

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