Email routing and delivery options for Google Workspace

As an administrator, you can customize how email is routed and stored to suit your business or organization. For example, you might have messages for unknown users routed to a special mailbox or server. Perhaps you want messages sent to a specific user automatically Cc’d to another user. Or, you can have certain users get messages in Gmail, while others get them from your local server. Gmail can also scan inbound mail stored on your external server for spam and compliance.

Use routing settings

Use the Routing setting to configure inbound, outbound, and internal delivery options, such as dual delivery and split delivery, tailoring them for different people and teams using organizational units. Find descriptions of the various options below. 

To set any of the options up, follow the steps in Setting up routing for your domain or organization.

Before you begin

Before you set up any routing and delivery settings, create a list of mail hosts, also called routes. Add these routes in the Google Admin console.

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Route incoming email

You can route incoming messages with different delivery methods. If your organization is using Gmail only, use direct delivery (the default configuration). Gmail delivers messages addressed to users, to the recipient's inbox. Messages addressed to users who aren't in your domain are removed. You can optionally set up a catch-all address for these misaddressed messages.

If your organization uses an external mail server for storage and message delivery, such as a Microsoft Exchange server, Gmail processes incoming messages first. Gmail filters for spam and other problem messages, then routes messages to the external server.

Route messages with split delivery

Use split delivery to deliver incoming messages to either a Gmail inbox or to a legacy system inbox, depending on the recipient. This method can work if some of your users use Gmail, and others use a different mail system. For example, you might need to store messages sent to your legal department on a legacy mail server.

Also, if you are migrating to Gmail from a legacy server, use this method to test Gmail with a subset of users. During the testing, the MX records for your domain point to Gmail. Users who have been added in your Admin console get messages in their Gmail inboxes. Set up a catch-all routing rule for unregistered users who need to get messages from the legacy mail server. See Options for adding users.

To set up split delivery:

  1. If you haven’t yet, add the route for the external server.

  2. Do the initial steps to sign in with Google, select the organization if necessary, open the Routing setting, and enter a description for the new setting.

  3. For email messages to affect, select Inbound, or Internal-receiving, or both.

  4. Set up an envelope filter if you want the rule to affect only specific envelope senders and recipients. You can specify single recipients by entering their email address. You can also specify groups.

  5. Under For the above types of messages, select Modify message and configure the settings for your scenario.

  6. Select Change Route, select the external server from the list, then scroll down and click Save.

  7. Select Show options and change the Account types to affect setting to Unrecognized/Catch-all.

  8. Save the configuration.

Route messages with dual delivery

Set up dual delivery when you need to deliver messages to 2 or more inboxes. For example, users can receive messages in a Gmail inbox and a non-Gmail inbox (Microsoft Exchange or an archiving server). Get detailed steps to Set up mail dual delivery.

Set up a catch-all address

A catch-all address ensures that messages sent to an incorrect email address for a domain are still received.

To set up a catch-all address:

  1. Do the initial steps to sign in, select the organization if necessary, open the Routing setting, and enter a description for the new setting.

  2. For Email messages to affect, select Inbound, Internal-receiving, or both.

  3. Under If the above expressions match, do the following, select Modify message.

  4. Under Envelope recipient, check Change envelope recipient.

  5. Select Replace username.

  6. Enter a new username in the empty field.

  7. Scroll down and click Show options.

  8. Under Account types to affect: 
    1. Check the Unrecognized / Catch-all box

    2. Uncheck Users and Groups.

  9. (Optional) If you want the rule to affect only specific envelope senders and recipients, set up an Envelope filter.

  10. Click Save.

Route messages to additional recipients

Use multiple routing settings to automatically forward messages to other recipients. You can then create separate policies for each user.

To route messages to additional recipients:

  1. Do the initial steps to sign in, select the organization if necessary, open the Routing setting, and enter a description for the new setting.

  2. For email messages to affect, select Inbound, or Internal-receiving, or both.

  3. Set up an envelope filter if you want the rule to affect only specific envelope senders and recipients. Specify a single recipient by entering an email address for that user. You can also specify groups.

  4. Under For the above types of messages, select Modify message.

  5. Under Also deliver to, check the Add more recipients box.

  6. Click Add.

  7. Under Recipients, make sure that Basic is selected in the list. 

  8. Enter the recipient’s email address and click Save.

  9. Click Add Setting or Save. New settings are added to the Advanced settings page.

  10. Save the configuration.

Set up non-Gmail mailbox delivery

Use the Non-Gmail mailbox setting to route nonspam messages to an external server and hold spam in a message center or quarantine report. This setting has more features than routing rules.

Users can determine if the messages aren't spam and should be routed to the external server. They can log in to a Message Center or receive regular reports that list their spam messages and then decide which of these messages they consider safe and want sent to their non-Gmail mailbox.  These users don't have access to Gmail. They get their messages from a local mail server.

Note: Starting October 2019, Message Center and Quarantine Summary will be deprecated. Learn more in Manage Spam Messages. For more information on how to manage spam when Message Center is no longer available, see Manage Spam Messages.

Compliance routing

Content compliance and objectionable content

You might want certain types of messages handled in a specific way. For example, you might want to route messages with specific content to your legal department.

Define a new primary destination (the default destination is Gmail) or create additional destinations that match specific text strings or patterns. For example, you can set up a content match on a word such as "confidential," and then change the primary destination to a server that supports encryption.

Learn about content compliance and objectionable content.

Attachment compliance

To define a new primary destination (the default destination is Gmail) or add additional destinations for messages that match a specific attachment type, use the Attachment compliance setting. For example, set up a secondary destination that delivers any message with image attachments to the Human Resources team.

Learn how to Set up rules for attachment compliance.

Require a more secure connection before routing mail

You can require mail to be transmitted through TLS when users correspond with specified domains and email addresses. Set up the TLS compliance setting by the organizational unit for inbound and outbound mail. If TLS is unavailable at a domain that you specify, inbound mail is rejected and outbound mail is not transmitted. Learn how to Set up TLS compliance.

Note: If you set up an outbound gateway server that uses TLS, outbound messages on the enforced TLS list will be sent to domains that don’t support TLS.

Route outbound mail

Send all mail through a gateway server

To route outbound messages, set up an outbound gateway server. The gateway server usually processes the outbound messages in some way before delivering them. 

Learn more in Set up an outbound gateway.

Set up SMTP relay service to route mail through the Gmail server

If your organization uses non-Gmail email server software, such as Microsoft or another third-party SMTP service, you can configure the SMTP relay service to route outgoing mail through the Gmail server.

Use the SMTP relay service setting to filter messages for spam and viruses before they reach external recipients. This setting also lets you apply mail security settings in your Admin console to outgoing messages. Learn more about setting up SMTP relay.

Troubleshoot routing setup

When routes conflict

You can set up a domain-wide routing policy for incoming messages. You can also define delivery routes based on a message’s content or attachments. To learn which routing setting takes precedence, see Tailor Gmail settings for your organization.

If there’s a conflict with legacy routing controls, any routing settings described here will override any legacy settings. Learn more about Email routing and delivery.

If message routing or delivery is unsuccessful

If a message is routed from a Gmail or Google Workspace server to an external recipient server and the connection isn't made because of a timeout, refusal, or 400-series error, the message is held. Gmail tries to resend the message every few minutes, for up to 7 days. After 7 days, the message is returned to sender.

If you add a new server while Gmail is trying to resend the message, the message is routed to the original server, not the new one. 

If there’s a 500-series error for the message, the message is rejected immediately. 

Learn more at About SMTP error messages and SMTP error reference


Google, Google Workspace, and related marks and logos are trademarks of Google LLC. All other company and product names are trademarks of the companies with which they are associated.

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