Email routing and delivery options for Google Workspace

As an administrator, you can customize how email is routed, delivered, and stored to meet your organization's needs.

For example, you might have incoming messages sent to an unknown address routed to a specific mailbox. Or, you might want messages addressed to a specific person automatically also sent to another person. You can have some people get their messages in Gmail and other people get email from your on-premise email server. Gmail can also scan inbound message stored on your on-premise server for spam and compliance.

Default routing & Routing settings

For flexibility when setting up email delivery for your organization, you have 2 main routing settings:

  • Use Default routing to set up the default mail delivery for your organization. For example, to send all or most of your organization's email to multiple inboxes, use Default routing and set up dual delivery.
  • Use the Routing setting to then create more specialized email delivery rules, or to override the Default routing behavior. For example, you can add a Routing rule that sends a copy of all your CEO's messages to their executive assistant. 

Below are some common routing scenarios.

Route incoming email

By default, Google Workspace delivers all incoming email to Gmail. However, as an admin, you can set up other routing methods to deliver incoming messages to meet your organization's requirements.

If your organization has an on-premise email server for storing and sending email, Gmail processes incoming messages first. Gmail filters for spam and other problem messages, then sends messages to the on-premise server.

Routing method Description
Send messages to 2 email systems with split delivery

Gmail split delivery lets you deliver incoming email messages to 2 different email systems in your domain, based on recipients you specify. For example, use split delivery when some people in your organization use Gmail and other people use a different email system.

You can also use split delivery when you migrate from another email server to Gmail. Use split delivery with a small group of people to verify Gmail delivery is working as expected. 

For steps, visit Send email to two email systems with split delivery.

Send messages to multiple inboxes 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 another inbox, for example an inbox on an on-premise email server.

For steps, visit Deliver email to multiple inboxes with dual delivery.

Get incorrectly addressed messages in a catch-all mailbox

A catch-all email address gets incorrectly addressed messages sent to your domain. If someone sends a message to a user that doesn't exist at your domain, or sends an incorrectly addressed message to your domain, the message is delivered to the catch-all address.

For steps, visit Get misaddressed email messages in a catch-all mailbox.

Redirect or forward one user's emails to another user

There might be times when you want to automatically redirect or forward one user's incoming email messages, to one or more other users. You do this by setting up address maps in your Google Admin console.

For steps, visit Redirect or forward one user's Gmail emails to another user.

Let users automatically forward their own messages

Optionally let people in your organization set up automatic forwarding for their own Gmail accounts. They can then automatically forward their messages to another account that they own.

For steps, visit Let users automatically forward their own Gmail emails.

Route outgoing email

Routing method Description
Send outgoing email through a gateway server

To route outgoing messages, set up an outbound gateway server. A gateway server typically processes outbound messages in some way before delivering them. For example, a gateway server might add a company footer at the end of every outgoing message.

For steps, visit Set-up an outbound gateway.

Route non-Gmail email through Gmail servers with SMTP relay

If your organization uses a non-Gmail server, such as Microsoft or an SMTP service, you can set up the SMTP relay service to route outgoing email through Gmail. The SMTP relay service setting filters messages for spam and viruses before they reach external recipients. This setting also lets you apply email security settings in your Admin console to outgoing messages.

For steps, visit Route outgoing SMTP relay messages through Google.

Route email for compliance (content and attachments)

Compliance routing lets you specify how email is sent and delivered based on message content and attachments. You can also require that some email be sent only over a secure TLS connection.
Routing method Description
Route messages based on their content

You might want to send messages in a specific way, based on the content in those messages. For example, you might want to automatically send messages with specific types of content to your legal department.

For steps, visit Set up rules for advanced email content filtering and Set up rules for objectionable content.

Route messages based on message attachments

You might want to send messages to certain destinations based on the type of attachments the message has. For example, you can automatically send messages with image attachments to the Human Resources department.

For steps, visit Set up rules for attachment compliance.

Route messages only over a TLS connection

You can require that messages to or from certain domains or email addresses are sent using TLS. Set up TLS compliance setting for inbound and outbound email for the organizational unit. If a domain you specify doesn't support TLS, incoming email is rejected and outbound email isn't sent.

For steps, visit Set up TLS compliance.

Troubleshoot routing rules

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, go to 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 can't be made, Gmail holds the message. Reasons for a failed connection include timeout, refusal, or 400-series error.

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 a 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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