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The Out of Office Assistant is a great feature that Microsoft Outlook executes in a precise fashion. When it’s on, it promptly replies to any message to let the sender know that you will be unable to attend to any matter until you return. The Out of Office Assistant also keeps track of whom it has replied to so that it does not repeatedly tell the same person that you are still out of the office; quite handy, if you ask me.

However, there are those people who really want you to know that they are out of the office every time you send them a message, and they can use a rule to do this. Outlook users have the prerogative to create a rule that replies to every message you send them during their 2-week vacations--just in case you didn't read it the first 45 times you had to copy them on a distribution list.

We have such an employee. She really wanted you to know she was out of the office and for how long. She created a rule to reply with a message every time her inbox received an email, and so long as her coworkers didn't strangle her for saturating their inboxes, we, as systems administrators, were forced to sit idly by and shake our weary heads. The situation changed the day we implemented a new fax server, complete with inbound and outbound faxing directly from every user’s inbox.

While away, this very conscientious employee received a fax in her inbox, to which her rule promptly replied, "I'm out of the office." The fax server received the reply and interpreted it to be an outgoing fax with no fax number, so it diligently replied, "I cannot send this fax," to which the Inbox replied, "I am out of the office," "I cannot send this fax," "I am out of the office," "I cannot send this fax,"...you get the point.

Some 89,000 messages later, we found the cause of our mysterious server slowdowns and brought the mad mailers to justice, ending the feverish ping-ponging. So, my late-night, early-morning, all-weekend IT kin, watch those rules, because the spamming you receive may be your own.