Distribution List vs Shared Mailbox: What’s best?

By 14th February 2020 February 15th, 2020 No Comments
distribution list vs shared mailbox

A common doubt may be around your head when you start thinking about collaboration within a work team: distribution list vs shared mailbox, which one you should choose? 

There is no right answer to this question, it really depends on the needs of your business. The big problem is that it is very common to get confused between this two options and end up choosing a solution that is not fit-for-purpose.

Distribution lists and Shared Mailboxes are very different from each other. Each one of the options has its pros and cons, and one may be more suitable for your company than the other. This article will help you understand this email features meticulously, so you can make the right decision that will benefit your team’s workflow.

What is a Distribution List?

A distribution list is a feature of email applications, that consists of creating a list of email addresses, so you can send messages to them at the same time. It allows you to do virtual meetings, group studies, debating groups, opinion polls, interviews, and many other utilities. It is based on the communication “one-to-many”, “many-to-one”, or “many-to-many”.

However, you need to use email distribution lists wisely. After all when you collaborate within a team you need to be aware of the processes of dealing with emails.

For example, if you receive answers from a group of 30 people, and you are part of the sales team, how would you handle all these emails as a team? Forwarding, copying these emails to the rest of the team and creating long threads. It causes miscommunication and a total mess on the workflow. 

That’s why nowadays most tools, such as Help Desks or CRMs, integrate with distribution lists to avoid these problems. These tools connect to Distribution Lists but offer an interface optimized for collaboration.

But let’s take a look at one of the most known distribution lists that are on the market, and see their pros and cons.

Example: Google Groups

distribution list vc shared mailbox

Google Groups is one of the most used features for distribution lists. It was launched in 2001 to be a space for forums and where groups can share emails. But since then people are using Google Groups for other purposes such as a shared mailbox. 

So basically Google Groups is used for both the purposes you need to choose from. However, it has never been designed to be a collaborative tool. It is simply a mail list for groups in which you can send and receive emails. 

There are many reasons why Google Groups should be used as it is: just a distribution list. Let’s see the main ones:

Difficult Interface

Google Groups differs significantly from a usual email interface. This means you are going to spend some time to learn how to use it.

The user experience gets complicated with the fact that the emails appear to be unattended even if there is someone in the team replying to it at the moment. This facilitates answering the same email twice, which is not good when managing client emails.

Endless email threads

When you work as a team inside Google Groups, you must know that everybody will receive the same emails simultaneously. It may seem a great thing, but this is where the problems begin.

Imagine that a client sent a message to the team’s email address. Everybody on the team received it, and two people started a thread with this same email. Because as we mentioned before, you can’t see which email has been replied yet, because of Groups’ interface.

Even if the person that replied CC the rest of the team, which may solve the problem of not knowing what was solved, it won’t work. Mainly because this action will create endless threads in everyone’s inboxes.


What is a Shared Mailbox?

Shared mailboxes are becoming more than just a trend, they are turning into a necessity for many companies worldwide. Using collaborative email for business is the best solution to overcome the usual mess that individual inboxes cause. 

It consists of having a shared email address, not a shared account. You can give access to everyone in a team to collaborate inside this shared mailbox, and everyone is going to receive the same email in real-time.

Usually, sales or support teams are the ones relying on shared inboxes the most. Mainly because they deal with a high volume of emails daily.

Example: Drag App

distribution list vs shared mailbox

Drag is more than just a shared mailbox. It is a Gmail extension that offers everything you need to collaborate with your team. 

It easy to use, with lots of features, but with the same appearance as Gmail, which allows your team to learn faster. Besides that, Drag centralizes your work, uniting all the tools you need in just one. So you have your Helpdesk, CRM, email and Task Manager in one place: Gmail.  

The Kanban view is also an incredibly helpful aspect of Drag. By making all emails pop up visually, you can instantly understand in which stage everything is. This way you can also spend less time on your email. 

Besides that, Drag has something you can’t easily find in any other shared mailbox: integration with Google Groups.

google groups

Teams that don’t have email addresses that would become Shared Inboxes such as sales@ or support@ can benefit a lot from this integration. Usually, these teams use email aliases and distribution lists to have their email addresses personalized.

These Drag Google Groups boards work as substitutes of Google Groups. Therefore they stop the duplicated emails, and consequently with the mess they make in your workflow. This means everyone all team members will have access to this shared box in real-time, receiving one single version of the emails. Furthermore, they will be able to see who is responding to what, avoiding two responses on the same email, for example.

Distribution List vs Shared Mailbox: which one to go for?

It’s pretty simple. You can make the best out of a shared mailbox under any circumstance. For instance, if you only have a few people in charge of customer service duties or handling sales. Teams that use a shared inbox as the main method for customer contact experience great benefits. 

When it comes to a distribution list, you need to know that the processes can be messy, and misunderstandings can help very often. Since the results of using distribution lists as shared mailboxes are huge email threads, you need to look for options who end this problem for good. 

Finally, when using a shared inbox you allow your teammates to be more productive, then your workflow will become a lot better. And also it turns your business more customer-focused since you can manage the emails from your customers a lot better. Mainly when it comes to solving problems they are having.  This type of customer focus and attention is what builds loyalty on them towards your brand. 


Although it seems like a tough decision, you can rest assured that distribution lists and shared mailboxes have huge differences. But both end up being great solutions for teams. But it is way better when you can use both of them since they can be complementary.

In short, Drag can easily be the answer you are looking for when the battle of distribution list vs shared mailbox starts in our mind. Mostly because it integrates a distribution list – Google Groups – inside a shared mailbox. You are putting them together to have the best results possible.

What now?

Drag is The Everything Inbox for Teams – one single place to support customers, manage tasks and close deals, from the place teams love – Gmail. We are Techstars-backed Company, trusted by 30,000 users around the World.

Try Drag for Free
Samantha Anacleto

Author Samantha Anacleto

More posts by Samantha Anacleto