Applies to: Exchange Server 2013, Exchange Online

Topic Last Modified: 2012-10-17

Information Rights Management (IRM) helps you to protect against leakage of sensitive information by providing persistent online and offline protection of email messages and attachments. Both Microsoft Exchange Server 2013, in your on-premises organization, and Exchange Online, in Office 365 for enterprises, support IRM. However, there are differences between the two implementations, and you must configure IRM in the Exchange Online organization before users in that organization can use it.

IRM uses Active Directory Rights Management Services (AD RMS), which is a component of Windows Server 2008 or later. AD RMS allows users to create rights-protected content, such as email messages and attachments, and then control how that content is used, and to whom it’s distributed. Users can specify templates that determine how content can be used. For example, a user may specify that an email message can't be forwarded to other recipients or that information in the message can't be copied.

Learn more about IRM in Exchange 2013 at Information Rights Management.

Learn more about AD RMS at Active Directory Rights Management Services Overview.

Learn more about configuring IRM at Configure IRM in hybrid deployments.

IRM in hybrid deployments

Exchange uses AD RMS servers in the Active Directory forest in which the Exchange server is installed. For your on-premises Exchange 2013 servers, the on-premises AD RMS server is used. For your Exchange Online organization, AD RMS servers that are maintained within the Microsoft Office 365 datacenters are used. The AD RMS configuration that each Exchange organization uses is independent of any other AD RMS deployment.

AD RMS configuration, and therefore IRM configuration, isn't automatically replicated between your on-premises Exchange organization and the Exchange Online organization. Any AD RMS templates that you've defined aren't automatically copied to the Exchange Online organization. If you want the same AD RMS templates to be available in the Exchange Online organization, you must manually export the templates from your on-premises organization and apply them to the Office 365 tenant organization. See IRM configuration in hybrid deployments later in this topic.

User experience

The IRM configuration that's applied to a user depends on the client the user uses and the location of the user's mailbox. The following table shows the AD RMS server a user will use.

Active AD RMS server

Client On-premises mailbox Exchange Online mailbox

Outlook 2007 or Outlook 2010

On-premises AD RMS

On-premises AD RMS

Outlook Web App

On-premises AD RMS

Exchange Online AD RMS

ActiveSync device

On-premises AD RMS

Exchange Online AD RMS

Depending on the AD RMS configuration you configure in your on-premises and Exchange Online organizations, it's possible that a user who uses Outlook 2007 and Outlook Web App may see different AD RMS templates. For this reason, we strongly recommend that you apply the same templates to both your on-premises and Exchange Online organizations.

There should be no difference in the IRM experience for Outlook client users, regardless of whether their mailbox is located in the on-premises or Exchange Online organization.

An Outlook Web App user whose mailbox is located on an Exchange 2013 server can only open rights-protected messages after installing the Rights Management for Internet Explorer add-in. They can't reply to or create new rights-protected messages.

An Outlook Web App user whose mailbox is located in Exchange Online can open rights-protected messages without any additional software and can reply to, and create, new rights-protected messages.

Server functionality

On-premises Exchange 2013 servers use the AD RMS pre-licensing agent to decrypt rights-protected messages so that users don't need to supply credentials when they open those messages. The on-premises Exchange 2013 server contacts the on-premises AD RMS server to check usage policies and rights, and to request authorization to decrypt the message.

The Exchange Online organization provides several additional IRM-related features that make use of Exchange Online AD RMS. These features, such as journal report decryption, make the content of right-protected messages available to Exchange services for additional processing. For example, the decrypted contents of a journaled message can be saved, along with the original rights-protected message, to allow for easier discovery. Additionally, IRM templates can automatically be applied to messages using either Outlook protection rules or transport rules to ensure that messages adhere to organization policies regarding information protection.

IRM configuration in hybrid deployments

IRM in Exchange relies on AD RMS being deployed in the Active Directory forest in which the Exchange server resides. AD RMS configuration isn't automatically synchronized between the on-premises and Exchange Online organizations. You must manually export the AD RMS configuration, known as a trusted publishing domain (TPD), from your on-premises AD RMS server, and import that configuration into the Exchange Online organization. The TPD contains the AD RMS configuration, including templates, which the Exchange Online organization needs to use IRM.

Learn more at AD RMS Trusted Publishing Domain Considerations.

In addition to applying your on-premises AD RMS configuration to the Exchange Online organization, you must ensure that your AD RMS servers can be contacted by Outlook and ActiveSync clients outside of your on-premises network. You must do this if you want these clients to access rights-protected messages outside of your on-premises network.

After you've configured your on-premises network and exported the TPD data, you need to configure the Exchange Online organization by importing the TPD data and enabling IRM.

Any time you modify your on-premises AD RMS configuration, you must manually apply the new configuration in the Exchange Online organization. To do so, export the TPD data from your on-premises AD RMS server and import it into the Exchange Online organization.

Learn more at Configure IRM in hybrid deployments.