I love things that remind me to do things. I’m a forgetful person, and I need prompts. So I guess that's why I’m a big fan of e-mail alerts, and one of the first things I do in TFS is configure them.
The only annoyance I’ve ever hit with TFS alerts is the rather strange absence of ability to setup the authentication for the SMTP server used for the alerts – I like to use an external server, as for a lot of the jobs I’m involved in, the users are very widely geographically dispersed, and all on different providers.
While you can correct this shortcoming by editing the TFS web services config file (found at C:\Program Files\Microsoft Team Foundation Server 2010\Application Tier\Web Services\web.config), I don’t like this approach, as I feel that it is risky – you never know if something will overwrite this file, especially a service pack etc.
So, what do you do?
Simple, install the SMTP Server Feature of IIS on the server, and run a locally restricted SMTP Service that redirects to your smart host.
Once you have installed the SMTP Server, its important that you secure it – ideally you want to set the only machine granted relay permissions as the local machine (127.0.0.1). Then go to the delivery tab, and click Advanced. Specify the details of your external smart host – if you need to provide authentication, you will find the relevant options under the Outbound Security button.
Oh, and one last thing – make sure the SMTP Service is running!
The final step is to use the excellent Alerts Explorer tool that is in the TFS PowerTools pack to setup your alerts.