Take the 2-minute tour ×
Server Fault is a question and answer site for professional system and network administrators. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I'm running an Exchange 2000 server, with only a few users (around 10). Some of them manage all of their whole work in email. They often send/get documents several megabytes large, and send/receive revisions of that file several times a day. Consequently, they have mailboxes of 5 gb or more. I can only support a few of those users on an Exchange 2000 server, with its 16 gb store limit. Every now and then I make them archive old mail into a pst; however very large psts (> 2 gb) are slow and unreliable and splitting their mail over several pst's + their exchange mailbox isn't convenient for them (difficult to search for all mail from one person when those mails are spread over, what are in outlook, different email accounts; plus, they don't have access to the pst from other computers or through webmail).

I have, of course, also tried to educate users that they shouldn't send 'too large' documents. Most of them have no concept of size of electronic documents, let alone that would have a change to make an informed decision on whether or not a file is suitable for transport via email. Getting them to use other ways to transfer files is out of the question.

So, as fas as I see, the options are:

  • Tell users to suck it up and manually manage their pst collection (not really an option, they'll screw up and blame me)

  • Find some way for users to manage large amounts of email offline. Not sure there is a way to do this in Outlook.

  • Find another (non-Outlook) way to manage loads of offline email, synchronized with Outlook. Not very feasible IMO, but I'm happy to be shown wrong.

  • Would upgrading Exchange help? Can I run Exchange 2007 with mailboxes of 10's of GB? Can Outlook handle that?

  • Other?

Any ideas? Thanks.

share|improve this question
add comment

15 Answers

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Exchange 2007 will make this particular problem disappear... no, really. (Check here for a detailed explanation of why). First, it removes the 16GB limit. Second, its I/O footprint is hugely improved over Exchange 2003, which in turn is an improvement over 2000. Third, it features a ton of other performance and security improvements.

Outlook 2007 SP2 also includes a bunch of fixes to provide better performance for large mailboxes, too. With the combination of the two products you should be good to go.

Depending on PSTs is asking for trouble, as they aren't centrally managed or backed up.

More broadly, you might want to investigate SharePoint as a document store so that your users gain revision control and check-in/check-out functionality, not to mention moving all those documents out of your Exchange databases.

share|improve this answer
add comment

If it's more about transport than it is about storage (esp. if you're not using single-instance already), maybe you should look at Accellion?

I guess it's like running your own private version of "yousendit.com" but keeping all the files secure (with configurable retention policies), between the sender and receiver (internal and external). I believe the paid version even does seamless Outlook integration.

http://www.vmware.com/appliances/directory/117383

Cheers,

Luke.

share|improve this answer
add comment

For your email, document versioning needs ;

You can either go for SBS 2008 installation (gives you exchange 2007, sharepoint)

You can also, install a linux distro and use "Mindtouch core" (opensource version), that will give you a wiki / intranet like portal and you can attach documents etc onto it.

Most importantly - you need to educate your users by telling them the downsides, that storing all docs in emails is basically inviting damage - as when the pst goes corrupt ; you need to emphasize them that the purpose of email is message transfer not document versioning / transfer, for that there are several other products.

www.mindtouch.com (they provide a vmware image too which you can download and use in vmware player)

share|improve this answer
add comment

Consider using email as a communication device not a file storage device.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Use Xobni to index and search through the emails and PST files. I've been using it for a while now and find it very useful for scanning through large emails and attachments. It does eat up a little memory though, but its worth the effort to find that old email with the word doc that your colleague sent you a couple of months ago.

share|improve this answer
add comment

I expect to get quite a few downvotes for this here, but let me add a "UserVoice" if it is allowed :-).

From a usability perspective having your Outlook inbox as your whole life store is great. It beats the traditional file system hands down since every item is there, even offline, in the context of its creation process, including all the valuable extra meta- and context data; who sent it, who commented what on it, when was it distributed, previous versions, related items, ...

Handling huge Outlook files hasn't been a problem for the user since 2003. With Outlook 2007 and the improved search it has become extremely convenient and fast as well.

I do believe that from the systems point of view it is time to embrace and support large mailboxes. Exchange 2000 is nearly a decade old. Moving to a version that is in line with today's clients will help you.

share|improve this answer
    
At the same time, products like Sharepoint can do all that for documents, and also make it way more manageable instead of having to users manually do that tracking and looking for that info. –  user5401 Jun 9 '09 at 14:20
    
I am not aware of any off-line support in SharePoint. Communication support in SharePoint is missing (or do you mean discussions?), and as a result there is no conversational view of the collaboration. SharePoint search is barely usable. SharePoint may have its strenghts, but an Outlook competitor it is not. –  Peter Stuer Jun 10 '09 at 6:20
    
SharePoint offers great offline support via Outlook and SharePoint Workspaces. The Outlook mode is very interesting for this problem, as it means the users still only use one UI and don't care that email is Exchange and the document folders are SharePoint. –  Robert MacLean Dec 11 '10 at 7:44
add comment

In my experience, starting mail-quotas for users who've never had them before is a recipe for a user revolt. That only works if the grand high managers endorse it and agree to enforce it for their areas. We've had draconian storage limits since the MS-Mail days which is why we can get away with around 4,300 users in under 1TB of mail-store DBs.

In your case, upgrading to Exchange 2007 will give you more breathing room as both MrTimpi and Paul Robichaux have pointed out. If managing very large mail-stores isn't your cup of tea, then archiving solutions that integrate with Exchange are another choice; it just looks like one mailbox even though it's split between the mail-store and the archive-db.

Finally, SharePoint could help here. It's yet another database, but it was designed from the ground up as a way to manage an entire work environment. Once you have that, you may find the strain on your email servers is not growing as fast as it used to.

share|improve this answer
add comment

I recommend Barracuda's Message Archiver. It can trim attachments from exchange and host them itself. It provides a link in the original message to the trimmed attachments.

share|improve this answer
add comment

As suggested I think you have two good options:

  1. Upgrade to Exchange 2007, the limit disappears

  2. Implement a product like Enterprise Vault from Symantec. It will archive email using a variety of critera (including just email with attachments). Those emails have a stub left behind in Outlook that is nearly transparent to the user (icon looks different, but everything else looks the same) so they hardly notice the archiving happened.

I personally like option 2 because it includes features such as single instance storage of attachments so that if you have more than one person with the same email/file it is only stored once. This also offloads a lot of data from your exchange server making performance much better as well as your time to recover a damaged data store much less.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Another option that other's haven't mention is actually to have Microsoft host your Exchange Installation using their (newly-branded) Outlook Live offering.

Check it out:

http://help.outlook.com/en-us/140/dd300633.aspx

share|improve this answer
add comment

Have you considered using an email retention service like Global Relay? We use them to archive our email for compliance reasons, but that has also had the side effect of shrinking my users' email boxes, since they know that if they want a deleted message, they can log into the Global Relay site and retrieve it.

share|improve this answer
add comment

I'd suggest that you put quotas on the mailboxes, then rather than using Exchange as a filestore, you educate the users how to save the attachments and messages to a shared folder/nework drive.

You could even create a folder structure for them on the network share - It's then searchable by normal windows methods.

share|improve this answer
add comment

As for fast and free solution you can install a Linux server with IMAP service which stores messages in Maildir format - that is every mail in separate file. CentOS with Dovecot will do.

share|improve this answer
add comment

If you insist on using a tractor to mow your lawn, can you really be surprised when it turns into a huge mess? Email is not a good file transfer method... at least it hasn't been with Exchange 2003 and earlier. It'll be handy if 2007 fixes this.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Since exchange 2007 has 64-bit support you could cram in more memory in the machine, always good. Exchange 2007 std has no storage limit in software, so you could have an 16TB exchange store if you wish.

If you upgrade to exchange 2003 you could enlarge the Informations Store by editing registry values and restart the Information Store Google: aa998066 (technet link) It seems to go up to 75GB with Exchange standard. Then you wouldn't need to use PST files because of storage reasons.

Establish an brick-level backup of the mail store and then make the users remove stuff thats really old and ensure them you can recover the emails for them lateron. To lessen the load on the exchange server. Maybe set restrictions on incomming/outgoing emailst to 5MB? Limite mailbox sizes also? so users have to do some cleaning up now and then.

Just some ideas, im no fan of pst files. As for the client, sure it can handle it. We got an really wierd setup for the US-folks here, a user inbox they forward every single email to.. 28GB with approx 200k items in the inbox. Use non cached mode on the client and you should be safe.

share|improve this answer
1  
no need for brick-level backups with Exchange 2007; you can restore individual mailboxes (Mailbox Recovery Center), individual deleted items (through Outlook), and entire databases (recovery storage group). That should take care of about 99% of your brick-level needs. –  Paul Robichaux May 28 '09 at 13:40
    
Im running brick-level backups(BEX 11d) at my company exch 2003 and its extremley convinient when teh ze president accidently deletes 1½ months of items from his calendar(using active sync from iphone, @ a customers office):P Im lazy so thats what i prefer^^ –  MrTimpi May 29 '09 at 16:24
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.