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If you aren't willing or able to prevent users from keeping old emails "forever", what solution do you have?

  • Exchange 2007 allows pretty massive mailboxes, but lots of people still recommend against it (although it's unclear whether there's a real reason for this, or it's just an old habit).
  • PST files should not be on a network drives -- the choice seems to be doing it anyways (which I've done for years without any real problem) or backing up desktops (not always an option)

So.. what else?

Notes:

  • Bonus points for solutions that works with hosted/outsourced exchange setups
  • Bonus points for solutions that allow for some archives to be shared amongst users
  • Bonus points for solutions that allow access/search via Outlook (Added w/ Edit)
  • This has nothing to do with compliance, I don't care to archive all emails
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Could you clarify your question? Are you looking to retain access to these old emails in Outlook? If not, you could simply export the messages and save them in CSV then delete them if you do not want to use a PST. I personally throw all older messages in the Archive folders to keep my inbox snappy. –  Dave Drager Jun 17 '09 at 20:05
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12 Answers 12

up vote 2 down vote accepted

See the similar questions here for better answers: http://serverfault.com/questions/17958/e-mail-archiving-in-an-exchange-environment

And I copy my answer again below,

I always recommend GFI MailArchiver (http://www.gfi.com/mailarchiver/). I have been using it since 2006. Couldn't be happier. To be honest, it's a dream to whoever needs to manage the exchange server for having an archive solution. It makes so much easier managing on the server side.

The MailArrchiver is a web-based system built on ASP.net with using SQL at the back. You don't need to change anything on Exchange server side, only enable the journal on the mail storage and it archives emails on the fly in the real time.

It also has bulk import tool that helps to archive the existing mail boxes and a bulk export tool to download the emails from the archiver. It also has audit built right in.

Most of all, it's inexpensive.

Plus, MailArchiver solves all requirements he has.

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If your are using MS Exchange 2007, then you could use Managed Folders. With Managed Folders you can make custom rules for archiving/deleting old emails in client mailboxes. MS Exchange 2010 will include builtin email archiving.

From users perspective, Outlook 2007/2003/2002 Add-in: Personal Folders Backup is pretty handy.

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Nice, thanks for reminding me about the PST backup tool. –  Toto Jun 17 '09 at 22:25
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You're not going to like this answer, but I would keep the messages on the server and improve your storage/backup options. When you export the messages you lose the advantages of single instance storage and you will only add complexity to the system. If you're using a hosted solution and they can't expand your storage I would consider moving to someone who can. If not then auto-archiving to .PST's will probably be your best bet.

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That's the way to go - once the email leaves the server it cannot be safely backed up anymore so if an employee's drive crashes and looses it's data, the PST is gone forever too. –  Joshua Jun 17 '09 at 20:56
    
Joshua- Desktop backups would take care of that. (Now, backing up desktop may not be something one wants to do, but it's not unheard of.) –  Toto Jun 17 '09 at 22:17
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One other option (in addition to GFI MailArchiver) is Redgate's Exchange Server Archiver which seems to do everything you are looking for. I haven't used it myself, but they do have a free trial: http://www.red-gate.com/products/Exchange/index.htm

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A good friend of mine that worked at a large Exchange Hosting company wrote a good article as to why you do not want to leave PSTs on a network share here: http://cohesivelogic.com/2009/05/should-you-store-psts-on-your-file-server/

With Outlook 2007 SP2, local caching of very large mailboxes (>2GB) works very well.

As to your actual question... I see that you don't want to archive all e-mails, but just certain e-mails for certain people? Are people concerned about losing information that they have moved into PSTs?

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pst is an evil to email management. stay away, as far as you can. –  kentchen Jun 17 '09 at 21:41
    
I agree... I was trying to clarify some ambiguity in the original question. –  Sean Earp Jun 17 '09 at 21:47
    
Aware of this, i should've linked to the KB in my question. PSTs are still an option, but should be stored on the desktop. –  Toto Jun 17 '09 at 22:19
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Archive the email using TEAL (CoolRock Software). Users can search for their email using the web interface, or the TEAL Outlook plugin. Users can be more confident about deleting their email from Outlook knowing they can just drag it back if they need to (even if the Exchange server is down). Then you can introduce quotas etc. if you want to.

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We show our users how to move email they want to keep to their Personal Folders. That way its off the server and on their machine, but still in Outlook for them to access it. For users that can't handle this on their own, we show them how to set up Auto Archive in Outlook. It basically moves anything older than a set time frame to a Personal Folder in Outlook.

This solution works for your off-site (hosted) solution as their data is moved from the server to their desktop and keeps you from having to store .pst's on you SAN. We leave the data backup to them. If they want to put it on the SAN they can or not worry about it.

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Leaving the data backup up to the users sounds like a great way to get into a lot of trouble.. Just wait for a high level employee to lose the PST because the desktop drive failed.. –  Toto Jun 17 '09 at 22:24
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DON'T USE PST FILES AT ALL

They are the worst invention ever for networked environments. If you have Exchange you don't need them. I'm continually amazed by the amount of people who wreck perfectly good Exchange implementations by adding on PST files.

On the PC they don't get backed up, unless you resort to trickery like copying them back to the network at logoff (which won't be good for remote users). On the server Outlook will maintain open file handles and kill your network performance. Either way you're relying on the user to manage their own email storage. Most users are not interested in doing this. They want to log in in the morning and get their stuff. Either way they're not secure - anybody can pull a copy of the PST and - even if they're encrypted - run a brute force decrypter.

The solution is to implement tight data retention policies with rigidly enforced quotas. Tell the users that retaining correspondance in the email is useless, as that record of correspondance is not accessible by anyone else (so what's gonna happen when they're on leave and it's urgently needed), and it will be lost when they leave the organisation and their account gets deleted. Instruct them to either print and file important correspondance, or to save it off to a shared folder. Get them into good habits and the end result will be better for everybody.

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"Print and file important correspondence?" Really? –  akent Jun 17 '09 at 22:19
    
"The solution is to implement tight data retention policies with rigidly enforced quotas" -- The central premise of the question is that this is not an option. –  Toto Jun 17 '09 at 23:18
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There is a registry tweak that will limit the size of the .pst here

I havent personally used it yet, but plan on experimenting with it soon. We have psts on a dedicated machine at each branch and havent had any issues at all. Some of them are getting fairly large though.

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For myself and on an experimental basis for a few normal users, we've used two products called EZDetach and MessageSave. You can read more on their website, but basically they're used to pull messages and attachments out of Outlook and into folders.

EZDetach goes through any Outlook folder(s) you point it at (can be a mailbox or a PST) and pulls out attachments and deletes them (if you want.) MessageSave does the same thing with the body of the messages - it pulls them out and saves them on disk in - usually - .eml format.

There are other similar tools, but I haven't tested very many of them. I found these two work for me personally and for a few others in the company. They're not really for novices, they usually just work they way you set them up, but there are lots of options and if you change something you can get strange results - messages saved in unexpected locations, for example.

They do give you an easy way to share the "archived" messages, just put the folders and files on a share.

So these aren't a perfect solution, but for you or someone with similar needs, they might do the trick.

OTOH...

For myself, I keep my email archives in text files, and have all my email going back 19 years. Easy to search, very portable. For the past year or so, I've used the programs mentioned above to save my messages as text and then to store any attachments I didn't have somewhere else.

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Everyone seems to have different definitions of massive, but for me running Exchange 2003 with executives that generate over 10GB/year in mail, I wrote a simple VBA script that replicates the archiving functionality that comes with Outlook, but seems to be able to copy mailbox to mailbox better and lets me specify date parameters.

Each year, I create a new mailbox for that year like "bob2008", etc and every quarter/half year/year (depending on how fast their mailbox grows), I move mail from their current mailbox to the archive one. The archive mailboxes are stored on a separate Exchange server that just stores archived mail in order to keep our main server fast. Backups don't need to be frequent because there is only new data on a quarterly basis.

As for allowing users access, I just grant them permission to view it as an additional mailbox in their Outlook.

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Use an LDAP server. You can keep old email as long as you want and there's support for shared folders. Cyrus is an excellent option for this.

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?!?!?! What does LDAP have to do with storing e-mail? en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LDAP –  Sean Earp Jun 17 '09 at 20:56
    
LDAP is good, but not THAT good, I'm afraid. –  Jimmy Shelter Jun 17 '09 at 22:04
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