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What should I do about archiving Exchange mailboxes? People in the company are complaining of slow performance with their Outlook - these people have mailboxes over 5GB...

I want to know what is best practice for archiving old mail that is being used out in the world at the moment please.

Thank you.

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3 Answers 3

Generally I strongly recommend against using any kind of PST-based archiving feature if you care at all about the integrity of the old email data.

If users are having performance issues with Outlook opening (because their "Inbox" as 20,000 items sitting in it, etc) get the users some training about using folders to file messages.

If you're having space issues, either get users to go through their mail and delete things they don't need, institute a mailbox management policy (hopefully allowing users to store important items somewhere indefinitely, but making it a willful act to do so), or get a real Exchange archiving product.

I haven't used it (yet), but the Exchange Server Archiver from Redgate (who, incidentally, advertise on Server Fault) looks like a pretty well-designed and sane product. I've had a little bit of email conversation with them about the product and I got the distinct feeling that it was pretty thoughtfully designed.

A "solution" that involves PST files is just trading one problem for another. If you allow users to use PST files and store them on their local hard disk drives you run the risk of losing data when their local hard disk drive fails or their PC gets switched out. If you store PST files on a server computer then you battle inconsistent backups (when users leave Outlook running attached to the PST files) and you cause your differential backups to be gigantic (because Outlook updates the modified data on the PST file each time it opens).

It saddens me every time I see someone pulling email out of Exchange Server only to stick it in PST files on another server. It's not a "solution" and is the Wrong ThingTM

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Generally I strongly suggest that users use the Auto-Archive feature in their version of Outlook. This will take messages out from the OST and put them into a local PST.

Thus, because their inbox/OST has shrunk it's a lot faster to load and search recent email messages. If they need something that is from before the archive date (say, older than 6 months), then they can click the Archived Folders tree in Outlook and search in there. Obviously this is slower when searching for old content, but it's a LOT faster for every day use.

Some people I know (like my Dad) have over 10 years worth of emails stored in their Archive Folder and it hasn't impacted his performance at all.

The catch of this though is that data retention of the archived emails is up to the end user. If they loose their PC then they loose their archived messages. Their archived messages also won't be available through web access or activesync.

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I like my users to use auto-archiving, placing the archive files in their home folder on the server. I don't like them archiving to their local drive because I think of local drives as temporary storage only, whereas the stuff on the server gets backed up.

One problem with trying to get user cooperation is the fact that they tend to be oblivious to the amount of crap they keep and how much space it occupies. To make it more obvious to them I have Perl scripts that gather the information, e.g. the mailbox sizes, log it to a MySQL database and create pretty graphs in Excel. The spreadsheets are saved to a common area where everyone can view them. As soon as I implemented that there was a flurry of housekeeping. More importantly, they have kept up that housekeeping, making my job just a little easier.

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