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.

15 Answers 15


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.


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.

  • 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.
    – paulr
    May 28, 2009 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, 2009 at 16:24

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.


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.

  • 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, 2009 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. Jun 10, 2009 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. Dec 11, 2010 at 7:44

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.


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.


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.


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.


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:



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.


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.


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.


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


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)


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.




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