What options are recommended for indexing Exchange mailboxes with SharePoint?

So far I have found the following:

  • I found one article, which mentions that you can add http://<fqdn>/exchange and/or http://<fqdn>/exchange/user_alias as a content source, but as I have very limited expierence with Exchange I have no idea what those URI's are for and what it would be indexing
  • I found a bunch of third party options which seem promising - so any feedback on them would be beneficial
  • The third option I found is that Exchange supports Journaling which can be used to send mail to SharePoint which I can then search using built in SharePoint features? This seems to be a very interesting option, from a SharePoint perspective, as it means I can leverage existing SharePoint skills and features (like the security model) to get fine grained control. However I am not sure what the con's to this option are?

This is technically possible, but further investigation points to SharePoint not being the correct interface for this.

Looking at the information I found previously, some addition information.

you can add http:///exchange and/or http:///exchange/user_alias as a content source

This is refering to using the out of the box crawl tools to search the OWA interface. This is generally a bad idea because the content of the mail will be available to everyone who can use that search. This also has the downside of needing to be setup per mailbox.

third party options

These are an option, in particular the BA Insight one which maintain security per user.

Exchange supports Journaling which can be used to send mail to SharePoint

This is also a good option, but suffers from the same issue as indexing OWA - everyone who can search can see all the emails.

If we reverse the issue and look at the goals of searching mail better suited solutions appear:

  • Users searching their own mail: Windows Desktop Search provides this.
  • Compliance and legal searching: The built in search feature in Exchange provides this.
  • Searching archives: Most archive solutions for Exchange provide this feature already.
  • Surfacing email/calendars/contacts in SharePoint (i.e. SharePoint as a single UI): SharePoint has web parts that do this, without adding the content to the search catalog

In SPS 2003 and MOSS 2007 there is a native webpart that indexes mail stores as well as other parts of exchange). Similar to this picture.

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In Sharepoint 2010 there is a built-in exchange connector.

Journaling (option 3) is a great way of capturing all sent and received email for your organization. The issue with journaling is that it can require a tremendous amount of storage (depending on your organization size). It also can have some privacy issues as the exchange journal mailbox is just a bifurcated bcc mailbox for every message sent and received in your organization.

  • AFAIK the web parts just provide view access, the content they view is not included into the search index. Do you have a link that details that it is indexed (the one you provided to the document states that it is merely displaying content, and not indexing)? The Exchange connector was also in 2007 and it only handles public folders not mailboxes – Robert MacLean Dec 12 '10 at 8:53
  • ah, you are correct. SPS and MOSS don't index exchange information stores (.edb) they only provide access to OWA (via owainbox.dwp) – Fergus Dec 13 '10 at 1:11

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