We have a special customer that needs e-mails like we need water.

There's 3 users, whose mailbox was about 50GB (last November) and it's still growing. It has a Windows Server with 24GB and MS Exchange. The users' machines are new, with 6GB each. Hardware is not a problem, however, with Exchange, Outlook and Windows Indexing we're having a big headache.

We've bought MailStore (3rd party software) and installed it, so that e-mails with more than 6 months go directly to archive each night. The problem is, searching the e-mails is slow (on Outlook, on Mailstore it's fine), users need a better way to search for their e-mails. They don't even like too much to go to the MailStore tab (in Outlook) and search there.

What options should we try?

How would you deal with mailboxes that grow about 1GB per month? Also, Windows Indexing/Search takes too long to index the whole mailbox, even if it is only with e-mails from 6 months ago (everything else is on MailStore). By 6 months, I mean 15GB worth of OST file. We have the freedom to change/add hardware or software, but we cannot change how the customer wants to work.


Server: Windows Small Business Server 2011 Standard
x64 Intel Xeon CPU E5-2620
24GB of RAMExchange Server 2010 14.03.2013.003
Users: Windows 8 64x, 6GB (don't have more details here)
Outlook 2010 Professional

  • Software versions? Exchange hat integrated archiving for some generations now.... – TomTom Jan 17 '14 at 13:59
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    I've edited your question. If the future, please don't bring unnecessary religion flamebait into the question, such as your wish for Zimbra. Also, you should make sure that you are using GB and not Gb when you are talking about gigabytes. – MDMarra Jan 17 '14 at 14:23
  • I edited the title too. It looks like your root care/issue isn't how large the mailboxes are (you don't gripe about disk space), but rather the search/index speed issue. While they may be tied together, I'm guessing if the search/index was fine right now you wouldn't even be asking the question. – TheCleaner Jan 17 '14 at 14:29
  • TheCleaner, no, disk space or hardware is not a problem, if we tell the client that he needs more ram or disk, that's ok, he just need that to work fine. He have lost business due to not finding the right email. MDMarra, it's not religion, I've configured another customer on my on, with Linux and a massive user number, it's working fine, with half of the hardware. Thanks for fixing the Gb, I was in a hurry. Thanks – Filipe YaBa Polido Jan 17 '14 at 14:52
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    @FilipeYaBaPolido saying "If it was my company, I would ditch MS for good and install linux+zimbra, but it isn't and my boss won't allow Linux to be running there :(" is religious flamebait. It adds nothing to the substance of the question and only encourages people to debate the merits of Zimbra v. Exchange which is immaterial to the question you're asking. That has no place on this site. People that manage all kinds of systems frequent here. I'll also point out that the Stack Exchange network is hosted on Windows Server, IIS, and MSSQL - sort of ironic. – MDMarra Jan 17 '14 at 19:49

I agree with Hopeless, and will offer up my opinion on this.

  1. Consider at least moving those 3 into their own mailbox database in Exchange.
  2. Offer up training and knowledge on how to properly use EMAIL. That's a ton of email in 6 months time, which means they are either the most popular people in the world, or they are exchanging file attachments and storing everything in Exchange/Outlook, which contrary to most users beliefs isn't a file server/store.
  3. Offer up alternative ways to store/send/receive those large attachments. Maybe there's a better way like a secure online storage or secure FTP site. Email the links instead of the large attachments.
  4. Be more aggressive with the archive schedule. Set it to archive after 3 months instead of 6. Explain the benefits.
  5. Help them manage their mailbox "look/feel" better. If they are constantly searching email then maybe they aren't categorizing/creating folders/arranging their email properly to quickly and effectively find things. Maybe they should be creating subfolders and auto-rules, etc. that would allow them to only search those subfolders vs. the entire mailbox.

A "possibility" could be to broker an Office 365 deal for them and do a hybrid deployment where these 3 crazy power users are on O365. This would give them each 50GB mailboxes along with unlimited archiving. Just an option that you might look into.

In the end, there's only so much you can do with current technology. Work to explain the pros/cons of their current solution, what options are out there, and where you want to steer them based on your expertise. A good explanation may prove to them that they can't have the world without some issues along the way.

  • One could also import email into a relational database for custom indexing. I had a client running the mail2db or email2db (I forget which) and it worked exceedingly well: stackoverflow.com/questions/3080035/… – ErikE Jan 17 '14 at 17:59
  • I'm acepting your answer, because that would be the "normal" thing to do. But believe me, you don't want to know this customer. We can teach one hundred better ways, when you turn back they'll do the same. It's not just Outlook, Shares are filled with pictures and stuff, don't have any structure, desktops filled with junk, and if one of us, techs, tries to delete something from 2009 they say: NOOOO. we need it! ok, just store it somewhere else. NOOOO... I need it here, so I can remember where it is. hopeless. I woulnd't be here asking for help if they were a regular customer ;) Thanks. – Filipe YaBa Polido Jan 17 '14 at 18:23
  • That's why pros/cons are good. Stick with black/white data. That's what's great at times about IT, we can be impartial and just say "here you go...here's the choices...pick one". If they say "we have to have it this way"...then remind them of the long search times etc. that they will have to live with. – TheCleaner Jan 17 '14 at 19:08

Your customer's going to be disappointed. If they're hellbent/deadset on having ridiculously large mailboxes, and searching them through the Outlook client, their performance is going to suck, and that's the bottom line.

It doesn't matter if you switch them over to a different platform or technology - searching through 50 billion bytes of text is going to be slow when they're running the search from their workstations through a client application (Outlook). The proper solution for how to do this type of search quickly is known as a database. The whole reason searching the MailStore is quicker is that it is a database. The OST or PST files are not a database.

Outlook is an email client, not a database. That's why it performs like an email client, and not a database. Unfortunately, there isn't a "solution" to that fundamental difference. They're going to have to search through the mailstore, or live with slow searches (or not keep so much mail).

  • "The whole reason searching the mailstore is quicker is that your Exchange datastore is a database" - I think you misread his question. He's referring to MailStore, the archiving 3rd party product...not mailstore as in the Exchange database. Everything you said is accurate, just clarification. – TheCleaner Jan 17 '14 at 14:11
  • Yup, MailStore as in a 3rd party product bought. MailStore is fast, really fast, however, problem is still the 6month on Exchange side. I can reduce to 3 or 1 month only, but the customer would shoot me ;) ;) – Filipe YaBa Polido Jan 17 '14 at 14:13
  • What about doing server side searches? Never had this issue on my machine. – TomTom Jan 17 '14 at 14:14
  • @TomTom you misunderstood, MailStore works fine and fast, problem is on Exchange/Outlook side that still has 6month of e-mails (about 15Gb). However, if someone has another option, and we ditch MailStore, good. Thank you. – Filipe YaBa Polido Jan 17 '14 at 14:16
  • @FilipeYaBaPolido Yup, the reason the "Exchange" part is the problem is because Outlook is searching the OST (non-database). You could disable the OST (Offline Folder File), forcing them to search on the Exchange server, using the database, which should improve performance, but would rely on their network connection, and prevent them from using Outlook offline... but again, bottom line is that searching through that big an OST file is going to be slow, and the only way around it is to get them searching through a database, (like your 3rd party app, or the Exchange datastore) instead. – HopelessN00b Jan 17 '14 at 14:21

What about looking at a CRM solution? We have a team that has a ridiculous amount of emails too, but to help manage them they have a CRM system (sugarCRM) to help document/organise the contents. They can search by multiple fields, so even really old emails should be nice and quick to surface again.

FYI - http://www.sugarcrm.com/

  • Try telling that to the customer, they don't have many IT knowledge, Outlook is all they know. We have tried to teach them other ways, after a week, they went back to Outlook :| no can do. – Filipe YaBa Polido Jan 17 '14 at 18:12

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