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Email archiving and IT administrators

As an IT administrator, your desire is to maintain a high performing email infrastructure that efficiently sends, receives and stores emails so that end users can perform the day to day operational tasks that rely on email with the minimum of fuss. You’re probably well aware of this already, but if you want to know just how reliant your users are on their email, try taking down your mailbox servers and see what happens.

As well as maintaining your email platform, you have a thousand and one other systems and resources to look after. So, it goes without saying, that you want every resource that you are responsible for to be as predictable and easy to manage as possible. You need an email system that keeps running, is easy to update, easily backed up and so forth.

Microsoft Exchange continues to use its own dedicated store – it doesn’t use SQL. In fact, when our development guys met with the Exchange team at the launch of Exchange 2007, they told them that every so often Microsoft initiates a project to back Exchange stores on SQL Server, the project always fails because Exchange has different needs than SQL. Exchange is optimized to generate the standard Outlook view as quickly as possible. It needs to do that whether users have 100 or 100,000 emails in their inbox. Exchange stores also operate on a hierarchy (mailboxes, folders etc.) and enforce security at each level whilst also providing rapid receipt and delivery of new email. This is fundamentally why Exchange stores do not make for a good long term archive, but it’s also the reason why you, as an IT admin, would benefit from deploying an email archiving solution.

Exchange stores work best when they’re kept small and depending upon your version and license level, the overall size of your store is actually physically constrained by Exchange itself. However, your users are getting more and more emails and they’re very reluctant to delete them. So, to maintain a manageable Exchange store, you enforce a mailbox size restriction, but then your users call you up and complain they can’t keep all their email. Or maybe, you would be happy to let them have more space but there’s some other constraint at work, like you’re running out of resources and can’t upgrade your storage solution right now.

So, either you, or your users turn to PST files as a mailbox extension mechanism. There are a few reasons why this is a bad idea:

  • If PST files are stored on a local machine, you can’t enforce storage quotas. The user can only see them in Outlook on that computer and you’ll need to develop a backup strategy.
  • If you develop a backup strategy, you’ll probably run into usage/locking problems as a PST is a file and not a database.
  • If you put PST files on a network share, you’ll run into performance problems and Microsoft won’t support you.
  • There’s a chance of PST files being stolen from laptops.
  • There is a size limit on PSTs.
  • Outlook functionality such as search won’t work across multiple PSTs.
  • PST files have a reputation for corruption, so you may lose data that is never recoverable.

Exchange 2010 introduced the idea of the personal archive, which basically gives users two mailboxes. While this alleviates many PST issues, there are drawbacks:

  • Everything is still in Exchange and optimized for Outlook access rather than search-based access. You have only two places where an email might be.
  • Manual movement is required when quotas are exceeded, since automation policies are retention-based only.
  • There’s no compliance enforcement, so users can still delete emails.
  • There’s no access via ActiveSync devices.
  • You’ll need Office Professional Plus and Exchange Enterprise CALs.

Deploying our email archiving solution lets you enforce the quotas that you need to maintain system performance, ease of management and resource utilization without compromising your end user’s email usage:

  • All email gets stored in the archive so users have a single place to go look for an historical email.
  • When they find the email they’re looking for, it’s a simple operation to restore it to their mailbox.
  • The archive is designed to expand easily across multiple storage devices, including the cloud, so it grows with your needs and can be configured to make best use of your resources.
  • All your PSTs and existing mail can be pulled into the archive using a dedicated tool that we supply.
  • The archive store is based upon flat files held in a folder structure making tasks such as security management and backup as simple as possible.