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How to provide nearly unlimited mailboxes for employees

In days of Exchange 2003 (and before that too) storage space on our Exchange servers was at a premium, and email storage management consisted of enforcing quotas on users. A single attachment might be enough to put users over the limit, and no email in or out until they cleaned up their mailbox.

Email archiving consisted of users moving their own email to a succession of PST files, scattering mission-critical or sensitive email communications across laptop hard drives, home directories, group file shares, or external storage. These PSTs not only presented several opportunities for data loss, but also for data leakage, as laptops disappear, and shared folders sometimes are more permissive than they should be. Moving them to the network seemed like the right ideal at the time, but the performance hit introduced to the fileservers soon showed what a bad idea that was.

Email archiving is the modern way to solve several dilemmas facing email management at the same time including: how to meet users’ growing needs for storage; how to maintain compliance with legal, regulatory, and contractual requirements; how to enforce document retention policies; and how to respond to requests from auditor or legal motions. In this article, we are only going to look at the space issue, or rather, removing space as an issue for your users.

Setting quotas without providing an alternative for those users who hit their limits forces users to move email to PST files. Sure, some can just go delete everything out of their sent items, but this has led to lost emails needing to be restored more times than I can count. Moving mail to a PST gets the user back below their quota, but consider how ‘at risk’ that PST is. Users who get a lot of email and archive it will probably continue to pack it into that same PST until the inevitable happens… it grows too large and corrupts, requiring long hours wasted trying to recover email. There is a better way of doing things.

Email archiving can work automatically, in the background, moving emails that meet certain qualifications from the comparatively expensive online storage of your Exchange servers’ information stores, to a less expensive storage mechanism, such as tier 2 SAN space, or even relatively inexpensive direct attached storage. Emails are still online and accessible, either using an Outlook plug-in or a web browser based interface. How emails are archived is entirely up to the administrator, with rules or policies that define how archiving is handled.

Email archiving can also help those packrat users who insist on never deleting anything. Rather than moving ancient emails to PST files, you can archive them automatically, and keep them accessible for those users who insist they need an email from a former customer who retired five years ago for example, who worked for a company that went bankrupt last year, you know, just in case.

So let go of those old fashioned practices, solve the issue with email quotas, and banish the acronym PST from your vocabulary. Implement email archiving as part of your email management practices. It is a win-win for admins and users alike.

This guest post was provided by Ed Fisher on behalf of GFI Software Ltd. GFI is a leading software developer that provides a single source for network administrators to address their network security, content security and messaging needs. More information: GFI email archiving. All product and company names herein may be trademarks of their respective owners.

2 Responses to “How to provide nearly unlimited mailboxes for employees”

  1. Susheel Ameser Says:


    How can we place archives on Tier 2 SANS in Exchangee 2010 because you active and archive mailbox of the user has to be in same Database, which means where I place active mailbox, archive goes with it. Is there a way to seperate them?

    By default, Exchange sets a quota of 10 GB on archive mailbox. How does one plan the growth of this archive mailbox? Once we give this option to end users, you know everything will go into this archive box regardless of its use. So capacity planning for the growth becomes key in large environments. Any recommendations?

    Thank You

  2. JS Says:

    Susheel – you can seperate active and archive mailboxes in different databases starting with Exchange 2010 SP1

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