Archive or not to archive (that is the question)

Archiving emails is a progress many of us knows. Let us have a look back how the scenario was couple of years ago:

In the time, we were working with Exchange 2003, 2007 or 2010 a setup of a hosted Exchange I was operating looked like this: We had a few CAS servers, few Hub transports servers and of course some Mailbox servers. The Mailbox servers where connected by fiber to a storage system. On this storage environment we had a few of LUN’s on which the Mailbox databases where located. Of course this setup was built redundant over multiple Datacenters. In the graphic below you can see a simplified topic about it. Because our storage was not so cheap but we had the pressure of the market not to make to high prices per mailbox, we decided to implement a second storage environment by using a NAS in stud of a SAN. This NAS didn’t have the requirement to be that performant like the SAN, so we decided to use it for the archive (feature).

This solution allowed our customers to use the NAS storage for archiving. In our case we had a 3rd party application, which had an Outlook plugin for managing the archive tasks.

This solution had pro and cons! The pro was that we were able to offer an archive to our customers for a fair price. The cons were… Well, let me give you an example: One of the users worked as a sales representative, so he had a company car and also a company fuel card. He created in his Outlook a Task with daily or weekly needed information. One of this information was the PIN code of his fuel card. The archive settings where configured that all mailbox items (mails, tasks, etc.) will be archived 6 month after creation. This worked in a way, that the user still had a link to the messages in his mailbox, but the mail was moved to the archive. The same happened to the Task items. However, the user was not able to get the information with his smartphone. So, when he was filling his car with fuel and he went to pay it, he simply couldn’t. The Task item where the PIN of his card was saved, was moved to the archive…

This is one of the challenges we had by using “old school” archive. However, there are much more this kind of.

In the last couple of years the SAN prices decreased quite much. On the other hand, depends about our architecture, we do not have to think about it that much anymore if we have a hybrid or cloud only environment. From the cost side there is no more reason to build this construct, as we had to do in the past. Since Exchange 2013 we also don’t need a classical storage environment as we had before. Since 2013 Microsoft recommends us to use (cheap) local storage for the whole configuration. More about this you can find HERE.

So, we do not need any archive at all anymore?

Well, we cannot say that. There is still an option we can go with… If we use Exchange online or a hybrid configuration, Microsoft has an archive Feature ready for us.

Microsoft makes here the following commitment: “Exchange Online Archiving offers users advanced archiving capabilities with the archive mailbox feature. An archive mailbox is a specialized mailbox that appears alongside the users’ primary mailbox folders in Outlook or Outlook Web App. Users can access the archive in the same way that they access their primary mailboxes. In addition, they can search both their archives and primary mailboxes.”

Here is important to know that Using journaling, transport rules, or auto-forwarding rules to copy messages to Exchange Online Archiving for the purposes of archiving is not permitted. Also important to know that user’s archive mailbox is intended for just that user. Microsoft reserves the right to deny unlimited archiving in instances where a user’s archive mailbox is used to store archive data for other users.

 

So, how do that works?

Users can drag and drop messages from .pst files into the archive, for easy online access. Users can also move email items from the primary mailbox to the archive mailbox automatically, using Archive Polices, to reduce the size and improve the performance of the primary mailbox. While this behavior is different than Exchange Hosted Archive, which will create a secondary copy of each message in the archive, retention requirements can be achieved in either scenario.

Users can import data to the archive in the following ways:

  • Import data from a .pst file using Outlook’s Import and Export wizard.
  • Drag email messages from .pst files into the archive.
  • Drag email messages from the primary mailbox into the archive.
  • Let archive policies automatically move email messages from the primary mailbox, based on the age of the messages.

Easy handling by deleted mailbox recovery! When administrators delete users from the on-premises Exchange Server, the users’ archives are also deleted. If the deleted archive mailboxes need to be recovered, the Office 365 support team can perform this recovery. A recovered archive will contain all of the mail stored in it at the time it was deleted.

Important to know in this case is: Administrators have 30 days from the time a user’s mailbox is deleted to request an archive mailbox recovery. After 30 days, the archive mailbox is not recoverable.

Summary:

If you should use an archive feature or not I cannot decide for you! Fact is, that the old concepts we used until Exchange 2010, they are today not the state of the art anymore. Microsoft provides an own solution for this theme. In one hand it works fantastic even with OWA etc. in the other hand you need to use cloud services. In the Microsoft Technet you can find an article, which describes the functionality of this feature.  Important is just to have a concept, you want to go with in the future…

 

 

 

 


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