Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Exchange 2010 Archiving is worth a Look

By:Rik Hoffelder
Over the years Microsoft's Exchange server has evolved into a more complete solution. For example Exchange 2003 brought us Recovery Storage Groups and Envelop Journaling to help meet recovery and compliance needs. Exchange 2007 brought new high availability features with LCR, SCR, and CCR as well as refined journaling through transport level rules. This has helped companies provide better solutions with out-of-the-box components rather than shoulder the expense of the many third party products. While not as robust as the third party offerings, Exchange offers viable solutions to provide greater value with each release.

Exchange 2010 is no exception. It incorporates e-mail archiving and retention out-of-the-box. While it is not quite as full featured as many of the finer third party products such as Enterprise Vault or Email Xtender, it offers many compelling features that will enable businesses of all sizes to implement an affordable, out-of-the-box solution. Many of the new features are based around the improvements made to Exchange 2010 database architecture and indexing services. In particular the database optimizations in Exchange 2010 allow for high performance from lower cost SATA/Tier2 drives. This enables an organization to increase storage capacity and performance with breaking the bank.

The integrated solution in Exchange 2010 allows an administrator to create a secondary archive mailbox on the user's mailbox properties. The archive mailbox appears as a secondary mailbox in the Outlook 2010 or Outlook Web Access 2010 clients. Note that the new archiving features are only available in Outlook or OWA 2010. For companies that may not want or be able to upgrade Outlook can still utilize OWA to access archived data.

So what are some of the new features of archiving that make this a compelling solution? First an administrator can set a retention policy on the mailbox or individual folders through the new Retention Policy configuration. Also note that all of the configuration options related to archiving are available through the Exchange Management Console GUI making administration simple.

The administrator has the ability to set separate quota limits for the primary and archive mailboxes. Note that the default archive mailbox has a 10 GB size limit, this is configurable. User or administrator defined retention policies can be applied allowing manual or automatic message moves to archive. The retention policies include rules that allow you move messages from primary to archive, delete messages from primary mailbox folders such as deleted items, or move messages to archive then delete from archive when they have expired. Rules can be set on each folder or the full mailbox.

Think of this as a replacement to Outlook's auto-archive to PST. You can eliminate the need for PSTS. Speaking of PSTs, the end user can drag and drop their PSTs into archive. This helps reduce or eliminate the accident waiting to happen for PSTs stored on workstations, such as my laptop. Oops!

How about search capability, is that in there? Yes and it rivals many of the competitors because it allows search across the primary and archive mailboxes simultaneously. It also provides dumpster searches. Search the dumpster … really?? Yes, think of the implications of not having to run EXMERGE to export dumpster items from mailboxes under investigation because the user found out and started to SHIFT+DELETE certain messages. Then you have to manually search or import the PSTs into some third party tool to find what you need.

Now there is a catch, the archive is only available when you are on line. Items stored in the mailbox archive are not synchronized with an OST file. This is part of the benefit of archiving, particularly when dealing with very large mailboxes. As a work around you can move messages from the archive mailbox to the primary mailbox prior to traveling for accessibility. If you have travelers who frequently access older e-mail keep this in mind as you create your retention policies.

Exchange 2010 archiving also works with journaling. Keep in mind archiving and journaling are not exactly one in the same. Journaling is done for legal or regulatory compliance. This is where Exchange 2010 really shines by building on Exchange 2007 journaling. I believe you can create a true compliance solution to meet any entities' need that rivals any solution on the market today for no additional cost.

Exchange 2010 offers a new user role which allows an administrator to delegate the ability to search the archives to a compliance office, human resources, or other interested party. Moving the responsibility of performing searches back where it belong, at the business level. Exchange 2010 provides a new GUI-based tool that allows search across all or selected mailboxes. Results can be stored in a separate compliance mailbox store. Compliance administrators can also define retention policies and place items on legal hold.

Finally, as in it's about time, journaling has the ability to decrypt messages sent by internal users. Messages are stored unencrypted in the journal mailbox, while the original recipient(s) receives an encrypted copy. This new ability allows encrypted messages to be scanned for viruses (isn't it about time?), scan for content, and apply content transport rules to be applied to encrypted content. Even if you use a third party solution, this alone makes it worthwhile to consider upgrading to Exchange 2010 as soon as it is available.

As you can see archiving offers a host of new options for Exchange 2010 deployments. I have really only touched the surface of what archiving can do there are many other facets. Please drop me a comment or a question, I want to know your thoughts.

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