Share via

Planning for Messaging Records Management

Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 will reach end of support on April 11, 2017. To stay supported, you will need to upgrade. For more information, see Resources to help you upgrade your Office 2007 servers and clients.


Applies to: Exchange Server 2007 SP1, Exchange Server 2007 SP2, Exchange Server 2007 SP3

This topic provides guidance for the messaging records management (MRM) planning process, outlining some of the opportunities, best practices, and issues to be considered. Although configuring and managing MRM in Exchange 2007 is technically straightforward, planning for a successful MRM implementation can require time, thought, and input from a variety of business disciplines. In addition to Exchange administrators and the IT department, executives, records managers, human resources personnel, legal advisors, and even end users can play important roles in the planning process.

Where Do I Start?

Before implementing an MRM solution, there are many factors to consider, and not all of them are technical. The following sections describe some of these factors.


To learn about installing, configuring, and maintaining MRM, we recommend that you first set up a test environment (also known as a sandbox installation). Exchange administrators who are well versed in the details of setting up and configuring MRM in a test environment are in a better position to consult with and make recommendations to other members of the organization about the technical requirements for a successful MRM solution.

Policies and Plans

Another early step we recommend as you implement an MRM solution is to set up a team for the purposes of creating or updating the records management policy of your organization. Among the groups to consider including in the policy creation or review process are:

  • Records management professionals

  • Legal counsel

  • Human resources

  • Training

  • Senior management

  • Information technology (IT) management

  • Consultants

The team's task is to create a records management policy that is sufficiently broad in scope to address the organization's current and future needs, but also sufficiently clear and detailed to enable the policy to be implemented by an Exchange administrator as an MRM solution. The process of developing this policy can be lengthy. This is because each team member considers, makes suggestions, and revises the work of the others, balancing legal requirements, budget, complexity, and administrative and human considerations to create a policy from which a manageable MRM implementation can be created.

Concerns for the team to consider, especially in organizations that have a well developed e-mail culture, include:

  • User concerns and possible resistance to an MRM solution

  • How to monitor and enforce the organization's messaging polices

Keeping Messages Where They Can Be Managed

To manage messages, the managed folder assistant must have access to them. This means that messages must be stored on an Exchange server for effective messaging records management. This has two consequences:

  • Users' mailboxes must often be increased in size so that they can hold more items.

  • Access to personal folder (.pst) files on users' computers should be limited or eliminated.

Increasing Mailbox Size

Keeping all user messages in mailboxes on the server usually means increasing the size of users' mailboxes, possibly to a gigabyte (GB) or more. The increased performance of Exchange 2007 helps to make these larger mailboxes manageable.

Limiting Access to .pst Files

You can start moving users away from using .pst files by creating a group policy that prevents new items from being added to existing .pst files. Making .pst files read-only gives users access to the .pst files they may already have while encouraging them to keep the messages that they want to keep in their Exchange mailboxes. Eventually, you may want to create a group policy to remove access to .pst files altogether.

Limiting access to .pst files can disrupt the work habits of some users, but it also has a number of advantages.

Keeping user messages on the server and limiting access to .pst files can:

  • Significantly increase the effectiveness of MRM by keeping messages where they can be managed and monitored.

  • Reduce the risk of losing important data that is stored on individual hard drives rather than on servers that are backed up regularly.

  • Help to reduce the loss of the organization's intellectual property when vendors, interns, and employees leave the organization.

  • Improve users' access to their data by keeping everything in their mailboxes.

  • Make Microsoft Outlook Web Access more effective because all user messages are available anywhere with only a Web connection.

  • Reduce the cost of legal discovery during a lawsuit. The process of capturing and discovering information that is stored in .pst files is labor-intensive and expensive because .pst files must first be located on user computers and then the contents must be processed by legal personnel.

To configure users' systems to operate without .pst files in Microsoft Office Outlook 2007

  1. Create a group policy that sets the following registry subkey to a value of 1. This setting prevents users from adding anything new to .pst files. Users can still create new .pst files but they cannot add anything to them. This setting blocks only Microsoft Outlook .pst files. It allows Microsoft SharePoint .pst files to be connected and updated in a user's Outlook profile. A similar registry key can be used to disable writing to .pst files in Outlook 2003.

  2. Create a group policy that sets the following registry subkeys to a value of 0. These settings disable the AutoArchive menu in Outlook and remove the AutoArchive option, which is shown when the user clicks Tools, clicks Options, and then clicks the Other tab.

  3. Create a group policy that sets the following registry subkey to a value of 5575. This setting removes the Outlook Data File option in Outlook, which is shown when the user clicks File, and then points to New.


Pilot Program

Starting with a pilot implementation can help you to fine tune your MRM solution and get a sense of end-user satisfaction before an organization-wide implementation. For example, you may discover that users find a six-month retention period for the Inbox too short, and that they are more comfortable with a one-year limit. Or you may discover that additional journaling would result in a need to upgrade your archiving solution.

Members of an MRM planning team may also be good candidates for the first members of an MRM pilot program. Additional members can be recruited from IT personnel and from interested management personnel. When the pilot program is in stable operation, you can recruit additional members of the organization to join. Any user reluctance to adopt managed messaging can sometimes be lessened with the promise of a larger mailbox, automatic e-mail management (including automatic deletion of routine notices and messages that can be placed in a short-retention folder), and training to deal with any questions or concerns.

How Do I Implement MRM?

When it is time to implement your MRM solution in your organization, you may want to consider a phased implementation to allow the people in the organization and your Exchange system to adapt to the changes required.

Human Considerations During an MRM Implementation

Gradually introducing MRM to users gives them time to adapt to necessary changes in their work habits. A workable plan is to:

  1. Start a pilot program to test and refine the solution.

  2. Invite additional users to join the pilot program. Larger mailboxes can be an incentive to join.

  3. When you are ready to roll out MRM to the entire organization, start by offering training on MRM and relevant organization messaging policies.

  4. Increase the size of users' mailboxes.

  5. Add managed folders to users' mailboxes, but with expiration turned off. Encourage users to familiarize themselves with MRM and to sort the contents of their mailboxes into the appropriate managed folders according to their needs and the organization's message retention policy.

  6. Three weeks after users get managed folders, enable MRM and make .pst files read-only.

  7. Be ready to provide a high level of support for users at the start of MRM implementation. (Training in advance of rollout reduces user questions and concern.)

  8. Monitor system performance.

  9. Monitor user compliance.

System Considerations During an MRM Implementation

Your Exchange system must adapt to MRM. The first time the managed folder assistant runs, it typically processes a large number of items. This can be a resource-intensive process for both the Mailbox server and the network. It can also result in Outlook clients consuming large amounts of time and network resources while synchronizing mailbox contents with the server. You should plan carefully to avoid overloading resources. Running the managed folder assistant when the load on the server is light and adding users gradually rather than all at once can help to ensure a smooth transition.

Training and the Human Element

People take their e-mail personally, even when it is not their personal e-mail. If faced with abrupt changes to the organization's messaging policies, users may feel annoyed or confused, especially if the new polices involve automatically deleting messages. Changes to long-established methods (such as never emptying the Inbox or saving everything to .pst files) have the potential to cause significant disruption for some users. To assure that your MRM implementation proceeds with as little disruption as possible, consider the following recommendations.

  • Phased implementation
    Introduce MRM gradually rather than all at once.
  • Training
    Training users helps to address concerns in advance and makes for a smoother implementation. Some training topics to consider include:

    • An introduction to the organization's messaging policies.

    • The necessity for MRM in the modern workplace, including an overview of the potential legal liability that results from a lack of records management, and how that liability can cost the organization money and endanger jobs.

    • How automatic e-mail deletion can be a timesaver by automatically deleting outdated content that routinely accumulates.

    • How larger mailbox sizes provide more room for message storage.

    • How server-based storage increases mobile access to data.

    • How there may be unavoidable changes to the way users perform certain tasks (for example, not being able to add messages to .pst files), and the necessity of paying more attention to classifying and handling messages.

    • How MRM helps to conserve the organization's IT resources.

  • Advance notice
    Notify users in advance that changes are coming. Specifically, notify users of the exact dates that MRM will be implemented and remind them about the changes that will occur.
  • User support
    Excellent user support in the early phases of the implementation can ease the transition to MRM. Issues that arise during the deployment phase are usually less technical than might be expected. Often, the concerns revolve around users asking questions of the "What do I do?" nature. Having a team of people who can answer this type of question will help to manage these concerns.

Compliance, Monitoring, and Enforcement

The following are some of methods by which users can evade MRM policies:

  • Saving messages to .pst files (if .pst files are not disabled by group policy)

  • Forwarding messages to other locations (such as a Microsoft Hotmail account)

  • Saving messages as files on their computers

  • Sending messages to Microsoft OneNote (by using Outlook 2007)

  • Printing messages

  • Placing all of their mailbox folders in the managed folder that has the longest retention setting

Educating users about the messaging policies of your organizationcan help to ensure compliance. However, monitoring may be necessary to ensure that your MRM solution is effective. Enforcement of messaging policies will likely require involvement and guidance from senior management.

Using the Get-MailboxFolderStatistics Cmdlet to Obtain User Compliance Information

You can use the Get-MailboxFolderStatistics cmdlet in the Exchange Management Shell to retrieve information about the folders in specified mailboxes. This information includes the number and size of items in the folders, folder names and IDs, and other information. This method can be an effective means of monitoring whether users are out of compliance with messaging policies (such as moving all of their mailbox items to folders with the most permissive retention policies).

In this example, the Get-MailboxFolderStatistics cmdlet is used to monitor the distribution of the contents of user John Peoples' managed folders.

Get-MailboxFolderStatistics -Identity jpeoples -FolderScope ManagedCustomFolder | Format-List
  • You can use the -FolderScope parameter to narrow the range of information returned by the command. In this example, only statistics about the contents of John's managed folders were requested.

  • In this command, the results are piped to the Format-List command to get more information and in a more useful format than with the Get-MailboxFolderStatistics command alone.

For more information about the Get-MailboxFolderStatistics cmdlet, see Get-MailboxFolderStatistics.

The Export-Mailbox cmdlet in the Exchange Management Shell makes it easier to comply with legal discovery orders for mailbox contents by enabling you to copy the contents of specified mailboxes to a folder in another mailbox. For example, you could use the following command to copy the contents of user John Peoples' mailbox to a folder in a specially created mailbox named DiscoveryOrderMailboxes.

Export-Mailbox jpeoples -TargetMailbox DiscoveryOrderMailboxes -TargetFolder mailbox_jpeoples
  • The -TargetMailbox parameter specifies the mailbox to which the contents of John's mailbox are to be copied.

  • The -TargetFolder parameter specifies the folder in the target mailbox to which the contents of John's mailbox are to be copied.

For more information, see Export-Mailbox.

Web Site for Folder Self-Administration by Users

John's organization could also create a Web site where John could add additional managed folders to his mailbox. This self-management option can increase user control and satisfaction while reducing administrator workload. For more information about adding a Web site for user administration of managed folders, see Managed Folder Selector Sample.

For More Information

For more information about MRM, see the following topics:

To learn more about MRM and how it works, see the following Exchange Server Team Blog articles:

Note   The content of each blog and its URL are subject to change without notice. The content within each blog is provided "AS IS" with no warranties, and confers no rights. Use of included script samples or code is subject to the terms specified in the Microsoft Terms of Use.