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Microsoft Exchange Server 2010: Exchange Archiving and Compliance

Establishing and maintaining an archive within your Exchange Server 2010 infrastructure is essential, but there are right ways and wrong ways.

Excerpted from “Exchange 2010 - A Practical Approach,” published by Red Gate Books (2009).

Jaap Wesselius

One important aspect of managing your Exchange environment is managing the e-mail store. This refers to both the amount of e-mail you manage and how you handle each individual e-mail message.

The amount of e-mail people receive has grown tremendously over the last couple of years. It’s not uncommon for people to have a multigigabyte mailbox. Each user might also have a number of PST files where they keep all kinds of information.

Exchange used to be dependent upon expensive storage solutions, although this became less important with Exchange Server 2007. Still, managing an environment with multigigabyte mailboxes brings its own challenges with respect to storage.

PST files are a different story. They’re unsafe to use because they’re usually stored on a desktop or laptop. If this device is stolen, the information is lost and potentially compromised. PST files are sometimes stored on network shares, but this practice is not actually supported by Microsoft.

Third-party archiving solutions often come into play. These are a particularly good idea when they’re part of an Information Lifecycle Management (ILM) policy. An ILM policy is a procedural solution that describes how an organization deals with information like e-mail. An ILM typically covers the following procedures:

  • How organizations adhere to compliance regulations.
  • How long e-mail is stored (retention times).
  • Where e-mail is stored (location and folders).
  • How e-mail is backed up.

An ILM solution is a proper business case for an archiving solution. Sometimes there’s mention of “cheap storage,” but there’s truly no such thing as cheap storage. Naturally, a 500GB SATA disk is less expensive than a 146GB Serial-Attached SCSI disk. However, SATA disks also need power, cooling and management, all of which add to the expense.

Build an Archive

You’ll need to build, manage and back up (but maybe not as often as a regular Exchange system) your archiving system. Exchange Server 2010 has a new built-in archiving solution, which lets you create a personal archive mailbox within the Exchange organization. To do this, follow these steps:

  1. Log on to an Exchange Server and open the Exchange Management Console.
  2. Expand the Exchange On-Premise, expand the Recipient Configuration and select Mailbox.
  3. In the Results Pane, select one or more users that need to have an Archive.
  4. Right-click the selected users and select “Enable Archive.” Click Yes in the license requirement warning, and the archive will be created.

Except for the icon changing, nothing special happens in the Exchange Management Console. You can request the mailbox properties and select the Mailbox Features tab to check if the Archive is enabled.

The Archive is actually just a secondary mailbox created in the same mailbox database as the primary mailbox. To request more information about the Mailbox Archive, open the Exchange Management Shell and enter the following command:

Get-Mailbox -Identity <<mailbox>> -Archive | `
ft ArchiveGuid, ArchiveName, ArchiveQuota

The default Mailbox Quota is 2GB. The default Quota for the Mailbox Archive is unlimited, but these quotas are not set in stone. For example, to set the Mailbox Archive Quota to 10GB, use the Exchange Management Shell and enter the following command:

Set-Mailbox –Identity <<mailbox>> –ArchiveQuota 10GB

You can enter the ArchiveQuota value using B (bytes), KB (kilobytes), MB (megabytes), GB (gigabytes) or TB (terabytes). The value itself can range from 1 to 9,223,372,036,854,775,807 bytes.

The maximum recommended database size in Exchange Server 2010 is 2TB, so you need to take special care with the amount of mailboxes per database. You should also watch the Archive Quota per Mailbox to prevent unlimited growth of the database.

Creating the Archive Mailbox in the same database as the primary mailbox is always a starting point for a good discussion: Is this a good or bad idea? The answer should really be “neither.” Exchange Server 2010 doesn’t rely on an expensive storage solution for its databases anymore.

It can also support a Just a Bunch of Disks (JBOD) solution. As long as you configure multiple database copies, Exchange Server 2010 can use 2TB SATA disks for storing a mailbox database and its accompanying log files. Those strategies should help you establish and maintain a sufficient Exchange Server 2012 archive.

Jaap Wesselius

Jaap Wesselius is the founder of DM Consultants, a company with a strong focus on messaging and collaboration solutions. After working at Microsoft for eight years, Wesselius decided to commit more of his time to the Exchange community in the Netherlands, resulting in an Exchange Server MVP award in 2007. He is also a regular contributor at the Dutch Unified Communications User Group and a regular author for Simple-Talk.

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