To archive or not to archive…

This article is about choice and how ‘it depends’ for different environments. The philosophical question of how a roll of toilet paper should be placed on the roller; have the paper dispense over the top of the roll, or from below.

Every version of Exchange introduces new paradigms and options that can have impact on how our thought process can and should change from the future, current, or older versions. In Exchange 2010 RTM, the Exchange Product Group (PG) introduced the idea of archiving mail into a different location for the end user. Then in 2010 SP1, the PG listened to our customers and introduced the usage of tiered storage to help put lessor accessed content onto slower, cheaper disks.

Enter Exchange 2013 and the PG recommends using slower 7.2k speed drives for all of Exchange (transaction logs, CI, DB) usage. They have optimized the product to leverage these slower, cheaper spindles, which helps everyone save on costs.

In this journey, we start to look at the new changes that were made for Exchange 2013 and think about how to adopt your Exchange 2010 deployment (or planning) using these new strategies.

  • You don’t have tiered storage available. If you have to manage users’ content in an .edb database file, why separate them and essentially double the number of DB’s you have to manage, especially if you use all of the same speed of disks to host all of the Exchange information. I like to “keep it simple” for ease of manageability.
  • Additional end user training. With the native Exchange online archiving, end users get: 2 inboxes, 2 sent items folders, 2 deleted items folders, etc. More training and potential confusion for our end users. I like the approach of keeping it simple for my end users.
  • Additional licensing. Yes you need to purchase enterprise CAL’s to implement archiving. Enterprise CAL’s are also required for discovery, but if you don’t need to do discovery, then one less reason to spend more money.
  • No OST file for the online archive. If you’re in Outlook cache mode, your end users get an OST file that contains a local copy of their mailbox information. With the online archive solution, you have to be connected to Exchange online to get the information. If your boss does not have full connectivity and access all the time, that could be a problem.
  • Exchange 2013 MBX limit is 100GB, which is still more than the combined 2010 limits of 20GB (MBX) and 50GB (archive).Just increase the overall quotas of everyone’s mailboxes. If you’re already managing the DB’s to hold the information, then why not just increase the quotas? Most people that I run into have 2010 quotas in the 1-5 GB range and some have archive limits in the 10Gb. Since you already manage, in this case, mailboxes around 15GB, why not allow the MBX quota be 15GB and don’t use the archive MBX. It’s all choice.
  • MAC, POP3, and IMAP clients can’t access the archive mailbox. Outlook and OWA can.
  • But Mike, no one will ever manage their mailboxes again! I agree. If you don’t make them manage their content and have no consequences if they don’t, then yes, the users will use all the space you give them. But do you care? If end users always have access to all of their information, organize it themselves, and don’t have issues…they won’t need to call you. And we don’t like phone calls. Keep it simple.

Now there is nothing wrong with archiving and there are many articles and information about how to leverage this really great technology. Many companies I visit love the archiving functionality, fully leverage its’ capabilities, and provide options for their legal requirements to be fully adhered to for compliance. However everyone is not the same.

This information is just a discussion about options and how to pick and choose the varieties available for your environment. These possibilities won’t exist for everyone and I don’t expect everyone to make changes just based on others’ choices. I just see customers not considering the updated paradigm design options to the Exchange products. The one constant in IT is change. And with change, comes new insights on how to look at the old standard.