I have worked with Exchange email administration for over twenty years now. The biggest issue I have had to contend with in that time hasn’t been getting email from point “a” to point “b”, it has been what to do with all the data. Email usage has grown substantially within that period of time and the information sent in those emails has grown as well. For lack of a better term, the email server has replaced the file server as a repository for almost everything. Considering that email servers weren’t designed to be file servers that leaves email administrators with a problem. Their email servers and the databases on them have grown to the point of being unmanageable.
There are many ways of dealing with this growth. My least favorite of these ways, but the one that seems to be used the most, is to allow users to create personal archives (PST files) on their computers or network shares. Using these personal archives would offload the storage from the Exchange server but would move that mail to an unmanageable, flat file that could only be accessed from a single client. In my view, that is going backwards. It compounds the problem and makes it an even larger one. Using PST files made it impossible to control the data. Organizations could not apply retention policies or determine where or what email data existed in their organization.
Exchange administrators have had a solution to this problem for a while but they may not have known about it. Exchange 2010 presented a new feature called “Personal Archives”. Although badly named, the new Personal Archives feature is a function of the Exchange 2010 Messaging Records Management that provides a full featured email messaging archive and retention solution. Personal Archives are stored centrally and still reduce the size of the Exchange server account. It allows access from all sources that can access the mailbox. It allows for enterprise-wide email retention policies and e-discovery. In short, Personal Archives present a manageable, centralized solution to the storage problems caused by email usage and PST files.
One caveat to the Personal Archives solution is licensing. To use Personal Archives you must have an Exchange Enterprise Client Access license for each user and you have to have an appropriate version of Outlook in order to access the archive from within Outlook. The versions of Outlook that are supported are found at the following link: https://office.microsoft.com/en-us/outlook-help/license-requirements-for-personal-archive-and-retention-policies-HA102576659.aspx
If you would like to learn more about Exchange 2010 Personal Archives, you can read more about them at the following link: https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/dd979795.aspx. You can also contact PEI and we can help to determine if Personal Archives would be appropriate for you.
Jake Eker, PEI