PST’s and Mailbox Limits. Those two items keep Exchange Administrator’s up at nights. One of the biggest battles between the end users and the administrator is mailbox size and retention. It’s pretty well known that the bigger the mailbox get’s, usually the worse the performance gets. Admins have been trying for years to get users to get their mailbox size down, and users always fight back. With the dramatic changes that the Exchange Team has made to the Mailbox Store in Exchange 2010, it is now possible to have huge mailboxes’ (10GB+) to support the growing need’s of our end users.
Problem is, we still want to get the best performance possible out of our mailbox’s. For archive purposes, the only “built in” solution from Microsoft was to export data to PST files. PST files though are not managed by the organization, are prone to corruption, not accessible through OWA, and are generally messy. Company’s were forced to move towards 3rd party utilities to satisfy their archiving and compliance needs.
One of the new features in Exchange 2010 is the Archive Mailbox feature. Simply put, the Archive Mailbox is an extra mailbox assigned to the user, that’s meant to hold older, less accessed data. For instance a user could place every email older than 1 year in the archive folder, keeping only new constantly accessed data in the primary mailbox. The Archive Mailbox is integrated into the users Outlook Profile in Outlook 2010:
As well as Outlook Web App (the new name for Outlook Web Access in Exchange 2010):
There are some caveat’s to the Archive Mailbox feature:
- Only Outlook 2010 supports the integration of the Archive Mailbox in the user profile
- The archive mailbox is placed in the SAME database as the primary mailbox
Word on the street is that Microsoft is working on a plug in or an update to Outlook 2007 that will allow the older version of Outlook to access the Archive Mailbox. Still, many companies have an Office 2003 installation that will be hard to uproot to 2010 for this feature.
The second point I think is the one that really hurts this feature. The fact that the archive mailbox is part of the same database as the primary mailbox. I understand that in 2010, the IOPS requirement has been dramatically lowered, and now the organization can run on SATA or Tier-2 disk’s, but many company’s want to segregate their data onto different tier’s and speed of storage. I think this aspect of the feature will end up hurting Microsoft. Let’s see if they make a change in the future.
I digress. The Archive Mailbox is essentially meant to replace the use of PST’s. The best part is you can drag data from existing PST’s into the archive, just like you can drag messages from your inbox to the archive. But the real power is setting this up to be done with policy’s, called Retention Policy’s.
As administrator’s, we can control the length of time that users are allowed to keep items in their primary mailbox. This is an extension of the Management Folder’s feature from Exchange 2007. In 2007 however, users had to place email’s in certain folder’s, be it inbox, or a created folder, so that the policy’s were enacted properly. 2010 uses the concept of Retention Policy’s as well as Retention Policy Tag’s to enforce these settings.
Retention Policy Tag’s are classification’s that are set for a folder or a type of item. For instance you can create a Retention Policy Tag for the inbox, and set it to archive anything over 90 days. You could also set a Retention Policy Tag for any calendar item over 180 days to delete and not archive.
You would then group this tag’s into a Retention Policy, which would then be applied to a mailbox.
By default, Exchange 2010 comes with two retention policy’s, Default Archive Policy, and Arbitration.
The Default Archive Policy comes with predefined tags:
- Personal never move to archive
- Personal 1 year move to archive
- Personal 5 year move to archive
- Default 2 year move to archive
You can check these settings by entering the following powershell command:
Get-RetentionPolicy *default* | fl
Every mailbox that is archive enabled is automatically assigned the default retention policy. You can determine the retention policy by running the command Get-Mailbox jsmith | select Name,RetentionPolicy:
So according to the Default Archive Policy, the user can tag items as one of the three personal setting’s, and then have it moved to archive after the specified time, and anything not tagged will be moved to the archive after 2 years. Retention Policy’s base the time or age of the message on when the item was delivered, or if the item wasn’t delivered (such as calendar item or post), when the item was created.
The Arbitration Retention Policy is used for moderated mailboxes. Moderated mailboxes are used for users who mail must pass through a manager for approval first, or for group membership approval. This policy should only be used in conjunction with these type of mailboxes.
Next, we’ll create a user and assign him an Archive Mailbox
Creating the user is straightforward and exactly the same as normally creating a mailbox, except for one thing. Towards the end of the mailbox creation period, you’ll be prompted with this screen:
You can create an archive mailbox at the mailbox creation time, or after the mailbox is created by right clicking the user and selecting
One thing to keep in mind is you cannot mix Retention Policy’s and Managed Folder Mailbox Policy’s.
Notice how the icon changes for Archive Enabled mailbox’s:
If we navigate to the each user in ADSIEDIT, you’ll see some other difference’s in available attributes. The three in particular are msExchArchiveGuid, msexchArchiveName, and msExchMailboxtemplateLink.
Notice how the user on the right the value’s are blank, and how they are populated on the John Smith user on the left. Also, notice the msEchMailboxTemplateLink value. This is the retention policy applied to this particular user.
In this first part, we discussed the new Online Archive Mailbox feature of Exchange 2010, its concept and purpose, and then discussed how administrator’s can apply them using Retention Policy’s. In part two of this article. We’ll get in and get our hands dirty, and start applying policies, and seeing how Exchange manages and move’s item’s accordingly.