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Exchange 2010 and storage systems

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Exchange archive mailboxes

There are other factors to consider that may impact your Exchange Server storage planning, such as whether you plan to implement user archive mailboxes, a new and optional feature. User archive mailboxes are secondary mailboxes that can be used for long-term retention of messages. What makes archive mailboxes different from other Exchange archiving methods is that unlike a more traditional archive (such as a journal mailbox), the user retains ownership of the items in the archive mailbox. As such, each user's archives are readily accessible.

Archive mailboxes are designed to take the place of PST files. But unlike PST files, archive mailboxes are stored within a mailbox database on the Exchange Server where they can be managed and regulated by the Exchange administrator.

In the original RTM release of Exchange 2010, user archive mailboxes were in the same mailbox database as users' primary mailboxes. In SP1, Microsoft provided the option of relocating user archive mailboxes to a separate mailbox database that allows the archives to be offloaded so they don't impact the primary mailbox storage.

Microsoft generally recommends placing the archive mailboxes on a low-end mailbox server that uses inexpensive direct-attached storage (such as a SATA array). Remember, if a mailbox database contains only archive mailboxes then it won't be subject to the same I/O load as a mailbox database that's used to store the user's

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primary mailboxes. Another advantage to using low-cost storage for user archive mailboxes is that doing so makes it practical to set a high mailbox capacity quota on the archive mailboxes. (See "Can Exchange Server's archiving and e-discovery replace third-party products?" below.)

Can Exchange Server's archiving and e-discovery replace third-party products?

Prior to the release of Exchange Server 2010, an entire industry emerged around creating archival and e-discovery products for Exchange Server. Now that Exchange 2010 offers native support for user archives and has built in e-discovery capabilities, it seems only natural to consider whether these new features can replace third-party products.

Exchange 2010's e-discovery and archiving features may be sufficient for some smaller organizations, but they're not enterprise-ready. The archiving and e-discovery features both have limitations you won't encounter with most third-party tools.

For example, Exchange 2010's archive mailboxes aren't a true archiving solution. Archive mailboxes let users offload important messages to a secondary mailbox that's not subject to strict retention policies or storage quotas. But if you want to do true archiving at the organizational level you still must use Exchange's journaling feature. The journal works, but third-party archivers provide much better control over message archival, retention and disposal.

The situation's the same for Exchange 2010's multi-mailbox e-discovery search feature. Multi-mailbox search has some major limitations. For example, it can only be used with Exchange 2010 mailboxes, so you'll still need a third-party product to search legacy Exchange mailboxes or PSTs.

Multi-mailbox search also lacks some of the rich reporting options and export capabilities commonly found in specialized e-discovery products.

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This was first published in April 2011

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