Even a few minutes of e-mail downtime can mean dollars down the drain, so keeping systems up and running is of paramount importance. With this in mind, systems administrators charged with managing the company e-mail servers are always on the lookout for ways to improve performance. The biggest problem how to store the massive volumes of e-mail produced by their company every day.
The most common practice to combat the demand for e-mail capacity is to set mailbox limits. Many companies restrict mailbox sizes to 50 MB, 100 MB or 200 MB. This solution is easy to implement but causes terrific problems for users, forcing them to delete e-mail daily to stay under the limit. Users are often angered and will waste time with the help desk trying for workarounds.
One workaround is to store e-mail locally as .PST files with Microsoft Exchange. This solves the immediate problem by removing e-mail from the e-mail server and storing it locally. Users can now store months and months of e-mail without any unwanted deletions. The problem with these local files is that they also grow too large. Users again flood the help desk with complaints, this time about e-mail clients that have crashed due to corrupted .PST files.
The way out of this maze of e-mail storage and management problems is to implement an e-mail archive application. These new applications are commercially available from many vendors and they can help. Here's how.
E-mail archive systems all work fundamentally the same. Based on policies that you set, they move e-mail messages and attachments from the e-mail server to the e-mail archive server and leave a small pointer behind. The e-mail client continues to see all the e-mail in the server and when an archived e-mail is opened it is displayed in the e-mail client normally with only a small increase in retrieval time.
Common practice is to archive messages older than 45 days and greater than 1 KB in size. This simple rule moves all old messages to the archive and avoids archiving e-mail that is too small to be of any benefit. Now the e-mail server is unburdened by the load of old e-mail and users can have all their old e-mail just in case they need to refer to it in the future.
Mailbox limits can remain in place, but depending on their size and the archive policy, users should be able to remain comfortably below the mailbox limit without any need for attention. Local e-mail files (.PST Files) can also be archived and deleted from the local machines. Now that users can have months and years of e-mail in the archive they do not need .PST files. They are better off having their old e-mail on an archive server that is being protected versus having their files on their local machine where they are easily damaged or lost.
The benefits of an e-mail archive system to supplement your existing e-mail servers are immediate and powerful. Your users benefit by having the ability to store months and years of e-mail without any worries. You benefit by being able to manage the demand for e-mail server capacity. Now you can manage the total costs of your e-mail environment by balancing the load between the e-mail servers and the e-mail archive servers.
Your legal and compliance departments also gain from the company maintaining a central e-mail store. In the case of an investigation or legal discovery request you can quickly search the e-mail archive server for messages and attachments using full-text search functions that are provided with the archive application. No longer do you have to search old e-mail backup tapes or local .PST files for missing e-mail. All e-mail is held in a central archive and is easily accessible.
Managing the most critical communication tool in your company is not easy, but through proper training and implementation of an e-mail archival application you can improve a very difficult situation.
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About the author: Bob Spurzem is the product marketing manager for industry solutions at Hitachi Data Systems.