MS Exchange: Good bye #%$& .PST

PST archive files are a real pain in the ass for IT administrators. The usage of PST files come with many disadvantages like max file sizes, locally saved on the client, slow performance on the network disks etc. With the introduction of Microsoft Exchange 2010 the developers added a really cool new feature: “On-line Archive”;

Personal Archive is a specialized mailbox associated with a user’s primary mailbox. It appears alongside the primary mailbox folders in Outlook or Outlook Web App, giving users direct access to archived email in the same way as non-archived email. For example, users can search both their Personal Archive and primary mailbox using Outlook or Outlook Web App. Email items from the primary mailbox can be automatically offloaded to the Personal Archive through retention polices, and administrators can also import historical email data from .PST files directly into Exchange.* With the flexibility to provision a user’s Personal Archive to a different mailbox database from their primary mailbox*, organizations can more easily implement separate storage strategies for less frequently accessed email.

*Available with Exchange Server 2010 Service Pack 1.

This feature was a real step forward in e-mail archiving, except that the real cool functionality (storing the archive in a different mailbox database) will be available with SP1. But there is good news, on August 24 Microsoft released SP1 for Exchange 2010. So the time is here to see if they made the chances we were all waiting for.

After downloading and installing SP1 (download:  I created a new mailbox database on some (cheap and slow) SATA storage, this database will I use to store my archives.

Now we have a new database for archiving we can enable it for a test user (my own mailbox). Just start the Exchange Management Console and open ‘Recipient Configuration’ – ‘Mailbox’. Right click here on the mailbox on witch you want to enable the on-line archive feature and select ‘Enable Archive…’

Now a new window will open that allow us to create a local  or remote hosted archive. Please note that online archives requires a Exchange Enterprise CAL. In my case I will create a local archive and place it on a different mailbox store (so select the option ‘Select a specific mailbox database rather than having one selected automatically’);

Now click ‘Browse…’ to select the database;

Here you can see my 2 mailbox databases, one for the mailbox itself and one for the online archive. I select the online archive database and click ‘OK’. Now the previous windows will be visible again, here you can see that the archive store is selected;

Now click ‘OK’ to accept the settings. From now on the online archive is available for this user, you can see that the icon in front of the Display Name is different from a mailbox without an online archive;

In Outlook Web App the user will be presented with the ‘Online Archive’ folder. You can also apply GPO’s the force archiving to this folder. I didn’t had the time to test it with Office Outlook 2010.


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