The Exchange 2010 SP1 Archive Solution

For those who don’t know me, let me say that I have a terrible poker face. I am not much for suspense or grandeur so I will now spoil the ending; unless you already use an archiving program like Mimosa NearPoint, Symantec Enterprise Vault or Zantaz EAS then you should definitely read this article and seriously consider configuring the Exchange 2010 SP1 archiving options. In this article, I will show you how to control databases growth, eliminate PSTs and allow users to access both current and archived items from Outlook 2007, Outlook 2010 and Outlook Web Access.

Archiving Principals

Over the years, I have worked and partnered very closely with Mimosa Systems and I have helped to implement email archiving solutions for Fortune 500 companies. Moreover, I have worked directly to prepare for both Federal and State court litigation with email archiving tools. So, before I go any further let’s talk about what archiving means. Wikipedia defines an Archive as “…a collection of historical records, as well as the place they are located.[1] Archives contain primary source documents that have accumulated over the course of an individual or organization’s lifetime.

In general, archives consist of records that have been selected for permanent or long-term preservation on grounds of their enduring cultural, historical, or evidentiary value.“

Based on this definition alone, I would say that an Archive (as it relates to email) is a collection of emails that have been preserved for a set amount of time dictated by the entity that owns the records. The benefit of having an email archive is that it provides fault tolerance to the messages and the ability to globally search and export messages as needed for whatever purpose necessary. This is common for companies that are tightly regulated or under orders (either by the court or internal requirements) to preserve messages.

The Exchange 2010 archive functions do NOT provide tools that match this definition of “archive” and I want to make that perfectly clear. Exchange 2010 does provide Journaling tools to collect, protect and store emails but Microsoft does not label that as Archiving. Even though the tools I describe in this paper have the word Archive plastered all over them, they are in fact designed to manage mailbox and database sizes. Yes, there are some excellent global search tools and yes searches can be delegated and content exported but the user never loses the ability to delete items from their mailbox or archive. I absolutely adore these new features and strongly recommend every Exchange shop use them, but because the data is not protected against user deletion, I have a hard time labeling it as an archive solution.

Exchange 2010 Archive Components

Now that I have said my peace, let’s move on shall we! There are several components that I want to describe before we get into the meat of this. The components are:

 

  • Exchange 2010 Mailbox Server- Yes, this is obvious, but I want to make sure you understand that these features are only available on Exchange Server 2010 RTM and SP1.
  • Exchange 2010 Mailbox Databases – Yes, another obvious point but I wanted to emphasize the fact that Exchange 2010 RTM automatically places the user’s archive within the same Mailbox Store as the user’s mailbox. My original excitement about the archive features somewhat dissipated when I learned about this during the beta. In this scenario, the Archive is forced to participate in the same High-Availability (HA) plan as the live mailbox so if your Service Level Agreements (SLA) requires several copies of the Mailbox Stores then your Archive must follow along and chew up valuable drive space. Fortunately, SP1 allows you to specify a separate Mailbox Store for the user’s archive so you have the ability to tier your Recovery Point Objectives (RPO) and Recovery Time Objectives (RTP) separately.
  • Retention Policy Tags and Retention Policies allow you to control when things are moved to the user’s archive and to whom the policies should apply. While these features are available in RTM, the management of these features require the use of the Exchange Management Shell and the documentation around this is pretty thin. I would recommend considerable lab testing to perfect the management process with the RTM. Exchange Server 2010 SP1 changes how these (and all Mailbox Policies) features are managed and applied. In fact, SP1 makes the application of Retention Policy Tags exceptionally easy and intuitive.
  • Outlook Client – There are three ways to access the archives;
    • Outlook Web Access (OWA) provides direct access to both the user’s mailbox and the users server-based Archive. Unfortunately, it seems that the search tools do not span both repositories so if a user would like to search EVERYTHING for a specific email, they will need to perform two searches; one in the mailbox and one in the archive.
    • Outlook 2010 also provides direct access to the user’s mailbox and the user’s archive. It too currently suffers from the two-search problem. While this is not a show-stopper, it will certainly cause some user-confusion as they will need to know to search twice or they will need to know which repository contains the items they require. It is also important to note that the archive is not cached in Outlook’s Offline Store (OST) and so you can only access the archive when you are connected to the Exchange environment.
    • Outlook 2007 support is added with Exchange 2010 SP1. As of this writing, I have not had the pleasure to test this since it will most certainly require a patch to Outlook 2007 and I was unable to acquire those bits. The expectation is that it will function as the Outlook 2010 client does. I am hoping that Microsoft will figure out a way to provide a unified search, but I am not holding my breath since even OWA 2010 SP1 does not have that functionality.
  • Exchange Control Panel (ECP) is the web-based management interface that among other things allows those assigned the appropriate role to perform a Multi-Mailbox search. While this is not speficially an archive function, it will automatically search both user mailboxes and user archives simultaneously so I wanted to spend a little time on the subject.

 

Archive Management

Exchange 2010 archives are user-specific and so the attributes of an archive are maintained on the User Mailbox object and can easily be accessed by Powershell cmdlets. You can add an archive to an existing mailbox by using the Set-Mailbox cmdlet with an –Archive switch. Additional switches are provided to allow you to specify a different database (new with SP1) as well as quotas so the archive settings for the mailbox may look a little like this:

ArchiveDatabase              : NY Archives

ArchiveGuid                       : d2a0d37c-3a05-4a88-b196-3f71f291fde8

ArchiveName                    : {Online Archive – Kendall Bryant}

ArchiveQuota                    : 50 GB (53,687,091,200 bytes)

ArchiveWarningQuota     : 45 GB (48,318,382,080 bytes)

ArchiveDomain                 :

You can also use the Exchange Management Console (EMC) to enable or disable an archive for the selected user. To enable the archive for a user, simply right-click the mailbox name and choose Enable Archive.

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The Enable Archive option provides you the ability to select the specific database that should host the archive. With this feature, items that exist on your Tier1/High-Availability mailbox databases can be manually or automatically moved onto a database with lower availability. Those who are a Microsoft Online Business Suite tenant can enter their domain name to identify a remote hosted archive location.  These features became available with SP1 and represent a significant change of the archive architecture.

Also, the GUI does has a nice little icon it uses to denote who has an archive and who does not; a clever little folder-drawer icon! I am sometimes embaraased as to how easily I can be impressed or amused.

 

 

Automating  the Archive through Retention Polices

So if that was not enough, SP1 completely changed the policy tabs in the EMC. Gone are the tabs known as “Manage Custom Folders” and “Manage Default Folders.” Instead, we now see Retention Policy Tags and Retention Policies. This provides a much clearer definition and easier management for those new to Exchange Server administration.

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The first thing you will need to do is define your Policy Tags. The Default Archive Policy is now exposed to the EMC. Hooray! You will probably want to create a new one though if you want to do some granular configurations. Creating a new retention policy tag is just a right-click away or you can just click on the New Retention Policy Tag selection from the Action menu.

As first glance this wizard looks the same Mailbox Manager rules but there are two major differences with SP1. First, under the Action drop down under Age limit you can now select “Move to Archive.”  Secondly, when you want to see or modify the mailboxes that should receive the policy, you can edit the policy the click the Mailboxes tab. From there you can add or remove mailboxes as will.

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There are a few more changes that are little more subtle.  As I mentioned before, archive settings for the user are actually User-Mailbox attributes. Litigation Hold and Retention settings can be found under the MRM (Messaging Records Management) from the Mailbox Settings Tab.

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On this same Tab, you can select Archive Quote to set rules on the Archive size.

Accessing the Archive

There are three ways to access the user archive; Outlook 2007 (with SP1), Outlook 2010 and OWA 2010. Once the user archive is enabled using the EMC or EMS, clients will see it as another level in their Outlook. In fact, it is very similar to what you would expect if your Outlook was configured to open more than one mailbox.

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If you think of it as a separate mailbox, then the limitations I am about to mention make sense.

  • No offline Access – You must be connected to the Exchange environment to get to the user archive. In fact, the Outlook client even shows it as “Online Archive.”
  • Two searches – Neither Outlook or OWA can simultaneously search both the user archive and the Mailbox for items. NOTE: THIS IS NOT CORRRECT. ONE SEARCH WILL WORK FOR BOTH BUT IT RELIES ON THE MICROSOFT SEARCH SERVICE.

Multi-Mailbox Searches

Interesting enough, Exchange 2010 does provide the ability to search both the user archive and mailbox simultaneously, but not with Outlook clients and not with tools designed for the general population. Exchange 2010 now supports a robust Role Based Access Control permissions model. In this model the role-group named Discovery Management provides the assigned person the ability to perform Multi-Mailbox searches which have access to both mailboxes and archives.

Using the Exchange Control Panel, the Discovery Manager (Role Group) can select Reporting and New to Perform a New Multi-Mailbox Search.

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The searches can be fairly complex as you can select the search strings and the types of messages to search. You can also limit the search to specific senders/recipients, date ranges, the specific mailbox(s) you want to search. Lastly, you determine where you want the results stored.image7

The search runs on the server and when the job is complete the assigned Discovery Search Mailbox will receive an email that summarizes the search results. This message also contains an attachment that lists the items found in the search. If, on the New Mailbox Search page you selected to Copy Results to the Selected Mailbox the Discovery Search Mailbox will also contain a copy of all the items that met your search criteria. These items will be located in a folder names for the search itself.

Exporting the Search Items

It’s fairly safe to speculate that those who would require a global Multi-Mailbox (and Multi-Archive)   search would need to present the items to someone, right? Getting to the data takes a little more work. For starters, you need to find the Discovery Search Mailbox in the EMC and give yourself (or the auditor you have assigned) Full Permissions. Now you can simply open Outlook Web Access and see all the items that matched the search.

But what if you need to transport the items out of Exchange; perhaps for litigation? Well you really need an Outlook client for that so you have to jump through a few more hoops. With Exchange 2010 RTM, the Discovery Search Mailbox(s) could not be opened with Outlook. Fortunately that changed with SP1 so you can open it like any other (additional) mailbox by using the Microsoft Exchange account settings in Outlook.

Since we can see the folder from Outlook, we can now export it.

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The export feature in Outlook 2010 is a little more difficult to find however: First click File from the Outlook menu bar and then select Open in the left pane.image9

Now in order to export, we click Import (ironic huh?) Believe it or not, this is how we access both the import and export tools! Choose Export to File and then select Outlook Data File (.pst) and click Next again.

From this screen, you can select the parent folder you wish to export and make sure the “Include subfolders” option is chosen. Continue through the wizard to export the data to a PST file.

Summary

The Exchange 2010 Archiving tools (especially those that ship with SP1) have features that every Exchange 2010 shop can use. Tailored specifically to help control mailbox sizes, the Retention Policy Tags, Multi-Mailbox search and the separation of the Archive from the Mailbox database provide you the tools needed to better shape your databases and eliminate the need for PSTs. In fact, to make the transition easier, SP1 provides the means of importing PSTs directly into a person’s archive. One last thing I will point out is timing. You would be better served by waiting for SP1 before jumping head-first into Exchange 2010 archiving. Some things will need to be undone in order to do them right with SP1.

 

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