If you mention PSTs to Exchange Administrators, you will see many of them cringe. Personal store (*.pst) files are used by users to store e-mails locally, instead of keeping them in their online Exchange mailbox. Very often users employ PSTs because they find themselves restricted by mailbox quotas, unaware that in the long term they are exposing themselves and the organization to a PST management nightmare (think of backups or a mailbox search spanning some 8 different files). Apart from this, there is an increased risk of data theft and increased electronic discovery cost as a result of keeping these PST files in so many different locations.
Another common PST application is brick level backups with the export-mailbox cmdlet (and ExMerge in earlier Exchange versions). This also leads to similar problems inherent to email storage fragmentation.
The Personal Archive feature in Exchange 2010 (also known as an "Online Archive") aims to end the PST hell by providing an alternative online storage location where historical e-mail data can be stored. Using Outlook 2010 or Outlook Web App, users will be able to see a secondary mailbox along side their primary mailbox to which they can drag and drop e-mails (and PST files!) as they please. The administrator can also set retention polices to move or delete e-mails after a given period of time. What's more is that this mailbox has a seperate quota - called an "archive quota" - separate from the quota for the primary mailbox.
The rest of this article will explain how to enable and disable the Personal Archive, setup an archive quota, and configure retention tags and retention policies to automatically move e-mails into the Personal Archive.
Enabling and Disabling the Personal Archive
To create a new mailbox and enable the personal archive feature; from the Exchange Management Console, navigate to Recipient Configuration, right click the Mailbox node and select "New Mailbox". This will launch the New Mailbox wizard.
Follow the wizard until you get to the Archive Settings page where you will be asked to select whether you want to create an archive mailbox for this new account. Select this checkbox and press Next to start the mailbox creation process.
The "Create an archive mailbox for this account" option simply runs a Powershell cmdlet with the "-Archive" parameter in the background.
To create a new mailbox and set it with the personal archive feature enabled, from the Exchange Management Shell execute the cmdlet:
New-Mailbox -UserPrincipalName email@example.com -Archive -Database "Mailbox Database" -Name JenniferPeach -Password "pa55w0rd" - FirstName Jennifer -LastName Peach -DisplayName "Jennifer Peach" -ResetPasswordOnNextLogon $True
This is basically the same cmdlet you would run when creating a normal mailbox via the powershell, but includes the "-Archive" parameter. We set the "ResetPasswordOnNextLogon" to "$true" so that the next time this new user logs on, they will be prompted to change their password.
Enabling or disabling the personal archive feature on an already existing mailbox is easy.
To do this via the Exchange Management Console:
- Navigate to Recipient Configuration | Mailbox
- Right click on the mailbox you wish to add an archive mailbox for and select "Enable Archive"
- You will be presented with a prompt explaining how online archives are a premium feature that are only available when using an Enterprise license. Click OK to proceed.
- You will notice that the icon for this user's mailbox changes. This indicates that the mailbox has the online archive feature enabled.
To disable the personal archive feature, simply right click on the user's mailbox and select "Disable Archive".
To do this via the Exchange Management Shell:
Execute the cmdlet:
Enable-Mailbox "Rachel Peach" - Archive
"Rachel Peach" would be the name of the mailbox for which you want to enable the personal archive feature.
If successful, you will be presented with the details of that mailbox (as shown below):
To disable the personal archive feature, use the following cmdlet:
Disable-Mailbox "Rachel Peach" -Archive
Once you have enabled the personal archive feature, you can change the Personal Archive mailbox display name that appears within Outlook or the Outlook Web App by following the instructions below.
From the Exchange Management Console:
- Right click on the user's mailbox and select Properties
- From the Mailbox Features tab, select the Archive feature and click the Properties button
- Edit the name of the archive mailbox and press OK and then OK again to close the Properties dialog.
Setting an Archive Quota
Currently, you cannot set the Archive Quota from the Exchange Management Console. However, you can set the Archive Warning Quota. To do this:
- Navigate to Recipient Configuration | Mailbox
- Right click on the mailbox you want to configure and select Properties
- In the Mailbox Settings tab, select Archive Quota and click the Properties button
- Enable the "Issue warning at (MB):" checkbox and enter a value
- Press OK and then OK again to close the Properties dialog.
To set the Archive Quota from the Exchange Management Shell, run the following cmdlet:
Set-Mailbox "Rachel Peach" -ArchiveQuota 2GB -ArchiveWarningQuota 1GB
...and of course to set the quota for all mailboxes in a store:
Get-Mailbox -Database | Set-Mailbox -ArchiveQuota 2GB -ArchiveWarningQuota 1GB
Automatically Moving E-mail to the Personal Archive
There are a number of steps involved in configuring Exchange to automatically move e-mails to the Personal Archive. These include:
- Creating retention tags
- Linking retention policy tags to a retention policy
- Associating a retention policy to a mailbox
- Applying a retention policy
Before diving into these steps, let's first look at the different types of tags available:
Retention Policy Tag - this tag applies to default mailbox folders such as Inbox or Sent Items (excluding Tasks and Calendar items, which are not supported at present).
Default Policy Tag - this tag will apply to all remaining items which are not affected by any other tags.
Personal Tag - these tags are used within Outlook and Outlook Web App by users to apply retention rules to non-default folders and individual e-mail messages.
The image below should help depict how all these retention policy tags can be applied to a common retention policy and then to a user's mailbox:
In all three instances, you cannot use the Exchange Management Console to create the tags, and you must have been assigned appropriate permissions. Refer to http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/dd638205.aspx for information about which permissions are required. Alternatively, just use the Administrator account on the Exchange server.
Now that we understand a bit better the different types of tags available, we'll look at some examples of how to create a retention tags from the Exchange Management Shell (there isn't an option to do so from the GUI yet).
Creating Retention Tags
The first thing to note before creating a retention tag is two important parameters; "AgeLimitForRetention" and "MoveToArchive".
AgeLimitForRetention - this is used to specify for how long Exchange should keep the e-mails in the current mailbox.
MoveToArchive - this is the retention action used to tell Exchange that it should move items to the Personal Archive.
In the examples below, we will create a default tag and a personal tag.
Default Policy Tag example - In the example below, the default policy tag will move all items that have not been associated with any other tag to the Personal Archive after 2 years:
New-RetentionPolicyTag "Ret-Pol-Tag-Default" -Type All -Comment "All unassociated items are moved to the Personal Archive after 2 years" -RetentionEnabled $true -AgeLimitForRetention 730 -RetentionAction MoveToArchive
Personal Tag example - In the example below, this personal tag will move items that have been marked as being associated with "Company A" to the Personal Archive after 1 year:
New-RetentionPolicyTag "Personal-Tag-CompanyA" -Type Personal -Comment "Company A items are moved to the Personal Archive after 1 year" -RetentionEnabled $true -AgeLimitForRetention 365 -RetentionAction MoveToArchive
Notice how I have not given an example of creating a system folder tag. This is because Exchange doesn't allow you to use the MoveToArchive retention action on a system folder tag. If you do so, you will be presented with the error below:
Unable to execute the task, reason: MoveToArchive can not be applied to a system folder tag. Please change the tag type
to default ('All') or Personal. Or choose a different RetentionAction.
+ CategoryInfo : InvalidArgument: (:) [New-RetentionPolicyTag], RetentionPolicyTagTaskException
+ FullyQualifiedErrorId : 28086EDF,Microsoft.Exchange.Management.SystemConfigurationTasks. NewRetentionPolicyTag
Linking Retention Policy Tags to a Retention Policy
Once you've created the required retention tags, you can proceed to creating a retention policy as outlined in the example below:
New-RetentionPolicy "Ret-Pol-Management" -RetentionPolicyTagLinks "Ret-Pol-Tag-Default","Personal-Tag-CompanyA"
This will create a new retention policy called "Ret-Pol-Management" that has the "Ret-Pol-Tag-Default" and "Personal-Tag-CompanyA" tags associated with it.
Associating a retention policy to a mailbox
Next, we associate the retention policy to a mailbox, as shown in the example below:
Set-Mailbox "Rachel Peach" -RetentionPolicy "Ret-Pol-Management"
Applying the retention policy
The final piece of the puzzle is to initiate the Managed Folder Assistant which takes care of applying the retention policy settings to the mailboxes. To do this, execute the following cmdlet from the Exchange Management Shell:
You can also schedule the Managed Folder Assitant to run at a pre-defined point in the future. This is shown in the example below:
Set-MailboxServer -Identity win2008srv01 -ManagedFolderAssistantSchedule "Mon.01:00-Mon.01:00"
This will set the Managed Folder Assitant to run every Monday at 01:00 in the morning until it completes, or until the following Monday at 01:00.
Personal Archive Enhancements in SP1
Exchange 2010 Service Pack 1 targeted for release in Q3 this year, is set to bring a number of welcome enhancements to the current capabilities of the Personal Archive feature.
First on the wish list for many administrators is the ability to view the personal archive from Outlook 2007 clients; currently this is only available via Outlook 2010 and the Outlook Web App. The second most interesting improvement in my eyes has to be the option to store a user's Personal Archive on a different mailbox database other than the one used for the primary mailbox (this will simplify backups and better performance).
In addition, there will also be server side tools that allow you to import e-mails into Exchange directly from PST files, and the ability to delegate access to someone's Personal Archive. Lastly, instead of having to rely only on creating and configuring retention tags and retention policies via the Exchange Management Shell, you will have the option to do so from the Exchange Management Console too.
In this article I have shown you what personal archives are and how to configure and manage them. We also looked at the improvements that service pack 1 will bring to the scene. The only downside I see to the Personal Archive feature is the cost. Since this feature only comes with an Enterprise license, you are looking at up to 5 times as much on the initial investment as opposed to a Standard license. This may force smaller organizations to look at alternative methods of archiving.
In my opinion, the Personal Archive feature introduced in Exchange 2010 is a step in the right direction when it comes to compliance and e-mail discovery regulations. It also helps reduce administrative overhead and increase productivity. All in all, I do like online archives and look forward to see how Microsoft expands this feature going forward.