The Exchange 2010 SP1 Archiving enhancements you’ve been waiting for PLUS having Microsoft host your archive for you…

So as I blogged about previously, Exchange 2010 SP1 has arrived!  I mentioned briefly during a previous post that the most anticipated feature from my point of view was the ability to host the user’s archive on a separate storage.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Exchange 2010 Personal Archive feature, it allows a user to have a separate repository for email, outside of the user’s mailbox, with a separate quota and separate retention schedule.  This Personal Archive (licensed through the Exchange Enterprise CAL) is only available when connected to your Exchange Server (currently only through Outlook 2010 or Outlook Web App) so as not to clog your .OST file with older mail.  This feature is a boon to all those users out there who long to keep email for an extended period of time but don’t have the email quota to do so, and would like to archive their mail simply through the Outlook client without any complicated add-ins that require separate support and are often linked to performance problems.  The benefit of this feature to IT and company legal departments is that this archive resides centrally on the Exchange 2010 server and can assist a company in getting away from the .PST files that were stored on the user’s local hard drives and are outside of the control of the company and pose a legal risk to the company.  Being able to account for and control the retention of all email has been a common goal of many corporate legal departments and the archiving feature in conjunction with the Legal Hold feature helps with that, but I digress… 

So Exchange 2010 RTM has this archiving feature but again as I mentioned in my previous blog post, when I had the Exchange Product Group folks in town a coupla years back, the resounding feature that was being asked for was the ability to have the archive hosted on a separate tier of storage.  The archiving feature of Exchange 2010 RTM hosts the archives of the users on the same server and same database as the user’s primary mailbox.  While this keeps the implementation of the archiving feature relatively straightforward and simple, it lacks the ability to have multiple classes of storage across the mailbox and archive, as well as the ability to have separate SLA’s for these repositories in the case of failover or disaster recovery. Microsoft has been championing large mailboxes on lower cost storage, and customers have been moving in this direction, but it’s going to take some time based on each organization’s storage platform of choice.  It is not uncommon for companies to still use fast, expensive disks for hosting the user’s primary mailbox on a SAN infrastructure, typically because this is the legacy storage platform for the organization and this high end storage offered a higher level of protection than the standalone RAID systems it probably replaced years ago.  The SAN is a sunken cost that has to be used for mailboxes because the company paid big $$ for it, we get it.  So when thinking about what to do with hosting a user’s old mail, doing it on expensive storage doesn’t make sense even if it’s all a company has because archives aren’t business critical like a user’s primary mailbox.  Having a lower cost tier of storage for the email archives is what the archiving vendors have trained our customers to use, so if customers have two tiers of storage, Exchange 2010 RTM only allowed you to use one for the mailbox and archive.  I could petition to put the CXO’s and their directs and support staff on the SAN and other users on the lower tiered storage, but I’m not going to go there.  With Exchange 2010 SP1, the Exchange admin has the ability to put the mailbox in one place on one server and database, and that user’s archive in another place. Hallelujah scream the customers! (See picture below of the new UI to move a mailbox, archive or both.)


So another big customer ask in the area of archiving has been the ability to grant delegate access to the personal archive.  Unavailable in the RTM version of Exchange 2010, with Exchange 2010 SP1, this is now possible.  A delegate user can access a delegated archive mailbox when Full Access rights are granted on the associated primary mailbox which means that the delegate has full access to both the primary and archive mailboxes.  Autodiscover publishes delegated personal archive mailboxes to Outlook 2007 & Outlook 2010, along with the primary mailbox.  Prior to SP1, a delegate was not able to access or manage an archive mailbox that was associated to a primary mailbox to which access had been granted.   After SP1 is applied to the server, clients will be able to access the Primary and Archive of all mailboxes to which they have been delegated Full Mailbox Access.  Keep in mind that Manager and Delegate mailboxes must reside in the same forest and that Cross forest delegation is not supported. 

There’s actually another piece that customers have asked for that is also driving this feature – having Microsoft host just your archive for you.  Exchange 2010 SP1 supports moving users personal archive mailboxes to a separate database from the primary mailbox, but the archive needs to remain in the same Active Directory Forest in that scenario.  Or does it?  It does actually need to be in the same Forest as the primary mailbox EXCEPT if the archive is in the cloud.  Exchange 2010 SP1 can sense when the user’s archive is being moved to the cloud using the mailbox move request.

Customers have asked for Microsoft to host their archive mailboxes, while keeping their mailboxes at their location and we have delivered!  With the cloud capabilities in SP1, the need to enable management for archive mailbox in the cloud exists when a customer would like to host primary mailboxes on-premise, and have archived or cold data stored in the cloud.  As seen in the UI above, with Exchange 2010 SP1 you can use mailbox move requests to separate the mailboxes.  After moving the personal archive to the cloud, the on-premise administrator is no longer tasked with planning for cost, performance and storage for the personal archive mailboxes.  Your company can use their existing storage for hosting mailboxes and then outsource the old mail, nice!