Getting your Exchange 2007 project approved – Part 4 (Big Mailboxes)

OK so the idea of big mailboxes has become a viable option for a lot of organisations since Exchange Server 2007 was released and now that we are seeing real examples of deployments of mailboxes of multiple GBs there is more information around to make it more of a comfortable decision to deploy large mailboxes with Exchange Server.  A couple of examples of where this might translate into a real cost saving are:

  1. free up valuable disk space and backup infrastructure by migrating your .pst’s away from your user shares
  2. replace your archive solution (ok bear with me..)

Personal folders are the bane of many Exchange administrators life.  Once they’re in, and people get used to using them, it’s very difficult to go back.  Whether they like it or not most administrators have to support them which means storing them on a file store where they take up huge amounts of space and can dramatically increase backup times and resources (especially since you have to backup the complete file each time) .  Introducing measures to prevent their use are next to impossible unless you can change working practises which can be extremely difficult.  ..but now that big Exchange mailboxes are realistic it might just be that you can offer a real alternative to .pst files.  and if you can then it may be possible to demonstrate savings in backup infrastructure, expensive storage on which your pst’s may have resided and particularly in the management of those .pst’s…

So what about the second of the two examples above; the cost associated with deploying and managing a 3rd party archive solution for the purposes of enabling users to have large amounts of Exchange data can be quite significant.  I am not talking here about data archived to satisfy compliance requirements, but rather having any portion of your historical mail stored outside of your mailbox on ‘cheaper’ storage.  You might be able to show considerable savings by deploying large mailboxes of up to say 5GB rather than deploy an archive solution.  Ok so you would have to reduce the number of mailboxes you can deploy per Exchange Server but the upside is that you don’t need to pay for the storage, licenses and support (internal and external) of the archive solution.

This is very closely related of course to your decisions regarding the storage platform you choose to deploy.  The advantage of archive solutions is that they are not reliant upon tier 1 storage since the performance requirements are not great.  ..and this is why this story has changed since Exchange 2007.  Now that we have more choices about storage for Exchange Server it may make sense to save money on the storage infrastructure that you might otherwise deploy for your archive solution and invest in your mailbox role server infrastructure instead.  ..worth thinking about at least.