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Ask Microsoft: Email storage trade-offs

A messaging director with Microsoft's internal IT organization offers advice on three options to tackle the growing problem of mailbox storage.

On a regular basis, top Microsoft executives answer readers' toughest technical questions about Windows-based systems. This installment of "Ask Microsoft" was answered by Chris Nelson, messaging director, Microsoft IT.

To submit a technical question for consideration, send an e-mail to

Question: I am having to deal with a never-ending problem of mailbox storage. We back up all of our users' mailboxes, and as such all, mail remains in the mailbox. It is not moved down to the user's PC to a PST when they open Outlook. It is kept in the mailbox on the Exchange server. I know there might be a third-party solution to this, but we don't have the funds. As a result, I am constantly after my users to delete items no longer needed and to archive stuff they need to keep. The Microsoft Outlook archive solution is not viable for most of my users because it just grabs all old e-mail en masse and pushes it to a PST. The archive PST thus becomes a type of black hole. Any thoughts on how to get around that?

Answer: There are a few options to resolve this. As you stated, one option is third-party archiving tools. The trade-off is additional cost and complexity. Another option is to have users create PSTs and selectively move items to the PSTs that should be retained. The drawback here is the IT administrator loses control of the content and now has to worry about backing those PSTs up. The last option would be to use Mailbox Manager in Exchange to automatically clean up items in the users' mailboxes for them based upon IT administrator-set timelines. -- Chris Nelson

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