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Microsoft fortifies Exchange Server with archiving

With Exchange Server 2010, Microsoft marches into an area that was solely owned by archiving third-party partners. But the company is tight-lipped on Exchange 2007 SP2.

IT shops will probably appreciate the recent integration of email archiving features into Exchange Server 2010 -- third-party archiving partners, not as much.

Microsoft said this week it will add email archiving into Exchange Server 2010, the next-generation release that will become available in the second half of 2009.

Archiving is the main event for Exchange Server 2010, which went into public beta this week, but there are also a handful of convenience email features being added that must be coupled with Outlook 2010. Microsoft also plans to add roles-based access control, which gives IT managers the discretion to allow an employee, such as a compliance officer, for example, to perform a multi-mailbox search.

MailTips is a feature that warns users when they're about to send a message to a large distribution group. A few other additions include Voice Mail Preview, which lets end users preview voicemail in Outlook and Ignore Conversation, which allows users to remove themselves from an email string.

Exchange will also include native support for multi-tenancy architectures, which should appeal to service providers that offer email hosting. Previously, hosting companies needed to have a certified Hosted Messaging and Collaboration version of Exchange if they wanted to run it in a multi-tenant environment.

The .PST problem

Every corporation has some degree of email overload. Many of these organizations are drowning in .PST files, which end users often use as an archive to store local copies of messages and calendar events.

As a private company, Lifetime Products Inc., hasn't rushed into creating a formal corporate archiving policy, unlike public companies that must address regulatory concerns. Lifetime is developing internal corporate policies so that it can use Exchange's managed folders.

The company now limits user mailbox sizes to 250 MB. When mailboxes become filled, a user must offload messages into a local personal folder. "Those .PSTs become large… and are inherently unstable when they reach 2 G or bigger," said Jared Sahleen, senior technology manager at the Clearfield, Utah-based consumer products manufacturer.

Including archiving in Exchange helps solve the .PST problem, said Matt Cain, an analyst at Gartner Inc. In general, archiving tools are expensive and complex; no one wants to be in charge of administering them.

"[With the tools built in,] you don't have to spin up another storage product," Cain said. "We are just managing mailboxes, and the easiest path forward is just to manage another archive mailbox on a per-user basis."

No new data store, service pack news

With this upcoming version of Exchange in the wings, Microsoft said it has no plans to change its data store. In the past, Microsoft has said it may move to SQL Server, but has since reneged.

"We are not moving to SQL for the time being," said Julia White, director of Exchange Server product management. "We will always continue to evaluate based on customer need. There is no need to introduce change."

White was also mum on information regarding Exchange Server 2007 SP2, but did hint at additional news in the coming months.

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