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Best practices for using Exchange Online Archiving

Once you know the best uses of Exchange Online Archives, you can make sure your end users have the best possible experience.

In part one, we looked at the value of having Exchange Online Archives in an organization and introduced you to...

how the archives work. Now we can take a look at some best practices for working with EOA.

This list of best practices highlights some of the most important things you can do to make sure Exchange Online Archiving works to its full potential. Educating your end users is just as important as having sufficient bandwidth and taking your time with the rollout.

These best practices are a result of several Exchange Online Archiving projects I've done and the feedback that came from each.

Provisioning archives. If you provision archives for users and plan to immediately populate the archive with historical data from their mailboxes, such as when configuring a Retention Policy to automatically move items  created before a certain date to the archive, it's better not to build the archives in Office 365. Instead, create them on-premises, let the archives fill up and move them to Office 365 in a remote mailbox move. This will greatly improve the end user's experience.

What happens if you don't do this? It depends.

For a small number of messages, there is no issue. But if Exchange is moving more messages to Office 365 while the mailbox is actively used, the end user might experience extreme slowness or Outlook may become unresponsive.

Dragging and dropping messages. The problem above is similar to the behavior of dragging and dropping messages from the on-premises mailbox to the online archive. Outlook treats this action as what I like to call a "foreground" operation, which means Outlook immediately handles the action.

Rollout EOA gradually. Take your time with this deployment. There is no reason to rush the deployment as this will almost certainly have a negative effect on your end users' experience, and that's what really matters. Gradually introducing Exchange Online Archiving will give you time to collect feedback from your users and make changes to retention policies if needed. It's also a good test to see how the load on your support organization is after deploying the first archives.

Outlook connectivity. Although this isn't specific to Exchange Online Archiving, make sure you've installed the latest Outlook updates and patches, preferably for Outlook 2013 since, in my experience, it works well with Exchange Online Archiving. This will rule out any connectivity issues that could be caused by a missing an update.

Latency and bandwidth. Make sure you have sufficient bandwidth available because your users will need to make an additional connection to their archives over the Internet. What I've learned from the deployments that I've done is that latency is usually a bigger disrupting factor than bandwidth. Sure, a lack of bandwidth will cause lots of issues, but investing in a low-latency type of link is well worth its money.

Education. There's also the matter of educating your end users. Many will say this is obvious, but don't underestimate its impact. Users may need to be taught the visual differences or some of the specifics in Exchange Online Archiving, such as the requirement of being online to access the archive. It's about explaining what retention tags are, how they work and how end users can apply them to individual items or folders.

About the author:
Michael Van Horenbeeck is a technology consultant, Microsoft Certified Trainer and Exchange MVP from Belgium, mainly working with Exchange Server, Office 365, Active Directory and a bit of Lync. He has been active in the industry for 12 years and is a frequent blogger, a member of the Belgian Unified Communications User Group Pro-Exchange and a regular contributor to The UC Architects 

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