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Outlook Journaling: A poor man's archiving tool

If you work for a small company and traditional methods of message archiving are beyond your budget, there is a way you can archive e-mail for free: Outlook Journaling.

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If you work for a small company and traditional methods of message archiving are beyond your budget, there is a way you can archive e-mail for free: Outlook Journaling. But before you jump right in and start archiving messages, there are some significant limitations you need to be aware of:

  • Journal-based archiving occurs on a per-client basis. With most archival software, mail is archived to a central database. If an administrator needs to hunt for an archived message, they can enter a query into a centralized console and search the whole database. With Outlook's journaling feature, each copy of Outlook maintains its own archive. If an administrator needs to restore a message, they must go to the machine that contains the appropriate archive.

  • The Outlook Journal can only automatically archive messages from people on a user's Contact list. Furthermore, a user has to manually specify which contacts the automatic journaling feature applies to. This means that unless a user specifically tells Outlook to archive mail from an individual person, the mail won't be archived.

  • The rule of thumb for major corporations is that mail should be retained for seven years. Outlook Journal will run an automatic archival procedure every two weeks; expired messages are deleted and anything over six months old is moved to an alternate location. (Fortunately, the mail retention period can be changed.)

The procedure for setting up journal-based archiving is fairly simple:

  1. Go to Outlook -> Tools -> Options.
  2. Click the Journal Options button on the Preferences tab
  3. Select the E-Mail checkbox from the Automatically Record These Items list.
  4. Select all of your Contacts.
  5. Now click the Opens the Item Referred To By The Journal Entry button.
  6. The next thing you need to do is to place some limits on the auto-archive feature. The easiest way to do this is to click the AutoArchive Journal Entries button and choose the Do Not Archive Items In This Folder option.

    If you do want to automatically archive the journal's contents, be sure to set the appropriate retention period (by default, it's six months). You might also consider clicking the Default Archive Setting button and deselecting the Delete Expired Items (E-Mail Folders Only) checkbox.

While Outlook's Journaling feature is a cheap way of archiving old messages, I definitely don't recommend using it as a long term archival solution. But it can get the job done until you have the opportunity to put a better archival solution in place.

About the author: Brien M. Posey, MCSE, is a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional for his work with Windows 2000 Server and IIS. Brien has served as CIO for a nationwide chain of hospitals and was once in charge of IT security for Fort Knox. As a freelance technical writer he has written for Microsoft, TechTarget, CNET, ZDNet, MSD2D, Relevant Technologies and other technology companies. You can visit Brien's personal Web site at http://www.brienposey.com.


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This was last published in March 2005

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