Exclaiming your space

Getting full control over your Exchange Server storage can be a nightmare. In the past, the store limit was just 16GB, which seemed a lot until you divided it up among 50 users and watched them send and receive lots of emails. Fortunately, Exchange Server does its best to keep on top of the problem – Single Instance Storage means Exchange Server stores only one copy of an email and maintains all the pointers to the recipients and sender, so that if Bob sends a large email to Mary and Sue, there’s only one instance of the email kept in the store, and there are pointers to Bob’s sent box and Mary and Sue’s inboxes. Today, with the storage limit raised to 75GB in the standard edition, it’s tempting just to let your users run riot, but there are two serious downsides to doing this – cleaning up the mess becomes increasingly difficult, and both your backup/recovery and disaster-recovery solutions need to be beefed up to take account of the ever inflating volume of the data stored.

Exclaiming your space

I must confess that I personally prefer the approach of “store everything, sort out the mess later”. Email has taken over a critical role in the business, and has largely replaced the filing cabinet for paperwork. As a result of this, the hand-over of a job role from one user to another has become ever more difficult – no longer do you walk into the office to be presented with your desk, phone and filing cabinet full of paperwork. Today, you get desk, phone, computer and some online systems that are fully populated with data (sales system, ERP, CRM and so forth), but the email side can be a real mess.

There’s much to be said for pruning out the worst excesses and ensuring you’ve done your best to tweak the store, so it might well be a good idea to have a store-level retention policy of 30 days, just in case you need to bring something back from the dead (or even someone, if you’ve deleted their mailbox by mistake). But such a retention policy brings with it an obvious storage requirement: think carefully about how long you really need this to be kept on the server, compared to the time taken to bring a mailbox back from archive.

Nevertheless, there are still some good tools aimed at cleaning up things without being too aggressive, and the new release of Exclaimer Store Compressor is such a tool – just point it at your Exchange Server Store and it will walk you through the entire thing, making recommendations about what can be deleted, and pointing out other areas where space can be saved. For example, it’s probably a good idea to strip the HTML formatting out of all emails that have reached a certain age. Compressing the attachments into a ZIP file will help greatly, depending on the file types, of course, and getting rid of stuff lurking around in Sent folders and so forth can save a huge amount of space, too.

To test Store Compressor, I downloaded the trial version and pointed it at my live server: the software started scanning its way through all the mailboxes, looking for a variety of ways it could save space. After about 15 minutes, it finished and reported that it could make a space saving of 1.89GB in my Exchange Server Store. Some would come from removing the HTML formatting of old emails (a worryingly large 350MB!), some from deleting old and unneeded items (890MB), and more still from the automatic zipping of the attachments on emails, which would raise an amazing 675MB. Once the scan’s been done, you can proceed to run the tool again for real, making the suggested changes you’ve accepted permanent in the store.

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