Managing Backup & Recovery on Exchange Servers
Anyone who has responsibility for managing Microsoft Exchange Server knows firsthand how difficult it is to manage Exchange in 2005. Gone are the days when phone, voice mail and fax were dominant technologies for business communication, and when e-mail was only used sparingly. Recent surveys confirm that e-mail is now the number-one technology for business communication, but this rapid adoption has not come without some unique challenges. This article will review three important challenges for Exchange data management: service continuity, protection of business records and litigation support.
Service continuity is the obvious place to begin. As e-mail users, we all know how painful it is when e-mail services are down. For all practical purposes, business comes to a standstill when we cannot send and receive e-mail. Luckily, Microsoft has made many enhancements to Exchange Server, and the latest version of Exchange Server 2003 is quite reliable. Notwithstanding security threats, a major threat to Exchange service continuity is storage. According to a recent report by Radicati, corporate e-mail storage requirements are growing by more than 50 percent annually. As Exchange total storage increases, backup times increase and overall Exchange efficiency decreases, which leads to an increased risk of service interruption.
The most popular method of combating Exchange storage growth is mailbox quotas. By limiting the amount of individual e-mail storage, total Exchange storage is controlled. While mailbox quotas resolve the storage challenge from an administrator point of view, they cause severe problems for end users. Mailbox quotas limit e-mail storage on the Exchange Server, but do not limit e-mail storage elsewhere. Microsoft Personal Store (.PST) Files are the mechanism that is used to store e-mail locally on a desktop and on network file servers. .PST files can store GBs of data, and an unlimited number can be created. Using .PST files, users can store years’ worth of e-mail without impacting Exchange Server capacity.
While .PST files appear to be a blessing, they are in fact a company’s worst nightmare. The reason is the lack of protection for valuable business information contained in e-mail. The e-mail data contained in .PST files is widely distributed across company desktops and servers and, as a result, is poorly protected (if protected at all). This exposes the business information to loss, destruction and unauthorized access—all unacceptable risks in today’s highly regulated business environment. It is almost impossible to manage and protect business information contained in e-mail when e-mail is stored in .PST files.
Providing e-mail for legal discovery is the final major challenge we will discuss for managing Exchange. Fifty percent of organizations have been court-ordered to produce e-mail files, according to a recent survey by Kahn Consulting, which leads one to believe that if you have not been asked to search old e-mail, you soon will be. Producing old e-mail data is a challenge when it exists on backup tapes, and on desktops and file servers in .PST files. It can take hours and days to make the e-mail data accessible, perform the necessary searches and package the data for analysis, resulting in thousands (or millions) of dollars of manpower costs.
E-mail archive is a new application that offers many important benefits for managing Exchange. In particular, e-mail archive represents a major breakthrough for the three major challenges presented here. Fundamental to any e-mail archival solution is its ability to function as a central indexed repository. An e-mail archive is designed to store years’ worth of e-mail for thousands of users, as opposed to Exchange Server whose primary responsibility is transactional efficiency. Based on simple rules for age and size, e-mail data that is overfilling Exchange Servers can be moved to the archive. This keeps Exchange storage capacity at manageable levels and improves overall Exchange operational efficiency, while retaining e-mail access for end users.
For managing .PST files, e-mail archive solutions offer tools to import .PST data into the archive. These protect valuable business information contained in e-mail that was once spread across the organization on desktops and file servers in a central repository, making the e-mail accessible for search and retrieval. E-mail that was once unprotected and inaccessible is now centrally protected and easily searched. For legal discovery, e-mail archive solutions offer sophisticated search tools that can reduce a search from days to mere minutes. Having all e-mail located in a central repository eliminates the cost of searching backup tapes and .PST files, resulting in extraordinary cost savings.
If your Exchange server is already pushing its storage limit, or if you have had to recently search backup tapes for a court-ordered e-mail discovery, then it is time that you take a close look at the benefits that e-mail archive offers. E-mail archive solutions are available from all the leading storage software vendors as well as dedicated e-mail archive vendors. You might also wish to get a copy of the report, “How to Evaluate and Choose a Messaging Archiving Solution,” available at www.ostermanresearch.com for a fee.
Bob Spurzem has more than 20 years of experience in high-technology product development, marketing and as an independent consultant, and he is a recognized expert in the area of e-mail archival. He currently serves as senior product marketing manager for Mimosa Systems, an e-mail archival and data lifecycle management software company. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.