Mail archival and retention on the cheap and easy

MailArchiver is relatively painless even for those with a previous infrastructure, and it has greatly reduced the storage in use in both our mail system and in our file storage for PSTs. Plus, we now have an easy fix to for accidental deletion of e-mails.

"I deleted an email I needed; can you get it back for me?" What email admin has not heard those words? If you use Exchange deleted item retention, you have a few days (or weeks depending) on your settings, but what if the email is 2 months old, or 6 months, or 2 years? You can always restore your old email stores, but this can be time consuming and have sketchy availability due to your backup retention periods.

The Job

Having had one to many restores and one to many important mails lost due to user mistakes, a search was begun to find a solution that could help us prevent both of these from happening. We began a long search for a quality mail archival solution that wouldn't break the bank. We quickly realized we had a couple of issue that quickly caused our search to become extremely narrowed. Corporate policy states that if all possible we cannot add anything that will add hooks directly into any mission critical application (such as SQL or Exchange), and our budget for this was small, which was fine if not for the fact that most of the solutions we found were more than 5 digits (not counting decimals)!

The Tool

We eventually found a product, which was in beta at the time, which would seemingly fit our needs. MailArchiver from GFI seemed exactly like the solution we were looking for. It used exchange journaling to collect all mail, and then polled from a MS SQL database to pull the all of the mail journaled into a database archive. MailArchiver then creates a web interface for users to view their email. They can go the website, and using NT integrated authentication go directly to a customized page showing all of their mail (by conversation). If you enable full text search in your SQL Server users can also search through all of their messages using fields such as sender, date received, subject, or words within the body of the message. The only issue we had was with the amount of storage the database would consume (the journaled mailbox is cleaned out when messages are archived to the database). Luckily GFI announced even before the beta was finished that the next version of MailArchiver (due in only a few months) would ship with multiple database support. This would allow your storage to be spread among multiple storage areas or even multiple database servers. Also added was better printing ability for emails, along with the ability to save the mails as .eml files, and to forward a whole conversation thread (or individual messages) back to their mailbox. View pictures of MailArchiver in action here.

Putting MailArchiver to the Test

We rolled MailArchiver as soon as it was released from beta. The only issue we had was that we used an older server (2 X Xeon 550 MHz), and we found that as the user load increased these processors were not up to the challenge. After upgrading to a more modern server things went much smoother. While there was a good deal of user training needed, this was due not due to the MailArchiver interface (which is very intuitive), but in re-educating users in the use of their email. With MailArchiver in place users no longer needed to have long term storage of their email in either their mailbox or in personal folders. While the re-education was difficult the simplicity of the tool made it much easier. Along with the fact that users could now access their mails from any workstation with no additions to Outlook (like adding PST's) the conversion began gaining acceptance and became the defacto standard at our company.

Right tool for the job?

While already having a large MS SQL database infrastructure made our implementation easier, GFI MailArchiver is relatively painless even for those with a previous infrastructure. It has greatly reduced the storage in use in both our mail system and in our file storage for PST's. Also, we no longer hear the "I deleted an email I needed, can you get it back for me?" question. Now people through out the company know that can just point their browser to the website do a quick search and have full access to their entire email history.

Editor's Picks

Free Newsletters, In your Inbox