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What are my options for an Exchange archive?

Does Exchange have built-in support for archiving and stubbing, or are third-party tools the only options we have to do this?

Exchange Server 2010 and higher have an archiving feature called the Personal Archives in Exchange 2010 and In-Place...

Archiving in Exchange 2013. There's no stubbing of email items with this native option; however, the Exchange archive is visible to Outlook 2007 and higher as well as OWA without the need for stubs.

In general, the x86, 32-bit computing era of Microsoft Exchange Server (beginning with Exchange 4.0 in 2003) suffered from a number of scalability limitations for memory, processor and storage. Managing mailbox content, whether it was for knowledge management or compliance, was a huge theme in that timeframe because of these limitations. Admins embraced Exchange archive options that offered a way to keep mailboxes and mailbox databases as small as possible.

Exchange Server's databases supported single-instance storage as a way to minimize database sizes. Many administrators required users to move data to PST files when they met or exceeded their size limits. This fact has come back to haunt a number of administrators now that e-discovery compliance has become a requirement for more organizations.

Organizations used archiving to reduce the amount of data Exchange Server databases kept where storage investments were high. The storage-archiving options that didn't have the same I/O requirements as Exchange could be more affordable and help the organization meet retention objectives. One of the great innovations to come out of this era was email stubbing for archiving options. Because the information was being kept outside of the Exchange databases, the need arose to provide users with a seamless way to access archived data. Email stubbing allowed the archiving system to point users to items in the archive without having to navigate to a portal.

Exchange Server's ability to scale has dramatically changed because of 64-bit computing. One of the benefits is the ability to have much larger mailboxes and databases. The built-in Exchange archive option takes advantage of this. If you use a third-party option, look for support for stubbing so your users can have a seamless experience.

About the author: 
Richard Luckett is a consultant and instructor specializing in messaging and unified communications. He's been a certified professional with Microsoft since 1996 and has 20 years of experience in the public and private sectors. He's a Microsoft Certified Trainer with more than 15 years of training experience with the Microsoft product line and received the Exchange MVP award in 2006, 2007 and 2008. He's also an expert in deploying and integrating Exchange Server and Lync Server. He leads the Microsoft training and consulting practice at LITSG.

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This was last published in November 2014

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Excellent article Richard! One thing that I am curious about is if you feel that there is still a need for stubbing if the cloud based archiving provider is including unlimited data and fully customizable retention policies, like we are? We offered attachment stubbing for years for Groupwise users, so they could radically reduce the amount of data stored on their local servers, but most didn't utilize it. I find that most Exchange organizations are just giving end user access to the archives, so each user can access their own archive and easily restore anything they need. It is read only access, so no fear of the data being altered or deleted and they then have the ability to set more stringent rules on mailbox sizes, thus drastically reducing server costs. What are your thoughts on that sort of an approach vs. a more traditional stubbing approach?
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