Exchange 2003 Store almost to capacity

We are running Exchange Server Standard 2003 SP2.  We have been seeing in Event Viewer, Event ID 9688 saying that the size of our Store is 70GB, approaching the limit of 75GB.

Last week, I archived 4GB worth of email off of the server to .pst files on local computers.
I expected to see an increase of free space when looking at Event ID 1221.  I did see a few
hundred MB of free space for a couple of days, but now it is back down to 137MB free.

We have the deletion policy to permanently delete the deleted items after 30 days.  Does archive email fall under "deleted items" and remain in the store for 30 days?

Does it take many passes of the daily online defragmentation to catch up with archiving 4GB of email?

Yesterday event ID 9688 reported the size of our Store to be 69GB, and the day before 68GB.
I don't understand this fast growth of the store.  We only have 80 mailboxes.

I would like to delete and archive more email, but I'm afraid that doing that will increase the size of the store and cause us to come crashing down!

Since I deleted (archived) 4GB worth, can I safely assume that new email will fill in the "white space" left from that removal?

I know that these are a lot of questions to ask for one post, but we don't have an on-site Exchange guru and frankly I'm going into panic mode!

Can anyone make some recommendations?

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Deleted e-mails would be stored for 30 days, my advice is to change that to 10 days. I would suggest archiving as much e-mail as possible and the cleanup routine should sort you out.

Good luck and don't panic!

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You can lower the 30 days to a lower period to see how much space you have gained the next time. but  Even if you keep deleting and archiving it seems they are just going to fill it right back up. There has to be a company policy (depending on your industry and requirements) to limits inboxes if you can. I had that problem here where they would keep everything.! Offline defrag doesnt give back as all of it. Dont panick. Just keep watching over it. If you see that will keep filling back up because your users need it you might have to upgrade or have an archiving email solution.
smullen0222Author Commented:
Thanks for the recommendations.

Do either of you know if the email that I archived is still in the store until the deleted period has passed?  Is it treated in the same way as deleted email?
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I believe so, if you go onto OWA (Outlook Web Access), go to Deleted Items and then click on the Recover button, do you see any of the archived mail?
smullen0222Author Commented:
I logged on to OWA as one of the users and the items that I archived are not shown under the recover button.  There are only 75 items there from 2011 and the email that I archived was from 2010 and 2009.
P.S. While you are answer the question for HarryHelp  here is an article from experts-exchange that would be good to show your management if you want to get them to upgrade't-use-PST-files.html

UPGRADE THE SERVER! Exchange 2007 and 2010 do not impose a hard limit on the mail stores, and you shouldn't be trying to run a mail server with little disk space or database space remaining. Archiving to PST is a quick solution, but one which won't work in the long run.

With the soon-to-be Exchange 2010 release, significant changes have been made, one of which is the addition of archiving support. Each user can be given a separate 'archive' mailbox; it is attached to their main mailbox, but allows for data to be archived for long term storage. The settings governing when and how mail is moved to the archive are controlled by retention policies, giving the administrator greater control over retention. Again, the archive store is available remotely via Exchange 2010's Outlook Web App.

smullen0222Author Commented:
I agree that we need to upgrade the server.  I am just trying to keep this one going until that can happen.  $$$$$$ and time.

There is plenty of archiving and deleting that I can do, I'm just leary because I really don't understand how the log transactions of my deletes affect the size of the database, so I'm pacing it.
Don't worry about the logs for the minute - from experience, it's best to just check the mailbox sizes and contact people with the largest mailboxes and ask them to clear out a lot. After a month, you should expect all the clutter to clear out...
Definetly contact people to delete. I had a law firm with the same problem and I know they had to keep some of it but people tend to keep alot unnecessary e-mails. Some of those emails have big attachments that clog up the mailboxes too. You will be fine.
smullen0222Author Commented:
All comments by the Experts were helpful.

Yesterday I reduced the deleted items retention from 30 days to 25 days and deleted a mailbox which was about 600GB.

Today the reports showed about 869MB of free space and the database store had shrunk from 70GB to 69GB.

I'll continue to try and reduce the size.
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