Exchange admin and users archive .pst files best practices

Joe G
Joe G used Ask the Experts™
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Hello all - I need some outside guidance please.  What is the best practice for a medium size business to handle the about 50 mailboxes and their .pst files?  

What I have now-
A 2GB full email size inbox- past that Outlook will notify them of their threshold and use the "I will stop working scare tactic"
Outlook 2010 Exchange
Outlook 2007/2010 clients.

What I need is a good way to default the users to a map drive and their pst settings for emails older than 1 year if possible.  

Can I default the Outlook client pst path via GPO or reg key somehow and as a exchange environment - can I force the archive settings (for a year or two) or are they strictly on the end users' client end to be configured?
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This is a pretty common problem, unfortunately, there is no simple solution.  Running .PSTs over a LAN is fraught with problems; the protocol used is quite "chatty", a lot of extra traffic and  corrupt .PSTs will almost certainly happen.  Also, this just moves the problem from the Exchange server to the File server, no disk space is saved.

Of course, if you keep .PST on local machines, they will get lost.

You CAN mess around with scripts to copy .PSTs for each machine to a central backup location, but this gets a bit messy as well. If you let users do that, you will end up with dozens of extra, unneeded .PSTs after a while, and be having to chase them down one your file server constantly.

Archive setting can be pushed via a GPO.

Probably with just 50 users, you can visit the worst offenders periodically and show them how to sort mail items by date and delete the larger items, usually most users have a small number of huge items taking up significant space.

Usually though, the people who keep the most email are senior, and don't want to be disturbed by stuff like that.  In the "real world", you might have to have a higher quota for "execs", maybe give them 6Gb.

Sorry there is no real solution here.
Top Expert 2016

Commented:
with Exchange by default the client uses .ost files not .pst files.  Archives are again managed by the server but you need enterprise CALS.. These are not .pst files they occupy space in the mailbox store.  This 2G limit is an artificial limit set by you the exchange administrator. With users using Cached mode,  a mailbox/.ost  <10G is ideal in terms of performance.
Commented:
Here is my suggestion and it involves a small investment if not already purchased, and it only costs a couple thousand dollars for a small environment. Purchase Exchange Enterprise. You get personal Archives as well as more than 5 databases on Exchange. This also handles the issue of having a safely protected and easily manageable archive solution, without losing the files and also allows access to the files from any web-connected device, from Exchange OWA.

- Personal Archives:
Personal Archives are just like email boxes in the way they act and show up as a second 'Inbox' in the User's Outlook email list. These Archives can be in a different database, which i recommend, with independent rules and quotas than the other Inbox databases - up to you.
- More than 5 databases:
Exchange Standard gives you 5 databases max. This limits you to fewer, larger databases to manage your User mailboxes with database settings affecting everyone on the database. However, Exchange Enterprise gives you 100 databases!

Example Scenario:
- Create databases for each department, or Group, of Users. 1 for Executives, 1 for Sales, 1 for IT etc.
- Set limits on each of these databases as needed. Executive DB gets 5 gigs quota, IT gets 7, Sales gets 2gigs etc.
- Create another database for Personal Archives.
- Set limits on the Personal Archive(s) databases. 5 gigs for Sales, 10 gigs for Executives, IT gets 15 etc.
- Configure Exchange to auto-archive everything from the User Inbox to the Personal Archive at whatever interval you'd like. I typically use 6 months.
- I then have the Exchange Server configured to purge everything older than 2 years from the Archive and have taught Users how to move items from their Personal Archive to a physical .PST, which they know to either move a copy to an external drive or they may lose it.

How I configure Databases and Archives by default unless something else is desired:
- Inbox databases created by office-department. IE/ NewYorkSales, SanFranFinance, DallasIT
- Set all office-related departments to 2 gigs on the User Inbox DBs except HR, IT, Executives. 5/10/15
- Create a Personal Archive database by office-department. NewYorkSales-Archive, SanFranFinance-Archive, DallasIT-Archive
- Set all office-related department Personal Archives to 5gigs except HR/Executives/IT. 10/Unlim/Unlim
- All emails auto-move to Personal Archive after 6 months
- All emails purged from Personal Archives after 2 years.
- Educate Users on creating local .PSTs to move anything older than 2 years.  
- Warnings pop up, or you can limit send/ receive, when limits are close or breached.

This solves your issues, without the need to use .PSTs over a LAN (do NOT do this as stated above - nothing but problems) for a couple/few thousand bucks for the Enterprise licensing.
Most Valuable Expert 2014

Commented:
Lets start with the first thing - PST files are not the answer.
Storing them on a LAN is not supported.

http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?kbid=297019

More on the same subject:
http://blogs.technet.com/askperf/archive/2007/01/21/network-stored-pst-files-don-t-do-it.aspx

If a client wants to use PST files as an archiving solution I tell them they may as well use the delete key. The content will be lost anyway, at least with the delete key they know it is gone, rather than hoping it hasn't with PST files.

Next. Do you actually NEED to keep the content? Don't ask the users, ask the lawyers. If you don't, then old email should be treated as a ticking bomb. In the event of legal discovery, that content could come back to bite you. Unless you are required to keep it, then I would be trying to find ways to discourage its storage.
If you do need to retain data, then PST files will not give you the coverage you require. You will need a proper archiving solution.

For 50 users, I don't see the point in Enterprise edition of Exchange. Unless everyone has 100gb mailboxes you don't need more than five databases. Two mailbox databases, two archive databases. You will need Enterprise CALs though to use the built in archiving solution.

Simon.
Joe GIT personal

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Commented:
thanks all. I was afraid of that

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