Public folder performance in Office 365 vs on-premises

David Haycox
David Haycox used Ask the Experts™
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We are running Small Business Server 2011 and use the public folders within Exchange 2010 heavily, saving all emails worth keeping into public folders.  The size of the public folder database is around 210GB currently.

We will be migrating away from SBS2011 soon, and are considering both on-premises Exchange and Office 365.  Users have noticed that when working remotely, public folders are noticeably less responsive than when in the office.  Remote users have a variety of Internet connections, including Fibre To The Premises, and all report the same behaviour.  The connection in the office is a 20/20 leased line.

Our questions are as follows:

1. Is Office 365 likely to reduce performance for all users (because is it remote for everyone)?
2. Are new versions of Exchange on-premises likely to improve performance, or leave it unchanged?

We are looking for real-world experience of one or other of the above solutions in order to make an informed decision on which option to choose.  Many thanks.
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AlexSenior Infrastructure Analyst

Commented:
Public folders are NOT cached as standard, as such they will need to download the folder then the mail etc etc.

Public folders would almost certainly be quicker online since they wouldn't have to be connected to a VPN over your 20MB connection, but it's still going to be pretty bad, it would be reliant on the home connection rather than your own business connection at this point however so you can push the issue onto the end users, haha :D
David HaycoxConsultant Engineer

Author

Commented:
Indeed, but am I right in saying that it's not possible (or even desirable) to cache all the public folders in Outlook, as the only option is to "download public folder favorites" (unless you add ALL the folders as favourites, perhaps)?

Also, based on this would you say that it's better to use on-premises Exchange, as at least that way it's fast for the local users in the office (of which there are more than those working remotely)?
AlexSenior Infrastructure Analyst

Commented:
to be honest, public folders are dead for this reason.

You can't cache them all since they are 210GB, but you could use a hybrid function for those in your office and then a cloud function for those outside.
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David HaycoxConsultant Engineer

Author

Commented:
So that's saying to me that if the management want to continue to use public folders, they really have to stick with on-premises Exchange?
AlexSenior Infrastructure Analyst

Commented:
I didn't say that,

Both options are viable, but firstly you'd have to sync your current public folders up to the cloud then configure your clients to go to the cloud.

Essentially with your link you're in a rock and a hard place when it comes to that since it's going to take weeks to synchronize.

I'd go with hybrid, stick everything in the cloud, it'll be quicker for those at home but it'll increase your external link usage. 20Mb is going to get battered depending on how many people use it.

You can always put mailboxes in the cloud without issue, again you'll have to synchronize them first.

If increasing your external link isn't an option, I'd probably leave it on-prem and just batter the external link when people work from home.... Actually that's a good point, how many people do you have working outside of the office vs inside the office?

If people working away from your site is higher than those working inside your site, put it in the cloud, if not, leave it on prem and move just mailboxes.

Regards

Alex
David HaycoxConsultant Engineer

Author

Commented:
Thanks for that.  I'd say roughly there are at most 10 people on site at any one time, with only a handful working remotely.  I'd suggest they RDP to their work desktops - but the remote workers have laptops they take with them, so that doesn't work.  Thinking of that though, going forward there's always the option of a Remote Desktop server to connect to if the performance isn't good enough.

As far as the connection goes, there are actually two: a 20Mb wireless link (which is a chunk of a leased line) and a 20/80 VDSL.
AlexSenior Infrastructure Analyst

Commented:
Well,

if you have the funding, throwing in a terminal server is always a good option and considering your link putting it into the cloud would probably be a viable option.

I'd throw your PF into the cloud, they have designed it to work well so with your link I think you'll be fine for both internal and external users.

Regards

Alex
David HaycoxConsultant Engineer

Author

Commented:
Thanks.  One clarification though please: we have more people onsite than away - and earlier you said "If people working away from your site is higher than those working inside your site, put it in the cloud, if not, leave it on prem".  But then in your last comment you said "I'd throw your PF into the cloud".  So I'm confused.  You did also say "both options are viable", so it looks like it's a decision that could go either way.  Am I right?

I suspect this will come down to a management decision on whether to keep the data on-premises or not, so I just want to be able to advise on whether it's going to work at all, and what the likely caveats are (e.g. users complaining it's slower than before).
Senior Infrastructure Analyst
Commented:
Right I can see the confusion,

If you had say, 100 people on your link all connecting to your cloud, that would batter your external link which would cause an issue. You've given me numbers of people that work there now.

As such, putting it in the cloud will be fine since your external link is more than capable of dealing with the handful of people you have onsite. The people accessing it externally will only be limited by their own internet connection, as such you're moving the load from your external link to the cloud which is good.

Your best option at this point, given the size of your pipe (no jokes), the number of people onsite and the number of people offsite is to put it in the cloud. This will reduce your own network load as well as give you further redundancy.

Make sense now?

Cheers

Alex
David HaycoxConsultant Engineer

Author

Commented:
Brilliant, thanks!
AlexSenior Infrastructure Analyst

Commented:
You're very welcome, if you need further help give me a shout :-)
David HaycoxConsultant Engineer

Author

Commented:
A colleague has suggested using a shared mailbox rather than public folders.  Could this work?  Thanks.  I will post a new question if you like.
AlexSenior Infrastructure Analyst

Commented:
Not really, you'd have to copy everything over, it'll be a pain to be honest, also that's not what it's designed for.
David HaycoxConsultant Engineer

Author

Commented:
Fair enough.  Thanks for the quick response!
AlexSenior Infrastructure Analyst

Commented:
No problem, give me a shout with anything else buddy.

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