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Strategies for Dealing With Exchange Storage
Exchange data is too important to delete, and too massive to keep online. Here's how to alleviate the headaches.
by Alan Maddison

January 25, 2005

Thanks to the growing use and importance of e-mail, IT managers have the unenviable task of keeping large volumes of files online or at least easily recoverable. E-mail storage is more than a convenience issue for users because organizations need to comply with myriad legal and security considerations (see the sidebar, “Legislative Burden on IT”). Fortunately, for organizations that have moved to Exchange 2003, Microsoft has stepped up to the plate and added features and enhancements that help with the day-to-day problems IT managers face.


However, even with the latest technology, it is important to document, document, document all procedures, processes, and daily activities. Exchange administration can be difficult. Daily routines are often filled with problems that need fixing and users who need help. Urgent tasks overwhelm important tasks. Low-urgency chores such as documenting procedures, making sure users know what is expected of them, and planning for problems never make it to the front burner.

However, the increasing complexity of Exchange environments means we can no longer afford to put off important tasks. Our lives end up being a whole lot simpler if everyone knows what to do and what is expected of them.

This article covers the areas you need to document to help make your life simpler, as well as meet legal and security requirements. You'll also learn about the tools that will keep data safe, and if something goes wrong, you are in a position to recover the data.

Best Practices: Policies and Procedures
Successful Exchange management is more than getting through the day without annoying users. The best approach to e-mail administration is to look at the big picture and start managing e-mail systems actively. As mentioned previously, the big-picture approach requires documentation of policies and procedures, which many Exchange Administrators overlook.

The process of documentation formalizes and standardizes how IT departments are supposed to do their jobs. This, in turn, helps reduce downtime and errors. It also helps when problems occur, as formalization and standardization reduce the unknowns when troubleshooting. The process of developing and implementing policies that affect an Exchange environment's operation as well as how people use the system will involve many people beyond the messaging group. For example, defer security and legal requirements to the legal department and senior executives.

Your role in these matters is to advise on the technology required to meet legal and security requirements and monitor enforcement. For mundane matters such as e-mail storage limits, attachment sizes, and public folder creation, it is your responsibility to define limits based on your infrastructure. As always, prepare to deal with exceptions. Exceptions should always be well documented and understood, as they often prove to be the source of problems.

Creating procedures is a very different process, and it is one for which the Exchange team is solely responsible. Procedures define the tasks we do and how we carry them out. Typically, Exchange-related procedures can be grouped into four categories: backup and restoration, monitoring and analysis, system administration, and change and configuration management. We cover backup and restoration in a later section because of its importance. If all else fails and you have a well-documented and tested backup and restoration procedure, users will be spared.

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