In the last post in this series I discussed the organizational benefits of email archiving. I suppose that for most organizations, they are the most important reasons for introducing an email archiving solution. However, in my view, the technical benefits are not less important. Email archiving improves the overall stability of your email system and can help to reduce costs. In this post I will discuss PST files and backup. In the next post in this series I will cover disaster recovery, performance, and stability.

PST files

Many organizations still have quotas for their email systems. The consequence of this is that many end users use Outlook's archiving features to store old emails in a PST file on their PC. This archiving method has many disadvantages. The archive is only available on the user's PC and can't be accessed easily by other employees. Usually, there are no backups, and a simple hard disk crash can destroy emails encompassing several years. However, if you allow users to store their PST files on file shares or in roaming user profiles, you just move the storage problem from your email server to your file servers.

You also have to consider the costs of helpdesk calls because of corrupted PST files. The answer to this is an email archiving solution, which is designed to store large quantities of data. They allow you to move emails automatically to external storage before the user's quota has been reached, making PST archives obsolete.

Backup window

Another problem caused by PST files that are stored on file servers is that they significantly increase backup time, i.e., they reduce the available backup window at night. PST files are often huge. Unless you don't have a continuous data protection solution, the whole file has to be backed up even if only one email has been added, because this changes the archive bit of the PST file.

Organizations that don't work with email quotas have similar problems with their email servers. For example, a backup of a large Exchange database is very time consuming, especially if you are working with brick level backups. Brick level backups allow you to restore single emails. The problem is that this backup process is technically relatively complicated because postboxes have to be secured separately. In other words, for each mailbox backup a database operation is required.


The restoration process of particular mailbox items is also quite complicated. For instance, if you don't know the exact date of the backup job, then you have to check several incremental or differential backups first in order to find the right email. Then, it usually takes some time until the backup software locates the corresponding file on the tape. After spending a considerable amount of time restoring the email, you often will hear from the user that this was not the email he needed. (But now he remembers exactly when he received the email…)

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I have described the backup and restoration process in detail to make clear how time consuming email backups and restorations can be. In my opinion, user-based restoration is one of the most important benefits of having an email archiving solution. Conventional backups are usually no longer required to restore single mailboxes. Email archiving usually works continuously in the background according to your archiving policies. Therefore, the backup window is not an issue.


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