Exchange 2010 – Online Archiving and Retention Tags/Policies a practical example

November 7, 2011

IT/Technology, Microsoft

Ok so I had heard that one of the great new features of Exchange 2010 was its archiving feature but it was something that I had not made use of until coming across one of our clients. The client did not have any management policies in place so what had happened to a number of users was that their mailboxes had increased gigabytes in data. 60GB in my case.

One of the users suddenly called the helpdesk system complaining of slow system and outlook crashing every time he attempted to read an email after some basic troubleshooting I came across his mailbox size using the following powershell command which has become very useful in this particular exchange environment

Get-MailboxStatistics -identity “username” | ft displayname, totalitemsize

This displays a human readable format in GB of the users mailbox size.  Anyhow it was instant to me that the users problems originated from the size. Exchange recommends that mailboxes do not exceed 2GB and so you can imagine the problem encountered when a mailbox is almost 60GB.  Through further troubleshooting I realised the user’s inbox folder contains almost all his mail items dating back to 2005, none of the items were organised in folders . This of course also causes performance problems especially as the user was using outlook 2007 client.

I was stuck I thought I cannot possibly ask the user to manually move each his mail items because his outlook was crashing and not allowing him to do anything. I had provided a temporary solution of using OWA but even then I cannot expect a user to carry out such a mammoth task.

Exchange 2010 Personal Archive to the rescue

In came the solution of  online archiving, the following articles really helped me in understand the concept and how it works in exchange 2010.

1) Understanding Personal Archives

2) Archive Mailbox in Exchange 2010

From the articles above the following diagram really enables one to understand how it works

In my example I used option 1 as I only had one exchange server in the environment and it was best to keep the archive in the same mailbox database store.  The second articles highlights the procedure in enabling the archive online giving a step by step guide. I followed this guide and found that the online archive option was viewable in OWA instantly however I was now confused as to how and where to specify the  behaviour of how long exchange keeps emails in archive and where to set this up.

Retention Policies and Tags

This is an option where the exchange admin can specify tags that the user will then be able to tag to mails so that Exchange can then archive the mails as specified by the tag.  The link below provides a good overview and understanding of how policy tags operate.

Understanding Retention Tags and Retention Policies

When setting up a policy tag the exchange admin can then set up retention policies which then calls the tags and then applies them to any mailbox that is specified. This is something that I understood clearer through the help of   Tushar_Jadhav when I raised this question on the Microsoft forums here .

Retention policy tags and policies can be created through the EMC (Exchange Management Console) the screenshot below shows where this is located in EMC and the current tags.

Retention Policy Tags

In my case I edited the selected tag in the screenshot and changed it to 3 years so that all items older than 3 years are moved into the archive, this is done by changing the age limit for retention to 1086 days which roughly equates to 3 years. (Shown below)

Retention Policy Tag properties showing 3 year move to archive

Once I had made this change I then created a new retention policy and added both the mailbox required and the policy tags to the policy. This is shown in the following screen shots.

Retention Policy Properties

In the retention policy properties one can see that the tag created earlier has been assigned to the policy

Mailbox Assiociated with Policy

Above we can see the mailbox that I have erased that is associated with this policy. This mailbox was 60GB and so was added to the retention policy so that all emails older than 3 years are automatically moved to the online archive.

Once this is done the process of course is not instant exchange carries out the task of managing the tags on a periodic basis however if you wan to force exchange to start the management of the mailbox then the following command is used

start-ManagedFolderAssistant -Identity “username”

When doing running this command I did not see the change real-time and so enquired on the Microsoft forums I was advised to leave  wait over night. This is exactly what I done and then noticed the change, the screenshot below shows two things

1) That the retention policy is indeed applied to the mailbox this is achieved through the command

Get-Mailbox “username” | fl ret*

2) That the mailbox has reduced in size from 60GB to 34.78GB which conveys that the online archive has worked successfully because as we know from the diagram above that online archive created another mailbox and transfers items from main mailbox to the archive mailbox.

Confirming retention policy assignment in powershell

I hope this blog benefits the reader and I thank all those that helped me in understanding this concept further.

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About mohamedridha

Network Systems Engineer with focus on Wireless LAN Infrastructure and Security. Interests in Middle East

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8 Comments on “Exchange 2010 – Online Archiving and Retention Tags/Policies a practical example”

  1. mohamedridha Says:

    Thank you for reading 🙂


  2. lilik Says:

    hope you will help me!
    I have a big problem!
    I migrate mailboxes on the 2010 server and activated the archive on it.
    everything goes fine but on some users’ account the online archive doesn’t appear in Outlook but appear on OWA.

    do you have an idea on how to solve this problem?

    thanks you very much in advance for reading and hope you will help me.


    • mohamedridha Says:

      Which version of outlook are they using?

      If they are using outlook 2007 they need to update this to the latest version so that they are able to see the Online archive.



      • lilik Says:

        they use outlook 2007 SP3

        the strangest thing is that for some of them if I configure their acount on another computer (with the same configuration), the online archive appear

        so I decided to create first a new windows profile but it is the same.
        I have reinstall the computer, no changes.

        I checked on the exchange server that they have full access rights on their mailbox but it is the same

        really strange!!! 😦

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  4. Ibrahim Migdad Says:

    thank you for your post.

    actually, I want your help for this issue.

    I configured the online archiving in Exchange 2010 and archiving database stored in NAS storage.
    some users, i configured for them the retention period 30 days but i noticed that e-mails in inbox is there since 60 days.

    how to troubleshoot this issue and how to force this mailbox to resume the archiving?

    Thank you.


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