What the forthcoming Exchange SP1 makes better

The service pack will improve the new personal archiving, e-discovery, and control panel capabilities

Microsoft Exchange 2010 brought with it a variety of impressive changes. Some of the new features are not immediately obvious; for the most part, the Exchange management interfaces, the Exchange Management Console (EMC GUI interface), and the Exchange Management Shell (EMS PowerShell interface) look the same. But there are monumental changes to the storage architecture, to the high-availability features, and to unified messaging.

Further upgrades will come in Service Pack 1, due out later this year. For example, consider three new Exchange 2010 features that are being improved in SP1.

[ Also on InfoWorld: See our cool slideshow of Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 highlights. | Read J. Peter Bruzzese's "Now's the time to get serious about Exchange 2010." ]

Personal archiving
The personal archiving feature was inspired by the fact that mailbox size restrictions leave many users storing data locally in .pst files rather than in their mailboxes. That's problematic -- the data isn't backed up and is left undiscoverable (or discoverable at great cost when you have to search for it through .pst files). Exchange 2010's new personal archive feature provides users with an alternate storage location for historical messaging data, eliminating the need for .pst files. At the same time, the archive folder is associated with the user's mailbox and is handled by Exchange -- it's no longer spread across users' PCs.

SP1 takes this further by providing the flexibility, if desired, to place the mailbox in one database and the archive in another. The Exchange development team received feedback indicating that archive data, being accessed less frequently, may not need to be on the same disks and in the same database as the mailbox data.

With SP1, you can provision the mailbox and archive separately. You can even use different high-availability features and have different backup strategies for each. This is a sensible enhancement to an already practical feature in Exchange 2010.

Note that the personal archive feature is currently limited to Outlook 2010 and Outlook Web Access (OWA) 2010 users. However, an update to Outlook 2007, timed with Exchange Server 2010 SP1, will enable Outlook 2007 users the ability to access email in the personal archive as well.

E-discovery and search
You might have missed the discovery capability when going through Exchange 2010's new features because it has an odd name: It's called "multimailbox search" and does not use some form of the term "e-discovery." The multimailbox search goes beyond the standard Exchange search (although it too leverages the content indexes) to provide a deeper level of discovery. Even though I like the feature for smaller businesses, I still encourage larger companies to look into e-discovery products that do more of the heavy lifting, such as NearPoint for Exchange, SonaVault, Quest Archive Manager, and GFI MailArchiver.

Also, the multimailbox search feature is found in the new Exchange Control Panel (ECP) and, if you're an Exchange admin, via the Exchange Management Shell. That placement essentially hides multimailbox search from the people who typically need to perform these kinds of searches: records managers, legal or compliance officers, and HR pros -- not Exchange admins. The people doing actual e-discovery work are highly unlikely to know ECP even exists.

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