Which is best: Exchange 2010 archiving vs. third-party tools

When used together, Exchange 2010's archiving features can satisfy most companies' compliance and e-discovery needs

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Multi-Mailbox Search resides in the Exchange Control Panel (as well as the Exchange Management Shell, a more complicated method of searching), where users with the Discovery Management role assigned can perform discovery searches for the data needed.

A legal hold can be placed on the mailbox of a person under suspicion or involved in a legal situation. With this hold applied, users cannot delete items from their mailboxes or archives. Everything is retained and, thus, is searchable.

Combining these four features can help you gain greater control over the excessive use of PSTs, enables e-discovery, can ensure greater compliance to regulations for email data retention, and makes it easier for employees to access their archives because those archives are now available via Outlook Web Access.

Where Exchange 2010 archiving falls short

Despite these capabilities, Exchange 2010 may not meet your archiving needs.

For one thing, Exchange 2010 no longer uses single-instance storage (SIS). That improved its performance but also means each duplicate email and attachment is recorded multiple times, significantly increasing storage requirements. Thus, you may want an archiving product that provides data deduplication -- or perhaps a cloud-based archiving service where you don't have to worry about how the data is made available, how it is backed up, how the storage grows, and so on.

Another issue with Exchange archiving is that although the features may be baked into Exchange, using them costs extra. For example, you need enterprise client access licenses (CALs) for Outlook users who use the archive feature. Those users also need the highest-cost version of Microsoft Office 2010 -- Office 2010 Professional Plus for Outlook -- to see the archive mailbox. (Ironically, Outlook 2007 has a free update that allows its users to see the archive.)

A design issue in Exchange 2010's control methods is that users are primarily in command of their mailboxes and/or retention tagging (unless they are placed on legal hold). Thus, they can delete items that may be considered necessary for regulatory compliance. The journaling feature can reduce that risk but is not as strong in terms of control as you may need for some compliance and e-discovery situations.

Finally, Exchange 2010's Exchange Control Panel is not as easy to use for a multiple-mailbox search or as polished as most third-party e-discovery products. Plus, most third-party products combine the compliance benefit of journaling with the employee convenience of an archive product (including a PST crawler, which Microsoft's Exchange team is working on for future release) all in the cloud with a per-user price.

Your specific needs and risk assessments ultimately determine whether you can rely solely on Exchange 2010's on-premise archiving capabilities. I believe that most companies will find that the built-in features provide everything they need when used together -- at the price of more work for IT and a greater cost for storage. If you don't want to archive on-premise, consider Microsoft's or others' hosted Exchange archiving.

This article, "Which is best: Exchange 2010 archiving vs. third-party tools," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of J. Peter Bruzzese's Enterprise Windows blog and follow the latest developments in Windows at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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