In-Place Archiving with Exchange is a new paradigm in thinking for many organizations.  Shifts in technology perceptions breed a variety of questions.  Some are questions of trust and others are questions of technology.  We hope to answer a number of questions and help you explore some of the more advanced business and compliance requirements that Exchange archiving can meet for you.

People have used email archiving for more than a decade to help meet their compliance, data management, and eDiscovery needs.  Organizations are used to shipping data off to a separate repository, either in-house or to a 3rd-party service, and saying that my compliance stuff is "over there." This is typically performed with a journaling agent which runs on Exchange to capture messages in transport. Unfortunately, the way businesses operate today is very different than a decade ago.  Valuable information in Exchange is not just in email, but it could also be in calendar items, contacts, tasks, RSS feeds, or more. Journaling your Exchange data isn't sufficient for organizations, and with Exchange Server 2010 and Exchange Online we set about changing the model. With new in-place capabilities, we broaden the capabilities of a compliance platform, while simplifying the end user and administrative experience. 

When it comes to compliance, ensuring the data is not tampered with and can be retrieved in an un-modified version is paramount. Historically, organizations used Write Once Read Many (WORM) storage. Unfortunately, writing to media like this has disadvantages. Storage medium can be lost, broken, or not survive the duration of need. It also adds challenge to the administrative process.  The media needs to be catalogued and destroyed on a regular basis.  With Exchange, organizations can leverage In-Place Hold (previously known as litigation or legal hold) to easily capture data that is relevant. Enabling this doesn’t require IT involvement – it can be completely delegated to your compliance or HR people. All changes and edits are captured and the content is immutably retained.  With Database Availability Group technology, this is also expandable to ensure you have multiple copies of the data – further helping ensure your data is there when you want it to be.

Managing the volume of email data a typical in an organization involves thoughtful planning. Putting data in a separate repository would, at first glance, look to offload pressure from Exchange.  However, information workers want to be able to access all of their email – not just the recent items with speed and ease. These users and administrators would need to learn a new interface and management tools – which means more training, cost and lost productivity. On top of it, managing storage for these 3rd party applications is typically expensive. With Exchange, an In-Place Archive (previously known as a Personal Archive or Online Archive) can store this data and it can be accessed by Microsoft Outlook and Outlook Web App – tools your users use daily. With Exchange you also enable flexibility.  Organizations can choose to keep this data on-premises, or in the cloud. Organizations even have the capability to keep only their In-Place Archive in the cloud with Exchange Online Archiving (EOA).

Organizations need to respond to eDiscovery requests quickly.  With Exchange there is a fully integrated toolset for placing data on In-Place Hold and discovering it.  All of the tools an organization needs are built into the tools that users are already using. In-Place Hold in Exchange has some great benefits beyond ease of use. It can be fully transparent to users or they can be notified. Further, when items are on hold, everything is captured - edits, deletions, and the metadata associated with an item – including folder hierarchy. Some organizations have a need to immutably preserve everything for a user for a minimum period of time (whether it is 30 days, 7 years, or more).  To meet those needs, Exchange has a built-in capability known as rolling hold or Time-Based In-Place Hold. For organizations that don’t know how long preservation is required, In-Place Hold can be set without expiration – allowing for items to be held for an indefinite period.

With Exchange, delegated individuals can search across the ocean of messaging data that exists in most organizations.  No extra tools are needed, eDiscovery can natively be done with Exchange – you can search across mailboxes on-premises, in Exchange Online, or a mix of the two from a single location.  Searches can be done using an easy-to-use web-based interface, or for those more tech savvy folks, via PowerShell.  These query results are shown to the user – so they can fine tune as necessary.  Organizations that need more visibility into specific user behavior can use supervision features in Exchange to analyze data pre-send and post-send. To ensure that compliance is met before an email reaches its destination, moderation on specific email content can be routed to a supervisor, human resources or compliance officer to allow for acceptance or rejection. Post-send, some organizations need to ensure that users are not breeching internal or regulatory requirements.  For those, eDiscovery capabilities can search through the contents of a user’s email.  Furthermore, if random sampling is required, you can run the random sampling tool to pull a percentage of email for review.

The prospect of migrating gigabytes, terabytes, or more of data into Exchange from a 3rd party archiving solution can seem daunting. Fortunately, there are several ways of getting data from a legacy solution into Exchange.  First, you can restore content to a mailbox (for instance, Exchange Server 2003/2007) and then migrate it to Exchange Server 2010 or Exchange Online. In this process, you’ll need to ensure you have enough delta storage to manage the swing state.  A second approach is to export the 3rd party archive data to .PST files. You can then import the .PST files into a user’s In-Place Archive using Exchange-based tools, namely PST Capture and new-mailboximportrequest. A third approach is to use a solution from Microsoft partners to migrate directly from a 3rd party archive to an In-Place Archive in Exchange.

A wealth of further documentation is available in the spring housecleaning blog post: http://community.office365.com/en-us/blogs/office_365_technical_blog/archive/2012/04/06/spring-housecleaning.aspx

Ankur Kothari