In Exchange 2010, we introduced Retention Tags, a Messaging Records Management (MRM) feature that allows you to manage email lifecycle. You can use retention policies to retain mailbox data for as long as it’s required to meet business or regulatory requirements, and delete items older than the specified period.

One of the design goals for MRM 2.0 was to simplify administration compared to Managed Folders, the MRM feature introduced in Exchange 2007, and allow users more flexibility. By applying a Personal Tag to a folder, users can have different retention settings apply to items in that folder than the default tag applied to the entire mailbox(known as a Default Policy Tag). Similarly, users can apply a different tag to a subfolder than the one applied to the parent folder. Users can also apply a Personal Tag to individual items, allowing them the freedom to organize messages based on their work habits and preference, rather than forcing them to move messages, based on the retention requirement, to an admin-controlled Managed Folder.

You can still use Managed Folders in Exchange 2010, but they’re not available in Exchange 2013.

For a comparison of Retention Tags with Managed Folders and migration details, see Migrate Managed Folders.

If you like the Managed Folders approach of being able to create a folder in the user’s mailbox and configure a retention setting for that folder, you can use Exchange Web Services (EWS) to accomplish something similar, with some caveats mentioned later in this post. You can write your own code or even a PowerShell script to create a folder in the user’s mailbox and apply a Personal Tag to it. There are scripts available on the interwebs, including some code samples on MSDN to accomplish this. For example:

Note: The above scripts are examples for your reference. They’re not written or tested by the Exchange product group.

But is it supported?

We frequently get questions about whether this is supported by Microsoft. Short answer: Yes. Exchange Web Services (EWS) is a supported and documented API, which allows ISVs and customers to create custom solutions for Exchange.

When using EWS in your code or PowerShell script to apply a Personal Tag to a folder, it’s important to consider the following:

For Developers

  • EWS is meant for developers who can write custom code or scripts to extend Exchange’s functionality. As a developer, you must have a good understanding of the functionality available via the API and what you can do with it using your code/script.
  • Support for EWS API is offered through our Exchange Developer Support channels.

For IT Pros

  • If you’re an IT Pro writing your own code or scripts, you’re a developer too! Above applies to you.
  • If you’re an IT Pro using 3rd-party code or scripts, including the code samples & scripts available on MSDN, TechNet or elsewhere on the interwebs, we recommend that you follow the general best practices for using such code or scripts, including (but not limited to)the following:
    • Do not use code/scripts from untrusted sources in a production environment.
    • Understand what the script or code does. (This is easy for scripts – you can look at the source in a text editor.)
    • Test the script or code thoroughly in a non-production environment, including all command-line options/parameters available in it, before installing or executing it in your production environment.
    • Although it’s easy to change the PowerShell execution policy on your servers to allow unsigned scripts to execute, it’s recommended to allow only signed scripts in production environments. You can easily sign a script if it's unsigned, before running it in a production environment.

So should I do it?

If using EWS to apply a Personal Tag to custom folders helps you meet your business requirements, absolutely! However, do note and consider the following:

  • You’re replicating some of the functionality available via Managed Folders, but it doesn’t turn the folder into a Managed Folder.
  • Remember - it’s a Personal Tag! Users can remove the tag from the folder using Outlook or Outlook Web App.
  • If you have additional Personal Tags available in your environment, users can change the tag on the custom folder.
  • Users can tag individual items with a different Personal Tag. There is no way to enforce inheritance of retention tag if Personal Tags have been provisioned and available to the user.
  • Users can rename or delete custom folders. Unlike Managed Folders, which are protected from changes or deletion by users, custom folders created by users or by admin are just like any other (non-default) folder in the mailbox.

Provisioning custom folders with different retention settings (by applying Personal Tags) may help you meet your organization’s retention requirements. As an IT Pro, make sure you understand the above and follow the best practices.

Bharat Suneja