Managed Folders deprecated in Exchange 2013

Exchange 2007 introduced managed folders and we were all supposed to be responsible and populate those folders the way that our betters intended. But then we had the good sense to ignore managed folders, probably because we sensed that Microsoft would change things around, which they promptly did in Exchange 2010 by introducing retention policies. Exchange 2013 deprecates managed folders, meaning that they are gone. Well, maybe lingering. But they will go. Soon. 

In all the fuss and bother around more headline changes in Exchange 2013, such as the introduction of the Managed Store or even Managed Availability, It might have missed your attention, but Microsoft deprecated Messaging Records Management 1.0 (MRM 1.0), aka “Managed Folders,” in Exchange 2013. The cmdlets are still available and you can still apply a managed folder policy to a mailbox, but the Managed Folder Assistant will cheerfully ignore that mailbox thereafter. In other words, applying a managed folder policy to a mailbox is a null operation, an act of folly, or perhaps just silly.

I know that this news has come as a shock to the three companies on the face of the planet who managed (no pun intended) to use MRM 1.0 successfully, as well as MVP Michael B. Smith, who has rather a fond spot for these benighted folders and considers them much better than their MRM 2.0 replacement. I guess we’re all entitled to our opinion.

MRM 2.0 was introduced in Exchange 2010. It’s the system of retention policies and tags that are controlled by the Managed Folder Assistant (MFA), which processes user mailboxes to apply whatever actions are required by the tags contained in the policies that are assigned to the mailboxes. The best thing about MRM 2.0 is that it’s automatic. In other words, once an administrator has defined and assigned retention policies, MFA does its stuff without let or interference and users don’t have to worry about getting involved.

I think automatic mailbox management is a very good thing, largely because we exist in an era where it seems that the vast majority of users are “pilers”, people who let messages accumulate in their Inbox and Sent Items folder and never take the time, perhaps because they are time-poor and mailbox-quota-rich, to file anything away neatly. Of course, the much better search facilities that we enjoy today allied to Exchange’s ability to support tens of thousands of items in a folder, mean that piling is a perfectly acceptable way to manage email, even if it offends the eyes of anyone in the “filer” category. I used to be a filer but now I’m an in-between. My Inbox is huge, but I do file some stuff.

The downside of automatic mailbox management is that a computer process makes lots of decisions about removing items from mailboxes, either deleting the items or moving them into an archive mailbox. If you’re not careful, users experience the “missing items syndrome” where items disappear from mailboxes without people understanding why. Of course, it’s all perfectly logical, except in the eyes of the user. To see what I mean, enable an archive for someone’s mailbox and observe the havoc that can occur when MFA applies the default archive and retention policy to the mailbox.

Good planning and preparation can mitigate the unfortunate side-effects that automated mailbox clean-ups can have. MRM 1.0 failed (the reason why it has now been deprecated) because it forced users to change the way that they interacted with their email client. Apart from its automation, MRM 2.0 is much better integrated into Exchange 2010/Exchange 2013 and their clients (the Exchange 2013 Administration Centre (EAC) doies a nice job of managing retention policies and tags) and that’s also a good thing.

So if you’re running managed folders with Exchange 2007 or Exchange 2010, it’s time to take a big hint and begin preparing to upgrade to MRM 2.0. You know it makes sense!

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On-premises and cloud-based Microsoft Exchange Server and all the associated technology that runs alongside Microsoft's enterprise messaging server.

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Tony Redmond

Tony Redmond is a senior contributing editor for Windows IT Pro and the author of Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 Inside Out (Microsoft Press) and Microsoft Exchange Server 2013 Inside Out: Mailbox...
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