Email archiving continues to be in the news—particularly with Microsoft's announcement last week that Exchange Server 2010 will include built-in email archiving functionality. The Exchange development team added this feature to Exchange Server because most companies believe that email archiving is important although few companies have an effective solution in place. Exchange 2010 will give companies the ability to apply legal holds and other retention policies through the familiar Outlook interface.

So, if you need an email archiving solution, and you're planning to deploy Exchange Server 2010—when it becomes available for production in late 2009—then you should be all set. Well, you might also need to wait for Microsoft Office 2010, or at least Outlook 2010, to get all those features. Fortunately, there are many archiving options available now, and ones that won't require federal lending assistance to implement.

For instance, Red Gate Software has decided to enter the market with Exchange Server Archiver. Red Gate has a well-established reputation for its Microsoft SQL Server utilities (see the recent SQL Server Magazine reviews of SQL Data Generator and SQL Compare 6.20). With that background, moving to a support product for Exchange Server doesn't seem like such a stretch, considering that Exchange is basically a large database.

Talking about why the company chose this time to move into the archiving field, Michael Francis, brand manager for Red Gate's Exchange division, said, "We looked and saw that a lot of people were doing it very complicatedly—if that's a word—and we just thought we could do it better." Ease of use and implementation were key goals in the development of Exchange Server Archiver, but Red Gate also focused its efforts on data management rather than compliance.

Maintaining too much data on your Exchange servers can be a drain on performance. Exchange Server Archiver helps alleviate this problem by removing email messages and attachments to secondary storage. You can also eliminate PSTs and those calls from angry, frustrated users who are constantly bumping up against their email quotas.

According to Elizabeth Ayer, product manager for Red Gate, coming late to the market could be a plus. In reviewing the potential competitors, she said some of the problems they saw came "from old, rickety architectures that they've got, things which aren't really leveraging more modern Microsoft technologies." And in contrast, for Exchange Server Archiver, "We integrate directly with Active Directory. We're using Windows native technologies. We're using their indexing service. So we don't have to redo all that and have lots of moving parts that can break."

You'll find much more information about Exchange Server Archiver on Red Gate's website, including case studies and a video gallery demonstrating many features of the product. And there's a contest page where you can try to spot which mailbox has been archived. Exchange Server Archiver is compatible with Exchange 2007/2003. You can download the beta version now; Red Gate intends to have the final version available around the time of Microsoft TechEd North America 2009 in May.

Sherpa Software isn't new to email archiving, but the company has recently released Archive Attender 3.5, which includes new management features and other improvements. The development of Archive Attender has been largely shaped by customer requests, according to Kevin Ogrodnik, president of Sherpa Software. Another key differentiator Ogrodnik stressed, much like the folks from Red Gate, is ease of use.

Among these ease-of-use features is the fact that you don't have to install anything on your Exchange server—although you can. You also don't need a SQL Server database or proprietary hardware, with additional related licensing. Archiving policies can be applied to specific mailboxes, Exchange servers, or Active Directory groups, giving a great deal of flexibility in how you set things up.

A couple of the new features in Archive Attender 3.5 seem particularly impressive. First, there's the stub management feature. Like most email archives, Archive Attender lets you leave stubs of archived messages in the Inbox; the new feature lets you auto-age out stubs after a set period of time, freeing both additional space and overhead on the Exchange server.

The other great feature is the ability to split the archive into multiple files if desired or necessary to meet the needs of available storage. These smaller segments can be easier for administrators to manage, and you'll still have the ability to easily search across the entire archive to retrieve items.

Sherpa Software's website has all the details about Archive Attender 3.5, which is available for Exchange 2007/2003/2000/5.5. Sherpa also offers a suite of other products to help you manage your email infrastructure both on Microsoft Exchange and Lotus Notes.

Microsoft added email archiving to Exchange 2010 on the belief that most companies aren't doing what they should be for preserving email, and most third-party vendors I've spoken with agree. As Ayers from Red Gate said, data management is "one of those things that \[companies are\] getting behind on and sort of slowly catching up. Even though they've had a lot of options for archiving over the years, I think the uptake hasn't been as complete as it will be in the next few years."

It remains to be seen, of course, what Microsoft's entry into this market segment means for the third-party archiving vendors—something, perhaps, to be determined by how well Exchange 2010's archiving works. Certainly, "ease of use" applies to a solution built in to Exchange Server. However, considering the economy, how many organizations are going to consider an early migration to Exchange 2010? Selecting an existing solution, particularly for small-to-midsized businesses (SMBs), is probably a better option to meet immediate compliance and data management goals.

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