Based on the number of reports flowing into forums such as the Exchange TechNet Forums, it seems like quite a few customers were affected by the “soft delete” bug that emerged when they installed Exchange 2010 SP2 RU6 or Exchange 2010 SP3 after Microsoft released these updates in February.
After a great deal of investigation, Microsoft determined that the problem was related to messages that had voicemail or PDF attachments delivered to Outlook clients configured to work in online mode and duly issued KB2822208 to advise customers to either reconfigure Outlook to use cached mode or “hard delete” the offending items with the SHIFT/Delete combination.
The good news is that Microsoft has now fixed the problem and that individual fixes are available for Exchange 2010 SP2 RU6 and Exchange 2010 SP3. I expect that the fix will be incorporated into the next roll-up update released for Exchange 2010 SP3 (RU1), due in a couple of months if Microsoft’s normal release pattern holds.
Microsoft has not said why the bug appeared, but the symptoms point to some mismatch in item properties that Outlook cannot handle. As the offending items all seem to be generated by third-party products such as multi-function printers, it could be that someone changed an interface in a way that caused Exchange to fail to process delete requests in the same way as previous server releases.
The bad news is that if you don’t have a support contract you will not be able to get the fixes. Individual fixes are just that – code to fix individual, well-identified bugs. Microsoft releases individual fixes only to customers who have current support contracts after customers report that they are experiencing a problem and Microsoft support staff have an opportunity to determine that the problem is the one that will be fixed by the patch. After all, there is no point whatsoever in applying a patch in the hope that it will fix a problem that the code does not handle. Although it would be great if it was possible for software to morph itself to fix problems that it detects, the current state of software engineering does not usually accommodate this kind of intelligence.
If you have been affected by the problem, you probably already have a support call open with Microsoft and can expect to receive a call back soon to tell you that a fix is available. If not, you can always call Microsoft to request the fix – provided you have a support contract.
All of this goes to prove the worth and value of having a support contract. Of course, it can be argued that you can simply wait for Microsoft to release Exchange 2010 SP3 RU1 or whatever other vehicle they choose to include the updated code, but waiting for bugs to be fixed in an email server that you depend on for external communication is not good practice. Cheaper than having a support contract, yes. A recipe for happiness, probably not.
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