Email administrators need to be able to search, report on, and control the information stored in their mail system. However, email servers don’t always make this task easy—especially if users export and archive mail locally to PST files on their desktops.
Sherpa Software’s Mail Attender is email management software that gives you control over email anywhere on your network, whether in Exchange Server mailboxes or public folders, or in PST files, either on file servers or local desktops. Mail Attender’s rules-based architecture lets you define granular criteria to locate mail across all possible stores, then carry out a variety of actions, such as:
- Enforcing a corporate email policy throughout the organization
- Searching for inappropriate or sensitive content and potentially removing it
- Deleting old or large items to reclaim disk space
- Archiving and exporting mail
- Reporting on trends in mail volume or storage used
Installation and Setup
Mail Attender’s installation process is straightforward. I particularly like the fact that although you can install the software on an Exchange server, it can also be installed on a standalone server. The product’s documentation lists installation requirements; however, I would have liked more clarity about which prerequisites are necessary for the various supported OSs.
During installation, the software prompted me to install/update the Visual C++ 2008 Redistributable Package. Fortunately, this update is included and requires no additional downloads.
During setup, you must specify a user and mailbox for the processor service account to run under. Unfortunately, the documentation is focused on Exchange Server 2003 and Exchange 2000 Server rather than Exchange Server 2007. I had to figure out the Exchange 2007 permissions on my own.
Firing up the console reveals a relatively clean but dated interface, as you can see in Figure 1. The console is functional and easy to use, offering a multitude of ways to work with your email.
The first task is to define the stores of mail to work with. You can select these stores in a variety of ways, including by Exchange server, direct from the Global Address List, or via Active Directory queries. You can specify just a single mailbox or public folder, multiple mailboxes or folders, or all mailboxes and folders. To access PST files for processing, Mail Attender scans a defined file share. To work with PSTs on desktops, you need to set up the server-based listener, which works in combination with a local processing engine that’s installed on the desktop machine. Once the stores are set up, Mail Attender carries out automated scan jobs to keep up-to-date with any changes that occur.
After you define the stores to work with, you need to set up rules. The number of options is remarkable. There are three types of rules and predefined rule conditions and actions that allow for reporting about data, such as the size of Deleted Items folders, the space available on disks holding PST files, and the percent of quota that a mailbox has used. In addition to passive reporting, the software offers wide-ranging actions such as moving large attachments, triggering external commands or programs, deleting mail, and flagging mail as important. Fortunately, you don’t have to actively run all these rules yourself. Once you set up the rules you want, you can easily schedule them to run when necessary.
Another benefit of Mail Attender is that you can run multiple instances of the processor on distributed servers. In addition, you can manage these instances locally and configure them to use a central SQL Server rules database.
Despite the irritations of Mail Attender’s interface and documentation, both of which need updating, the product has a lot going for it. Mail Attender has a massive number of conditions and actions with which to build rules, which lets you move, delete, and report on mail in almost any way you can think of—even across multiple mail systems. If you need a tool that gives you control over mail content no matter where it’s stored, Mail Attender is certainly worth serious investigation.