You know you've got 'em—email pack rats. They keep everything that comes their way, stuff messages and attachments into every nook and cranny, squirrel away anything that they might need at some unspecified time in the future. They live in fear that the moment they do get rid of something, they'll realize they needed it. (Let's not worry about the fact that if they ever did need something, they probably wouldn't be able to find it.)

If this sounds like email users in your organization, you're probably not alone. These are the users who never met an email message they wanted to delete. As long as corporate retention policies or quotas don't force them to, they won't. So you've got too much data, putting a strain on your Microsoft Exchange Server mail store and requiring extra time for backups. To solve the problem, you might consider enrolling your users in a 12-step program, some sort of Pack Rats Anonymous, but that really seems more like an HR solution rather than IT. Instead, you need to find a way to make efficient use of your storage, which probably means investigating third-party products.

One tool you might want to consider is Exclaimer Store Compressor. Formed in 2001 and focusing on mail utilities for Exchange, Exclaimer has recently released Store Compressor, which can compress data on your Exchange store as well as enforce time limits on retention. I spoke with Rick Robertson, Exclaimer president, and Bill Jowett, director of strategic alliances, about how Store Compressor works.

First, Store Compressor can reduce the size of messages by removing email headers and HTML formatting. It will also compress attachments to standard .zip files. You can set options to compress based on attachment size or how long the item has been in the store. Through a slider option, you can set a preference on the level of compression, from simple to maximum, and the whole process is essentially transparent to users. You can even tell Store Compressor to delete messages that are older than a specific date.

I was particularly impressed by how you could use Store Compressor's options to deal with messages progressively. For example, consider an incoming message with HTML formatting and an attachment. Store Compressor can zip the attachment immediately, then after, say, 30 days remove the HTML, then again in 90 days, delete the message altogether. Such options should satisfy all but your most voracious pack rats.

Exclaimer also offers Exclaimer Mail Archiver, which archives all incoming, outgoing, and internal email to a SQL Server database and can be used in tandem with Store Compressor to achieve compliance and storage and performance improvement. Exclaimer's products are designed for enterprises great and small; for Small Business Server (SBS) users, the company offers Exclaimer SBS Suite. You can find pricing and additional information on the company's Web site.

All right, readers—it's your turn. Do you have problems with pack rats in your organization? Will Exclaimer Store Compressor help solve your problem? Do you have other ideas or suggestions that our readers need to know about? Post a comment to tell us what you think.