Unarchive Email from an Email Archive

How to Unarchive Email from an Email Archive

Need to unarchive email from an email archive ?  Email archiving is commonly found at medium to large sized companies who use an on-premise email messaging system, such as Microsoft Exchange 2010.  Email archiving is deployed for good reasons, such as: compliance, lower storage costs, single instance storage, allowing Microsoft Exchange 2010 to perform better.

The challenge is, what is the best way to unarchive (or extract / export) the mail data from a legacy email archiving system ?   This blog post aims to provide helpful, practical, advice for anyone who is planning to unarchive email from an email archive,  or extract all the archived emails from their email archiving product.

Email Unarchiving Requirements:

You may have any of the following common email unarchive requirements:

  • Export all the email archive data to .PST format for each mailbox
  • Migrate all the email archive data back into the server-based mailboxes
  • Migrate all the email archive data from one email archive product into another product

Email Archiving – How to Extract (or “Unarchive”):

unarchive email from exchange 2010With the growth of stored email data on on-premise enterprise email systems growing at an increasingly fast rate, the ability to move away from an email archiving system is becoming more difficult.   I would say it is easier to migrate from one email system to another (eg: GroupWise to Exchange 2010, or Exchange 2007 to Exchange 2010).   Projects that involve extracting mail data from an email archiving system often run for much longer, and cost more.  This is often known as “unarchiving”, or “de-archiving“.

There are many fine email archiving products on the market, such as Symantec Enterprise Vault, GFI MailArchiver, Commvault Simpana and Quest Archive Manager, to name a few.   When these products are evaluated, purchased, and implemented, there is often little thought on how to move off these products at a later date.   Most email archiving software products offer the ability to export archive data, but with limitations. This means it is not easy to unarchive your email from an email archive.  Examples of typical limitations when you try to unarchive your email from an email archive, are as follows:

  • Email archive data can only be exported out to PST files for individual mailboxes at one time, and using only a single thread.  This makes a mass export to PST unrealistic due to a very long time frame.
  • Any extract of email archive data is poorly logged with little error capture.   There is no way of guaranteeing that all archive emails have been extracted – for audit purposes.
  • The ability to export all the archived emails in bulk is sometimes only provided by purchasing a utility from the email archive product vendor, at a high cost.
  • Companies will stop paying the annual maintenance license component for their email archiving product, which then prevents them from using technical support, from the product vendor, to help extract all the archived emails.

Email archiving products typically outlast any iteration of Microsoft Exchange that maybe in use, as businesses typically do not want to put at risk their compliance by breaking them.  Couple this with reluctance of email archive product vendors to allow easy bulk extract of archived emails, and companies often have major issues when they want to move away (unarchive) from their email archiving system.

How do I Unarchive Email from an Email Archive ?:

Okay, I have established that there are challenges in how to approach extracting all your archived emails.  What is the best approach ?  The answer is, it depends !   It depends on your scenario.  I have described an example scenario:

Example Scenario – Migrating to a new email archiving product:

For any IT project you ideally want to be able to quote a fixed price for doing the work, and minimize risk of things going wrong.   Seems obvious !  For this scenario I recommend that the following actions are considered:

  • Install the new email archiving product alongside the legacy email archiving product.
  • Configure all newly archived emails to go to the new email archiving product.
  • Set the legacy email archiving product to “read-only”, and provide users access to the legacy email archive data via a browser interface.
  • Investigate if the new email archiving product is able to import the legacy email archive data, including auditable logging to ensure all email data is captured – ensuring compliance is not compromised.
  • Investigate if you can unarchive the legacy email archive data back into the user mailboxes.  You will need a lot more storage for this, and any archived emails for deleted mailboxes would not be included here.  It is an option to consider, as may help, but some archived emails will be left behind.
  • Consider purchasing a 3rd Party tool to extract all the legacy archived emails, either to PST file, or then imported directly into any new email archive product.  Typically any archived emails with no valid target server mailbox will have to go to PST files instead – for later processing.

Email Unarchive Recommendation:

In my experience, using the right 3rd Party tool allows you to better manage the end to end work required to extract your email from your legacy email archiving product.  You will be able to:

  • Extract email data over multiple threads
  • Option of extracting to PST or into a new email archive product
  • Log all the email extracted from the archive – for audit purposes
  • Produce a more accurate estimate of effort and cost for the project
  • Use technical support from the supplier of the 3rd Party Tool

The cost of the 3rd Party tool may appear expensive at first look – they normally calculate the license cost based on the amount of data in your email archive.   However, once all the alternative options are explored, you will discover that the 3rd Party tool is the method to adopt.

Specialist Consulting in Unarchiving:

I have helped many clients adopt the right email unarchive strategy, and helped them select the right 3rd Party tool to use.  And to select the right expert to help you.  The aim is to be able to provide a clear approach on how to unarchive.  This includes a multiple stage plan, with each stage having a clear cost estimate assigned.   Contact me to find out which 3rd Party tool I recommend to unarchive your email archive, and the best approach to take – based on proven results in the field.

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