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Successful Policies for Exchange Administration

By ServerWatch Staff (Send Email)
Posted Aug 7, 2001


by Jason Haifley

As an administrator, the policies you set on your Exchange system are key to keeping things manageable. Several areas where you need to have clearly defined policies are: size limits, distribution list structure, public folder structure and virus protection. If you are lucky, this was already accomplished before the system grew too large. On the other hand, if you are not so lucky, you have a nice mess to clean up before you can call your system organized. This first article will deal with size limits.

Size Limits

As an administrator, the policies you set on your Exchange system are key to keeping things manageable. Several areas where you need to have clearly defined policies are: size limits, distribution list structure, public folder structure and virus protection.

MS Exchange Server is an extremely flexible mail system that allows you to set limits on a number of items. I highly recommend using them -- even if you have tons of bandwidth and disk space (and who does?), your users could get a little too used to the freedom and may revolt if you need to apply limits later. Exchange allows you to limit an individual's mailbox size, public folder size, and send/receive message size.

Let's face facts, users are packrats when it comes to their e-mail. I don't know why they need that message from their Uncle Bob that was dated two years ago, but they swear they do. If not controlled, their box can swell to enormous proportions. Add all your users together and your Private Information Store just seems to get bigger and bigger and bigger. Some will claim that disk space is cheap and you can just add more space. Well, you have to backup all this mail. If something happens, you also have to restore it.

So, it is obvious that we need limits on box sizes, but the big issue is: what should that limit be? Well, that's why you're called the Administrator... Actually you have to consider several things, like 1) How much disk space do you have available, 2) How much can you actually add, and 3) How long can your backups and restores take?

I have seen several companies limit users to 30-75 MB each. Unfortunately the system I administer places a limit of 300 MB. (It was that way when I started, and I didn't feel like getting lynched by trying to change it.) Of course, executives get bigger boxes because they sign your checks. Salespeople always seem to hoard mail, especially ones with big attachments, so they may need special consideration as well. What you really need to do is set limits and educate your users on how to keep their boxes organized.

Mailbox limits can be set at the server level and also at the user level. There are three limits to set: Issue Warning, Prohibit Send, and Prohibit Send and Receive. This tiered approach allows the user to know when he or she has reached the limit, and then encourages him/her to get the box under control by first denying send privileges and then, if necessary, denying send and receive privileges.

Public Folders have the same size problems as individual's mailboxes, so the same concepts apply. You can set limits on a server and per folder basis. Setting age limits will do wonders for keeping box sizes under control.

Another limit you should consider is message size. This can be limited in both the MTA and connectors, such as the IMC. Your biggest consideration when applying this limit is available bandwidth. If your queues get backed-up because a user is e-mailing his entire mp3 collection, it is definitely time to look at size limits.

Although I believe that placing these limits are essential in any Exchange organization, it is also important to provide alternatives for your users. You need to educate them on keeping their boxes organized and clean. Explain auto-archive and .PST files, and tell them how do save attachments to disk and then delete them from their mail. For transferring large attachments, set up an FTP server for your users.

Remember that properly thought out policies on your Exchange system will do wonders for keeping your stress level down. And the earlier you impose them, the faster your users will come to tolerate them. In my next article, I will discuss Distribution List and Public Folder organization.

Jason Haifley

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