Archiving Exchange Data

This article is an introduction to archiving Exchange data using Outlook or Entourage. It offers a definition of archiving (as opposed to making a backup), lists several benefits of archiving, and suggests some archiving strategies.

Archiving is the process of moving old, out-of-date mail from your current email folders to an archive file. Archiving is distinct from making a local backup of your data; backing up simply makes a copy of the data but leaves it in place, while archiving actually moves to data into another file. This archive file can then be stored for future use and accessed only when necessary.

Archiving your email data has many benefits for the end user. Some of these are noted below.

Server quota

Your exchange quota includes all email, contacts, and calendaring items. Users begin with a quota of 250MB. Archiving will move specified portions of your email data off the server, reducing the likelihood of going over your Exchange quota (and having to pay for additional space).

Local folders

If you use only one computer to access your email, Local Folders in Outlook and Entourage can be a handy way to stay below your Exchange server quota. But if you need to access your email from another computer, you lose access to your Local Folders and all the mail they contain. Archiving regularly can reduce the amount of space you use on the server, making it easier to keep all of your mail on the server (thus retaining access to your current mail items no matter what computer you use to check your mail).

Mail organization

Keeping your mail organized can be difficult, especially with the volume of mail many users receive. Archiving can be a vital aid in two ways: 1. You can archive mail data by date, category, mail folder, sender, project, etc., making the organization of your archived mail as simple (or complex) as you prefer. 2. By archiving older mail items, you have fewer mail items on the Exchange server, thus making the organization of your server-side mail simpler.


Finding one message in an Inbox with hundreds (or even thousands) of messages is a daunting task. By archiving older mail, you reduce the amount of mail on the Exchange server, making your searches easier (and quicker; less mail to sort through, less time required). Also, if your archives are organized, you can search through specific archived folders, rather than your entire account.

If you simply archive all your mail items into one big file, searching for a single item in the mass of archived data may be difficult. Some users may find it easy to remember to manually archive every 6 months; some may do it once, and then forget to do so ever again. Some users may set up auto-archiving, then forget having done so (and wonder what happened to that progress report from last year). Like anything else, archiving takes some amount of planning. Below are suggestions for developing an archiving strategy. Some strategies may require a bit of preparation, such as sorting current mail into a different folder structure. (Note that some strategies below can be used in combination, while some may be incompatible with one another for your purposes. Be sure of your strategy before implementing it.)

By chronology

By splitting your archives into distinct years and/or months, you immediately gain a chronological structure for your archived items. You can easily separate mail regarding recurring projects or processes into separate years, making searching for an item easier. You can also develop a more complex folder structure within a particular year's archive to make the archive more organized.

By category/project

Archiving related items into categorized folders adds organization to the process, making it easier to locate specific messages. When used in combination with archiving by year, a user's email history becomes easy to trace.

By sender or other individual

Sometimes, it is convenient to group email items from a particular individual into a folder. Doing so makes finding messages easier if you know for certain who sent them. This method can also be used in combination archiving by year, but use with archiving by category/project would likely require creating a very elaborate folder structure.

By folder

If desired, individual folders can be archived in their present state, or a special folder structure created especially for archiving can be used.


Archiving can be performed manually at the user's discretion or can be set to occur automatically at predefined intervals under predefined parameters.

Multiple copies of archives

Sometimes, it's convenient to have your archives on your local machine, allowing you to search them at need. But if you find yourself away from your desk and need to locate a particular mail item, your archive is unavailable. Additionally, if your archives are on your local machine and the machine crashes, you lose the archives. It is therefore advisable to make a copy of your archive onto CD/DVD. Doing so not only provides a backup, but allows your archives to be portable, while also having them readily available on your every-day machine.

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Date Posted: April 17, 2013 Tags: Provider Resource, Exchange

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