Product Reviews

Find That E-Mail

Sunbelt Exchange Archiver makes e-mail archiving and retrieval accessible to the rest of us.

Sunbelt Exchange Archiver
Documentation 20%
Installation 20%
Ease of Use 20%
Feature Set 20%
Administration 20%
Overall Rating:

1: Virtually inoperable or nonexistent
5: Average, performs adequately
10: Exceptional

It used to be that only Wall Street financial giants -- and the White House -- had to worry about long-term e-mail storage and retrieval, but today it's everyone's problem. In addition to simply finding an important e-mail that was lost or misplaced, or replacing a mailbox that was corrupted, enterprises of all types have to comply with a variety of regulatory and organizational directives for information search and retrieval.

Sunbelt Software Exchange Archiver provides archiving, search and retrieval capabilities beyond the basic ones found in Microsoft Exchange tools. In so doing, makes it easier to archive and restore e-mails at a high level of granularity. It also means that end users can perform many common restoration tasks themselves, saving the time and effort of an administrator or help desk (or both).

This end result also more easily enables compliance across an enterprise. If making and administering backups takes less time, you're more likely to keep up with them. And if compliance is easy, you're more likely to be in compliance.

Installation and Setup
Exchange Archiver has a somewhat lengthy setup process, including several steps you have to take before you even begin software installation. However, the installation documentation is exceptionally clear, and following the steps in the documentation can help even a novice successfully complete the process. Sunbelt booked me an appointment with a support engineer to go through the installation. I started installing the prerequisites shortly before the appointment, and was actually halfway through the entire process before the call started. I ultimately declined further assistance, and finished the installation entirely on my own not long afterwards.

The management console provides a good picture of the status of archives, as well as the entry point to many product features. You can set up archives, view archives, look at production Exchange servers, manage groups and archive settings, and define and run jobs. Perhaps most important from a compliance standpoint, the console lets you set and enforce e-mail retention policies based on Exchange Archiver backups.

Using these features is easy and intuitive. To set up retention policies, for example, you select the retention tab on the console, define your requirements for keeping e-mail in the table, and just forget about it. Exchange Archiver takes care of enforcing those policies. Even with moderately complex archiving, retention and retrieval requirements, you can expect to simply set up your policies and Exchange Archiver will execute them. You'll only have to check back occasionally in order to adjust policies or perform exceptional tasks.

Figure 1
[Click on image for larger view.]
Figure 1. The Exchange Archiver management console provides entry points into most of the product's features.

Letting End Users Help
For end users, Exchange Archiver uses a plug-in that installs into the toolbar in Outlook. Using this plug-in, your users can initiate full-text searches on archived e-mails. They can activate the full-text search via the Outlook toolbar. All available attachments are also searched for in the archive. By using this feature, the end user can initiate a full-text search in attachments, and retrieve e-mails -- and their attachments -- based on the contents of those attachments.

I tested this particular feature on my own Outlook mailbox (which had more than 10,000 e-mails stored in .PST files), after I moved the old e-mails into the Exchange Archiver store. Once under the control of Exchange Archiver, I was able to use the Outlook plug-in to find several obscure e-mails based on sender, subject or body content searches, then move these e-mails back to my Outlook Inbox. The entire process took just a few minutes, and was certainly less time-consuming and more convenient than calling the help desk and getting the Exchange administrator involved.


A Broad Range of Support
Exchange Archiver works with Exchange 2000, 2003 and 2007, and supports Outlook 98 through 2007, as well as Outlook Web Access. The Exchange Archiver software itself requires Windows 2000 Server or Windows 2003 Server. The full-text search requires SQL Server 2000 or Oracle. It does require some setup to be able to use all of its features, but it's likely that you already have the hardware you need for backup and archival purposes.

My experience with Exchange is minimal, yet I was able to easily get Exchange Archiver installed and interacting with my test Exchange 2003 server. I was able to use most of the features of the product without having to refer to the documentation. For an experienced administrator, and for someone with a better background in Exchange, it should be a powerful way to ease some of the chores associated with managing e-mail.

Overall, Sunbelt Exchange Archiver is a significant upgrade over the base archiving, retrieval and compliance capabilities in the Microsoft Exchange tools. In particular, the installation and user documentation are among the best I've seen, and help make the product very usable. If you have a good reason for ensuring your e-mail archives are accurate and easily accessible, Exchange Archiver may be the best way of achieving those goals.

About the Author

Peter Varhol is the executive editor, reviews of Redmond magazine and has more than 20 years of experience as a software developer, software product manager and technology writer. He has graduate degrees in computer science and mathematics, and has taught both subjects at the university level.


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