Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 – Stores and Storage Groups

Introduction to Exchange Server 2003 Stores and Storage Groups

Instead of having one huge mail store, I advise you to divide, and so rule your Exchange kingdom.  Management really is the keyword.  By creating multiple storage groups you will greatly improve your control of the Exchange Server 2003 mailboxes.  I would go so far as to say that amateurs are unaware of the benefits of multiple stores, whilst professionals create stores for different user groups or different backup requirements.

Topics for Microsoft Exchange 2003 Stores and Storage Groups

Benefits of Exchange Multiple Stores

  1. Smaller stores mean that restore will be faster and backup more manageable.
  2. Fewer users will be affected when one store is offline.
  3. Each store can have its own policy for mailbox limits.
  4. If you have multiple disks, dividing a single store into storage groups will improve performance.  Note that all stores in one storage group share the same log file.
  5. Rather than having lots of small Exchange 2003 servers, buy one big machine and configure multiple Storage Groups.

Trap: Multiple stores and storage groups are only available in the Enterprise edition of Exchange 2003.  (Not in the Standard or SBS editions.)


Configuration Properties for Exchange Mailbox Stores

Each mailbox store has its own settings.  You can have up to 5 stores in each Storage Group.  Just imagine the logistics problems having one huge store which holds everyone’s mailbox.  Then think of the benefits of having the bosses, manager, and directors in their own mailbox store.  Advantages include, faster restore, less disruption if you need to dismount a store. Also you can create different Exchange System Policies for each store.  Multiple stores give flexibility.

Limits Tab

My advice is set limits for all users’ mailboxes.  Firstly, limits encourage good housekeeping; people need a reminder to delete old mail messages.  Secondly, perhaps I should not say this, but it gives you an opportunity to play the hero.  Take the situation where you know the limit could be 10x.  However you set the limit at 5x and when the users complain, you kindly raise the limit to 8x.  Now you are their friend and you still have 2x in reserve.Mailbox Store Limits Policy Exchange 2003 Server

Talking of being the hero, always select: ‘ Keep Deleted Items ‘.  What this setting does is act as a safety net.  The users think, ‘ Oh dear, the message is gone for ever ‘.  However, clever you have a copy of their email on the server.  Just instruct them how to retrieve the deleted item using their Outlook Tools menu.

My preferred setting is to tick: Do not permanently delete until the store is backed up.

I expect you realize that where necessary, you can over-ride the mailbox limits.  To make an exception to your policy, navigate to an individual’s Exchange properties sheet in Active Directory Users and Computers.  Alternatively, you could set Limits via a System Policy see here.

General Tab

What are you going to do about archiving email?  One day your government may pass a law making it compulsory to keep copies of all company email.  The technology to journal or archive messages has been around since Exchange 5.5.  The problems are more to do with politics and security than configuring Exchange 2003.

Database Tab

The Exchange 2003 databases, (e.g. Priv1.edb) are used by MAPI clients like Outlook 2003.  All non MAPI clients send and receive in MIME format, and their messages are stored in the .stm (streaming database).   All the conversion goes on automatically ‘ under the covers ‘.  Be aware of these two databases (.edb and .stm), but there is little to configure apart from the file location.  Note: Strange but true, it is possible to dismount a store then move the .edb file to another disk.

Plan your Exchange 2003 maintenance schedules.  Make sure that the timings are staggered for each store.  Maintenance in general and indexing in particular, can be processor intensive, so schedule maintenance for the middle of the night when there are few users online.

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Configuration for Storage Groups.

The key point with  a storage group is that all the individual stores share the same log files.  Talking of log files, avoid circular logging.  Treat circular logging as an emergency measure for low disk space.  The good news about the logs is that old logs are truncated or deleted by a full backup of the store.

As a practical point be aware that there are two property sheets, one for the individual stores and another for the Storage Group.  How many storage groups can you have?  Answer: 4 regular storage groups per server plus a Recovery Storage Group.

Public Folder Stores

The Limits and Database tabs are very similar to the Mailbox stores above, however Exchange 2003 Public Folder Stores have an extra tab – Replication.

Replication Tab

What you need to set or check are the timings.  How often should changes be sent to other replicas of your public folders?  You decide.  If the replication is due to take place over slow connections then modify the message size limit.

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Summaryof Exchange Stores and Storage Groups.

Multiple Storage Groups, each with up to 5 stores make Exchange server 2003 much more manageable.  Familiarise yourself with the tabs so that you can set mailbox limits and protect email with ‘ Deleted Item Retention ‘.  Other tasks include deciding on an archive account and configuring Public Folder replication.

See Also

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