Microsoft acknowledged the need for a tool to automatically clean up users’ mailboxes by shipping Mailbox Manager with Exchange Server 5.5 Service Pack 3 (SP3). Mailbox Manager runs as a background process and examines each mailbox against criteria that the messaging-system administrator has established. The criteria include which folders to check or exclude, as well as the age at which to automatically move messages to the Deleted Items folder. Most users don’t realize the number of messages they build up in their mailboxes over time, so Mailbox Manager is a nice piece of software that every Exchange administrator should consider.
But where’s Mailbox Manager in Exchange 2000 Server? The answer is nowhere because Microsoft hasn’t included the same code or equivalent functionality in Exchange System Manager (ESM) or anywhere else. Inquiries behind the scenes reveal that Microsoft used Messaging API (MAPI) to write Mailbox Manager, and the Exchange development group wasn’t able to rewrite the code for Exchange 2000. All earlier versions of Exchange were firmly embedded in MAPI, but Exchange 2000 is a new generation that’s built on Internet protocols. The end for MAPI is in sight. The focus for programming is now on standard interfaces such as ADO and OLE DB, both of which Exchange now supports for access to the Information Store (IS). In addition to changing protocols, Mailbox Manager requires a lot of new code to support Exchange 2000’s multiple mailbox stores on a server, active-active clustering, and so on. Perhaps it’s not surprising that the team couldn’t write the code in time, but it’s disappointing to find that such useful management functionality isn’t available within Exchange 2000.
Fortunately, installations that operate in mixed-mode Exchange 2000 organizations can use a workaround. A mixed-mode organization is one that includes both Exchange 2000 and earlier-version servers; all but brand-new deployments will use mixed-mode configurations until they can upgrade all servers to Exchange 2000. In mixed-mode organizations, Mailbox Manager can run on an Exchange Server 5.5 server and process the mailboxes on Exchange 2000 servers by making network connections to access the mailbox contents. The Microsoft article "XADM: How to Use Exchange Server 5.5 Mailbox Manager with Exchange 2000" (http://support.microsoft.com/support/kb/articles/q276/4/85.asp) explains how you can use Mailbox Manager in mixed-mode environments. Clearly, this workaround is feasible only with the type of good network connectivity (128Kbps and faster) found in a traditional Exchange site. However, this approach is a good starting point and will help people get by until Mailbox Manager reappears in the product.
According to Microsoft sources, Mailbox Manager will be part of Exchange 2000 SP1, which Microsoft has tentatively scheduled for release in February-March 2001. New installations of Exchange 2000 won’t be able to use Mailbox Manager until SP1, but new systems probably don’t need to control user mailboxes too much because they’re reasonably clean at the start.
If you’re interested in an even more comprehensive solution to mail management, you can consider add-on archiving products that move messages off into Hierarchical Storage Management (HSM) systems. My favorite archiving product is KVS’s Enterprise Vault (http://www.k-vault.com), Other solutions include OTG Software’s EmailXtender (http://www.otgsoftware.com/products/ex/default.htm), EDUCOM’s Exchange Archive Solution (http://www.educom.on.ca/index.html), and IXOS SOFTWARE’s IXOS-ExchangeARCHIVE (http://www.ixos.com/en/portfolio/products/exchangearchive/index.html). Be sure to test these products in your operating environment before you buy.