Firstly a bit of context:

I'm managing a business network with 30 windows workstations, each one has Outlook installed and configured for an Exchange account. The Exchange server grant 4G of space per account, but many users will fill up this space quickly. Till now the solution was quick and dirt: a local pst archive where to tranfer all old emails to make room for new ones. It works, but, it's a local archive and need to be backed up regularly to prevent loss of the emails in case of problems with the pc. Backing up a pst file is...tricky, since Outlook need to be closed and a large file must be copied over the network (even 10G for some users) or using some incremental backups like rsync (a pain to setup). This could hardly be done automatically (just because Outlook need to be closed) and not all users are able/willing to.

---end context---

Yesterday i came up with an idea: Why not set up a local IMAP mail server and configure an IMAP account instead of the local pst file? This way all users could store theirs old emails in this local account that might be easily backed up on the serer.

But...it seem too easy...and i don't find any reference to alike solution till now, so i was wondering:

where is the problem? What am i missing? Do you think that this would be a viable solution?


New facts and problems:

  • IMAP is a bidirectional protocol (it permit to upload emails) *;
  • Outlook (and other email clients) will force to configure also a SMTP server, this should be solvable using a fake SMTP server (to be verified);
  • Upload emails to an IMAP account seem a slow process (to be verified on the local network);
  • This method could work, but still seem an overkill

*** Or it use SMTP to upload?

  • Easier solution would be to archive every email recieved. This way users don't have to worry about backing up email unless they wanted to. There are commericial soluions to do this. – Ramhound Feb 11 '14 at 15:26
  • @Ramhound, that is not a good solution since it would also archive unwanted emails including SPAM, it might also create uncontrolled archives of sensitive emails. – Julian Knight Feb 11 '14 at 16:59
  • @JulianKnight - They have solutions that delete the spam and encrypt what emails remain. – Ramhound Feb 11 '14 at 17:05
  • That isn't stated. However, you could do that but now it is getting more complex as you have to make sure that you are doing things in the right order. In any case, you still are archiving far too much since most emails can be deleted - but only users know which. – Julian Knight Feb 11 '14 at 17:09
  • @Ramhound, Julian Knight is right, archiving all emails would be too much, and there is no way to set up an automatic filter (the only one that can tell if a mail is to be kept is the user) – lelmarir Feb 11 '14 at 17:35

Rather than a local IMAP server, why not create a proper IMAP server and give people access as secondary accounts?

Typical IMAP servers will store the data in a format that is very easy to back up and recover.

I think that @thims's answer might be better though :)

One minor issue with either of these solutions is that I don't think that users can set these locations as the archive location so that they wouldn't be able to use Outlook's automatic archiving. (Not sure about that though - can anyone else clarify?)

  • Yes, this is exactly what i meant, with "local" i was only mean, on the local network (and without send/receive capability) , just to don't have to set up static public ip and dns. I may do without automatic archiving i imagine (from what i can see it only work with pst files). – lelmarir Feb 11 '14 at 17:51
  • Oh, OK. Sorry misunderstood. In that case, that is a perfectly OK idea. It has the advantage of being fairly easy to set up (the IMAP server is the easiest part of a open source mail setup) & it's easy to back up. – Julian Knight Feb 11 '14 at 19:25

Just setup Exchange Public Folders placing database on a reliable hard drive and grant appropriate permissions for users (say, one user per folder). After that each user will be able to select his/her public folder for archiving purposes.

  • I have forget to mention, the Exchange server is not mine, and the owner will charge any aditional space i'd request. Nor can i set up another Exchange server (becouse of the price). – lelmarir Feb 11 '14 at 17:39
  • Ok, then why not just put there archive PSTs right on your file server and connect them by LAN? This is not the best solution for PSTs in work, but may be suitable for archiving purposes. – thims Feb 11 '14 at 17:57
  • Some workstations are laptops, and even for desktop pcs, i'd don't trust the lan connection for a file that need to be locked by Otlook, this will surely leads to corruption soon or later. And when a laptop will disconnect it would lose the archive, instead imap can keep a local cache. – lelmarir Feb 11 '14 at 18:30
  • @thims - NO! That's not a good idea at all. It is a recipe for corrupted PST files. Not only do MS not recommend it, I can say from first hand experience it is a very good way to loose large amounts of data (though that keeps your archive space down!) – Julian Knight Feb 11 '14 at 19:27
  • @lelmarir: although using PSTs by LAN is not a good solution but IMAP will not work at all. – thims Feb 12 '14 at 12:17

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