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Three ways to archive lots and lots of items

Created: 14 Nov 2012 • Updated: 14 Nov 2012
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Rob.Wilcox's picture
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Many organisations which deploy Enterprise Vault allow users to have the 'Store in Vault' button. This allows users to manually archive items when their own individual user-processes deem that necessary rather than waiting for corporate archiving policies to kick-in.. For example people may manually archive all the emails related to a particular project a few days after the project finishes, or people may manually archive all the emails relating to a particular product quote after the quote has been processed into a sale, or sometimes people just want to clear out their sent items and archive everything in there over 6 months old.

Whatever the reason to perform the archiving action, there are often many items that need to be archived. The question is, what's the best way to archive lots and lots of items?

In this post I'll describe three ways to archive many items, allowing you to choose which is the best way as an end-user.
If you're an Enterprise Vault administrator then you can use this information to educate your end-user community.

Archive a whole folder

Email usage experts put people into two categories. Pilers leave everything in one folder, and people categorised as filers in an organisation will often store emails in folders in their mailbox relating to projects, or clients, or months or some other scheme. In this sort of situation, where all related items that need to be archived can be put in a specific folder, then these can be archived by clicking on the folder, and then clicking on the 'Store in Vault' button. People who have been with Enterprise Vault for quite some time will know that this ability was unfortunately lost with the extensive work which was required to support Outlook 2010, and the Outlook Object Model.

With the Enterprise Vault 10.0.1 Unified Client, this ability came back. You can manually archive a whole folder, and subfolders of it, if needed.

I'm not sure of the limits that the Enterprise Vault QA team would push this too, but I've successfully used it to archive a folder with 3 subfolders, each with 10,000 items in them (so 40,000 items in total). The response on the client is pretty instantaneous, and the archiving takes place in the background.
It does mean that it takes sometime, and if you issue the 'Store in Vault' operation on a folder, and after a few minutes disconnect from Outlook, or put your laptop to sleep, next time Outlook synchronises then it can incur a little time penalty as the changes to all those items in those folders are propagated from Exchange back to the local machine. As well as the time penalty there is data which is synchronised too.

Archive a lot of selectable items

Sometimes people can't easily put all related items in to one folder, but still have the need to archive hundreds, or thousands of items that they can select in some way. For example they may go in to their Sent Items folder, and select all the items prior to a specific date, and then click on the 'Store in Vault' button.

Doing things this way has a number of drawbacks. I have personally tried 100, 500, 1000 and 2000 items.. the results are that Outlook will often 'freeze' for extended periods of time, or lock Outlook up completely. The lower the number the better if you use this approach.

It would be fantastic to see this addressed in a future version of the Enterprise Vault Outlook Addin, or at least give a way for Enterprise Vault administrators to limit the number of items that can be processed this way by a policy setting.

Drag and drop to a folder in Virtual Vault

For users of Enterprise Vault that make use of Virtual Vault it is possible for users to drag and drop items into a specific folder inside Virtual Vault. Hundreds or thousands of items can be collected together this way, the downside being that sometimes to move the items from a folder in the mailbox to Virtual Vault can be time consuming, and can lead to the Outlook progress dialog appearing whilst the items are in transit. However even given that information it doesn't usually take too long though to get a collection of items from where-ever they were in the mailbox into a folder or folder structure in Virtual Vault.

The next step is to synchronise Virtual Vault. This can be configured via a policy to happen on a 'trigger', for example the number of items:

Even if it's not configured to happen on a trigger, a user can manually synchronise, or wait for their next automatic synchronisation.

This approach is also fairly non-impactful on the Outlook experience. It also copes well with Outlook being disconnected or suspended part way through the process. The only real delays are the collecting the items from the mailbox in to Virtual Vault. One small caveat with this approach is that the items are at risk until they have been synchronised. By that I mean they 'only' exist in Virtual Vault LOCAL files at this point. They have gone from Exchange, and they are not yet in Enterprise Vault. So if the Virtual Vault files are lost, damaged, or reset, these items could be lost. This particular part of this option is definitely something to be aware of!

Which way is best?

Given that there are three ways outlined in this post, the question then is: Which way is best?

There isn't really a good answer to that question because it really depends. In your organisation think about the users: how savvy they are with Enterprise Vault, the style of their email usage (filer versus piler) and their knowledge of how Enterprise Vault works, its history and processes.

My personal preference - being a filer - is to use the 'Store in Vault' operation on a folder.

Which way do you do it?