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GFI MailArchiver review

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The Users View

MailArchiver's security is Active Directory integrated, which means no messy fiddling while assigning users rights to see their own mail and most of the time it just works. Users browse to the MailArchiver URL, login and see their mail grouped by conversations.  The conversation view is currently the only default view offered, and while useful, users may want an alternative view which more closely resembles their mailbox view with options to sort mail by date, sender, etc. This view may be achieved by creating a custom search for all mail, saving it and sorting the view it as required.


Speaking about search, searches may be saved. Why is this a big deal? Since search is a big thing in most peoples lives, having a saved search which updates as new mail arrives is enormously useful.

 

Mail may be 'labeled" by the user and by system wide labels generated for labels fitting certain categories. These labels may also be used as the basis of a search. This is quote a useful function when needing to associate mail with a type of function e.g. sales/marketing etc as well as associating mail to a project or event.

 

The web view may be integrated into Outlook by means of a web folder, i.e. creating another folder within Outlook and assigning it to the MailArchiver website. No offline client functionality exists at this time, which means that traveling users may see their mail archive if it's published securely over the internet.

 

MailArchiver and Compliance

 

MailArchiver allows all new internal, inbound, outbound mail or any combination thereof to be archived. For compliance purposes the choice here would be rather simple. Depending on your archiving requirement, having options to choose from as opposed to a catch all bucket helps greatly. Archiving may be disabled or enabled for specific users addresses or domains, which is a great feature for excluding service accounts and other automated mail processes, however, if you're arching for compliance purposes, you may want to stay far away from these settings and archive everything.

 

MailArchiver allows security roles to be created which allow a legal or compliance officer to search all email in the archive. Another strong feature is auditing the use of the archive itself, which is critical when proving to a court of law who has had access to the archive. Users and administrators activity within the archive may be captured as well as access to the archive itself.

 

A report which I would like to see in this category is one that reports on the state of the archived mail and the archive itself, i.e. is the mail in the archive the same as the one which was harvested initially? Was the stored mail or attachment changed or deleted in any way? While the audit trail goes to great lengths to provide reporting around logical archive access, mail and attachment data stored on disk are harder to report on without using native file system auditing functions to provide an extra audit trail.

 

Storage Management - Mail Archive and Exchange mail

 

MailArchiver fully supports remote storage for its storage requirements, including utilizing remote file and SQL servers. Depending on your needs and available storage, MailArchiver support a mix of file system and database options, allowing you to store emails and attachments in a SQL database, or splitting attachments and source emails onto a file system. There are pro's and con's to storing files in databases, especially when it comes to managing growth, so it's well thought out to offer a range of storage options, including storing your attachments and email onto a file system.

 

New emails are automatically included in the current archive due to the journal mailbox(es) being harvested on a regular basis and search indexes updated, however MailArchiver does not offer an option to offload mail out of Exchange once it has been gathered and stored.

 

While existing Exchange mailboxes and public folders as well as PST files may be imported, no mail or attachment stripping features exist to allow the offloading of mail from Exchange into the mail archive. This means that native Exchange features need to be used to age and delete mail, and while possible to do so, may lead to mail loss by accidental deletion of mail not present yet in the mail archive.

 

PST harvesting is greatly simplified by allowing an agent to be rolled out to users workstations and harvesting PST's remotely. These are then associated with the correct Active Directory user account. This may not sound like such a big deal unless you've had to manage PST's on user's desktops before. Having this available in MailArchiver is a huge plus and adds enormous value to the mail administrator.

 

Retention

 

With MailArchiver's storage management options in mind, archives may be created and managed automatically configured per period (i.e. per month, quarter, half hear, year, etc) and queued. If enough storage is available, archives may be configured in advance or added as needed into the queue. I do like this concept a lot and would like to see the option to offload onto secondary media.

 

Search and Retrieval

The user interface is web only, and while this is fantastic for ease of deployment, larger shops may like to see a level of outlook integration.

Search functionality is well implemented, allowing searches to be executed against mail metadata (to, from, date) and content. MailArchiver allows for searching in email conversations as well, which greatly eases the retrieval of a particular email trail. Once an email is found, it may be re-sent to a nominated email address or exported as a .eml file, available to be opened by Outlook.

 

Searching against attachments is not implemented however and in my opinion would benefit the search functionality greatly.

 

 

In Summary

MailArchiver lives up to its claims in providing an easy to use and powerful product. I have attempted to highlight specific areas of functionality under review:

 

  • Exchange Server Overhead - no agents needed on servers. Archiving activities may be scheduled and planned
  • Archive Retention Functionality - Well implemented with the option of rotating specific archives by period. No third party storage library support in the product.
  • Search - Functional and able to search across archives which are not live or currently used.
  • Ease of Retrieval - Mail is viewable via a web console, and able to be retrieved with a minimum of effort.
  • Storage Management - Several options exist for structuring archive storage over databases and file systems as well as supporting both MS SQL and a open source database. Existing mail stores and PST's may be imported into the archive, but MailArchiver will not strip or delete mail or attachments once imported into the store.
  • Compliance Functionality - Reporting and auditing features in the product allow for legal and compliance discovery as well as reporting on mail retrieval as well as the use and administration of the mail archive.
  • Outlook Client integration - Achievable via a web folder in Outlook. No offline functionality offered at this stage. Depending on your needs this may not even feature strongly at all.
  • User Experience - Easy to use web console for users. No additional software deployment required to access the archive or view mail.

 

Last Note: I have evaluated MailArchiver with specific criteria in mind to help drive a stake into the ground and provide measurement against chosen criteria. How MailArchiver lives up to these are based in part on my opinion and experience. These may feature entirely differently for your organization and as such I suggest you download and test MailArchiver to see how it fares against your own requirements. I

 

If you'd like to know more then browse to http://gfi.com/mailarchiver/ for more information or go to http://gfi.com/downloads/downloads.aspx?pid=mar&lid=EN to download the trial.

 

About the Author


Nicolas Blank is a Microsoft Infrastructure Consultant and Architect and specializes in Exchange, Active Directory, architecture, systems management, migration and scripting. Nicolas is a Microsoft MVP for Exchange and spends what spare time he has writing, blogging and talking about Exchange and associated technologies.

GFI MailArchiver review

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Copyright Stephen Bryant 2008