Office 365 is a fantastic product and allows organizations of almost any size take full advantage of the cloud and the redundancy, scalability, and lower administration costs. The most recognizable feature of Office 365 is Exchange Online as it is the cloud version of Microsoft’s Exchange Server 2010.
Unfortunately, as with most solutions that need to be designed for the masses, you have to make some architectural decisions that will ensure that the system stays up and running. One of those limits is that the max message size allowed in Office 365 is 25MB. This is a hard limit and cannot be overridden.
For the most part, this really isn’t a problem as you see most commercial email vendors or spam services limit their max message size to <25MB. However, internally between your own users you probably did not have a limits set and potentially have multiple 300MB videos of the company holiday party in everyone’s inbox.
So now that we want to move to Office 365 how do we identify ahead of time those users who have very large messages in their mailboxes and then after we do that help them actually identify and remove the messages?
Enter EX Folders.
ExFolders is a tool built by the exchange team that was originally designed to help perform mass permissions changes or other edits on public folders and was originally known as PFDAVAdmin. However as time progressed, the program became able to work on more than just public folders and with the removal of WebDAV in Exchange 2010, the name just didn’t fit anymore. It has a good number of features, but the one we are going to focus on is getting item and size counts of the various folders and items in a mailbox database. In today’s blog post, we’ll go over how to do that. I’m going to focus on the process for Exchange 2010, however the process is almost identical for 2003 and 2007 servers as well.
Download and Install EXFolders
You can download the files here (Technet Gallery). Make sure you get the version appropriate for your Exchange installation (RTM or SP1). If you are running Exchange 2003 you can get PFDavAdmin from here.
The tool needs to be run from your exchange folder and has to be installed in the bin folder of your Exchange installation (normally c:program filesMicrosoftexchangev14bin). Once you’ve copied the files there, import the registry key and start ExFolders as an administrator.
Connect to your Mailbox Database
Now that we are up and running we want to connect to your mailbox database. Go to File/Connect
Choose the global catalog server you want to connect to, any one will do but the PDC is your best bet.
Finally, select the mailbox store you want to connect to. You can only connect to one at a time so if you have multiple databases you’ll have to run through this process a few times.
This will connect you to your exchange information store and display a list of all of your mailboxes.
From this point, you could expand any individual mailbox and look ad individual folders or items. However we want to get an overview of item size so were actually going to do our work on the whole store.
Exporting Folder Data
The first thing we need to do is enable file logging so that ExFolders can parse the data, you can do that by going to Tools > Options and selecting to enable logging to a file.
Once that is done we want to export the folder data. You can do that by going to Tools > Content Report
The defaults are usually enough to get all of the data, however if you want to tear down to one specific user you could do so here. Click OK to run and then choose where you want to save the text file.
Depending on the size of the database and the general mailbox profile of your server this could take a while to run.
Reading the Data
Now that we’ve exported the data, we need to sort and filter to find out network miscreantsJ. To do that we will use every admins favorite tool for all data analysis, Excel! Go and find your csv and open it up in excel. Make sure that you let excel know you’re importing a csv so it can properly sort the data.
Once you’ve imported the CSV, the next thing you will want to do is hide most of the columns because they tend to just get in the way. The ones that we care about are Folder Path and Largest Item Size. Total number of items can be useful so you can ensure that your users are keeping their key path folders clean.
Sort your excel sheet by Largest Item Size. And sort from largest to smallest. After doing that you will get a list of the folder location of the largest items in your mailbox store. The size is listed in bytes so be sure you do your conversions appropriately.
Now we have to go out and work with the users on removing these items from their mailboxes.
Removing Items from Mailbox
Now that we know WHO has the large items, we now need to work with them to trim them down. Of all the methods out there, it’s actually most easily done through Outlook and that’s the way we’ll go through here since you’ll most likely want to coordinate with the user anyway before deleting mail.
How to easily sort by size via Outlook:
- Open Outlook and go to the offending folder.
- From there go to View and then Change View. Choose Single if it isn’t already
- If the size column does not appear, go to manage views and add it in
- Sort the messages by Size
Once you’ve done this, you’ll have a list of all the messages in your folder sorted by size and you can work with the user to remove them from their mailbox.
If they need to keep the messages, the easiest way would be to save the contents on a file sever some where or if they need the whole message save it as a .msg file somewhere. This way it will still index. I know some of you may say store it in a PST, however having pst’s around at all just breed bad behavior and we will all be better of by pretending they don’t exist J
Once the user has decided they are ready to delete the message, make sure that you do a hard delete of the message (<SHIFT><DEL>). If you don’t it will just move the message to your Deleted items folder and we will be going through this whole exercise again.
If you are going to be moving the users mailbox shortly after clearing out the messages (and/or depending on your retention policy), we also want to make sure that we clear out the deleted items recovery of the item. The deleted items recovery let’s you easily sort by deleted date so you can quickly identify the large item that you just removed. Make sure to purge that message beyond all recognition.
And that’s all there really is to it! After this you can continue on your process of moving your email the Microsoft public cloud.
I hope you all enjoyed this quick tutorial on how to handle the process that could quickly become a major headache of migrations of any size.
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