The Powers at TegRatchet Imports Incorporated (TRI, Inc) have decided to limit mailbox sizes to 300MB and attachement sizes to 5MB in an effort to...well...I don't really know. In 1999 that made a lot of sense, but now it's just an archaic policy when disk space is so cheap. Users are, thankfully, allowed to have offline archives in the form of PST files, but they must be stored locally which means they aren't being backed up. On top of this, no emails in the system are allowed to be older than 90 days, which is a fairly common practice these days for liability and legal reasons.
|Anecdote time: Brian and I once spent a 4 day weekend sifting through 6 years of Exchange backups for an investment bank that was getting sued. That covered Exchange 4, 5, 5.5, and 2000, and each restore required a domain to be set up exactly as it was when the backup was taken. We'd stand up a new domain and Exchange server, restore a backup, search it for a few terms that the court wanted, restore the next tape, and so on. When it came time to change versions of Exchange, the whole thing had to be rebuilt from scratch. It was a long, Mountain Dew and pizza-fueled weekend, and it is the exact reason why companies make it policy to only retain emails for a certain, impossibly small period of time.|
The user, let's call him Stan, living in 2011 and not 1999, has several issues with this setup, including the fact that he doesn't care one bit about why the policies The Powers put in place are there. Stan wants:
- More than 300MB of storage space for emails. His Gmail account is ~8GB. Somewhere in between would probably be ok.
- More than 90 days of backup, or at least a way to back up his PST files.
- More than a 5MB message size. Word & Excel docs can easily get larger than that now, not to mention PDFs, PowerPoint presentations, and photos.
In order to comply with IT, Stan would have to ignore number 1 & 2, since there's nothing he can do to increase the size of his mailbox. Instead, he'd have to regularly dump his email out to a PST file. The same goes for the 90 day email retention. But the PST file can't be stored reliably on a network share, so to back it up, Stan has to look elsewhere. In 1999, he would be stuck, but nowadays users have options, and the one Stan chose to take advantage of was to use Gmail and Outlook rules to set up his own archive.
Gmail gives you almost 8GB of storage space, and the attachment limit is 25MB. Creating a gmail account is no big deal, and there are dozens of other free email providers out there if The Powers have blocked gmail. Stan set up a new account, then went into Outlook and configured a rule to redirect all inbound and sent emails to this new, offsite email address (if you do this, don't forget to check the rule that doesn't forward calendar invitations, otherwise the outside email address will appear in all invitations).
And if The Powers have disabled server-side blanket email redirection rules, then Stan can still just add Gmail as a second account into Outlook via IMAP and right-click and move the TRI emails to the personal Gmail account. And if The Powers block IMAP at the office, then Stan will just move the email from home.
Regardless of what The Powers do, when the user goes to his Gmail account, he has access to all of the email he's ever sent or received. If he has to send an attachment that's larger than 5MB, he can use the Gmail account instead, and when his email is deleted after 90 days from the Exchange server, he doesn't care because it's still in his Gmail archive. He can access his archive on his phone, via Outlook, or any other web browser. Stan's a happier, more efficient worker, despite the fact that The Powers would frown on the fact that significant amounts of email data are being shipped out of the organization each day, unbeknownst to them.
The Powers Should...
- The Powers should re-evaluate their solution, period. This is an easy one to solve before it gets out of control. Hard drive space cost over $20 per gigabyte in 1999. Today, the cost per gigabyte of storage is less than 10¢. Data center storage is more expensive, sure, and maybe there are other costs associated, too, but what costs more: building a bit bigger email environment or ultimately dealing with the liability and implications of having all that corporate email and data living outside the organization?
- Build out the email system to be what your users need. If they can only retain 90 days of email, explain why. Explain it's their liability at stake as much as The Powers'.
- The Powers should not, for one second, think this isn't happening in some way in their organization. For the most part, people aren't doing these things maliciously, it's just that when presented with a roadblock, they chose to drive around it.