What is Outlook Online Archiving?

The Online Archive is the new preferred method of archiving mail messages.  Instead of manually creating Personal Folder files in Outlook and having to move your messages into them when your mailbox gets full (and then trying to manage the personal folder files when they become too large or when they get corrupted), the Online Archive can be thought of as a second copy of your mailbox where messages are automatically archived after a period of time.

This archive is always online and never needs to be manually reconnected by you, even if you move to a different PC or use the remote desktop services on the Sentinel server or even Webmail.

This article will cover some of the features, and how to setup and use the Online Archive.  After reading this page, if you have other questions please don't hesitate to contact Computer Services by phone, email or Online Request Form.

When are messages archived, and how long are they kept?

By default, all messages in folders and subfolders over 2 months old are automatically archived. Messages are retained in your online archive mailbox for the agreed retention period, which for most people, is 5 years (guideline provided by FOIPOP).  After that, they are automatically deleted from the archive (and are recoverable for a period of 30 days after deletion).

How are messages and folders moved to the archive?

Any existing folders in your mailbox will be automatically created in the online archive as needed, when items in that folder have reached the age of 2 months. Messages are moved into the online archive folders as they reach the archive age; i.e. for future messages, simply file them in your mailbox folders as you normally would and they will be archived automatically to the Online Archive in two months’ time.

There is no need to manually create folders or move items on a regular basis, but if you wish to move items from a Personal Folder (PST) file to your Online Archive, you can do so.

What folders are archived?

All folders (and their subfolders) and their contents in your mailbox are archived automatically, except for the following:

  • Calendar (entries are removed from your Calendar after 5 years, however)
  • Contacts
  • Journal
  • Notes
  • Suggested Contacts
  • Tasks

These folders are not archived because:

  • Calendar, Notes and Tasks are often synced with smartphones and PDAs. Archiving these folders would likely cause problems (or at least inconveniences) for those people who operate this way, and since these items take up very little room, we chose to NOT archive them.  
  • It is unreasonable to think that just because a Contact, Journals or Suggested Contact has been in your Outlook for 5 years, that you no longer wish to see them listed.  From a day to day operating perspective, that just doesn't make sense so these things remain active all the time and are not archived.

Can I configure the Online Archive to skip a folder?

At this point, No.  The concern was that people would start applying the "don't archive this folder" tag to numerous folders, thus defeating the efficiencies gained by archiving.  We understand that there can be a requirement to want to have email older than 60 days in your mailbox, however since the Online Archive is available from all locations (on campus, Sentinel, Webmail), the only inconvenience is that you might now have to look in two folders for some items due to the age of the items, rather than one.

Where is the archived mail stored?

The Online Archive mailboxes are stored on a different disk array from regular mailboxes, and that disk array is slightly slower and cheaper. This helps us reserve our fast disk storage for mailboxes and current e-mail instead of using it as an expensive storage repository.

How much archive space do we have?

We can essentially offer ‘unlimited’ archive space – right now we have approximately 2 terabytes of disk space available for the online archive message stores. Contrast that to the ~ 300 gigabytes that everyone’s mailboxes occupy. Of course, we may need to add disk space in the future.

Why can’t I just keep all mail in my mailbox?

If everyone kept all their e-mail in their mailbox, we’d soon run out of disk space and no one would be able to send or receive messages. 

Also extremely large mailboxes make it very difficult to backup (and restore) mailboxes in a timely manner. By moving to Online Archive folders, we remove the possibility that you will ever again see the message “Your mailbox is over its size limit”.

Why can’t I keep using Personal Archive folders on my Z: drive?

Personal Archive folders (also called PST files) were never really designed to be an enterprise-class storage mechanism for e-mail, their architecture lends itself very poorly to use on a network drive.  Almost everyone has experienced a corrupt PST folder or a missing PST file at some time.  These are examples of issues that are caused by storing PST files on network drives.

We’re also finding that PST files are occupying large amounts of space on our main file server (which houses the Z: drives for everyone), which is impacting our ability to provide file storage space; as well as affecting the backups of the file server.  PST files are horribly inefficient and place a burden on file servers.  By using the Online Archive feature we remove the never-ending cycle of PST files being created to store more mail, which take up more space on our file server, which requires us to purchase more disk storage.

More in-depth discussion on these issues can be found here: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/297019

PST files require you to manually create/manage your folder structure as well as manually archive your messages, and then manually manage your PST files in your Outlook profile... by moving to the Online Archive feature, we’re removing that manual effort and saving you time!  Also, PST files are not accessible via web mail.

Are my Personal Folder (PST) files automatically imported into the Online Archive?

At this point, no– we do not have the functionality in place to automatically import everyone’s PST file(s) into their Online Archive. If you wish to move some important folders from your PST into your Online Archive mailbox, you may do so by dragging them into an appropriate place in your mailbox and then letting the Online Archive system take care of moving them into your Online Archive folders based on their age.

It is possible that in the distant future, the capability might exist for us to automatically import. But if the mail is important to you, we wouldn't recommend waiting because we don’t know when that capability will be available.

If you need to keep your PST files for archival purposes, we suggest disconnecting them from Outlook and burning them to DVD for safekeeping elsewhere, instead of on your Z: drive.

Will my PST files always be available to me the old fashioned way?

You may be considering keeping your existing PSTs on the Z: drive for historical storage.  There are several reasons why that is not the preferred method:

  • The existing challenges with PSTs (access, size restriction etc.) will still be a part of your life. If you've had any difficulties using PST files in the past, you’ll know that using an alternate method is preferred!
  • The space issues that are solved by Online Archiving are negated because you will have kept all of your old stuff in exactly the same place it’s always been (and where it causes trouble)

As mentioned above, you can certainly move messages/folders out of your PST files and into your mailbox if you want to keep them front and center.  But if they do not need to be available immediately, we recommend that you disconnect them from Outlook (and then close Outlook), and then burn the PSTs onto a DVD for safekeeping offline.

Does the archive get backed-up?

Yes, it’s backed-up each night.

Can I access the archive with my smartphone/tablet?

Yes and no… you cannot access the archive mailbox with the regular mail sync client (“ActiveSync”) found on iPhone/Android/Blackberry/tablet devices – it would be impractical to try and sync folders from a large archive to a smartphone or tablet.

However, you can access the archive (and your mailbox) if you use webmail via the browser on those devices.  Navigate to http://webmail.royalroads.ca and enter your RRU username and password at the login screen.  It’s not very convenient on a small screen like on a smartphone, but workable if absolutely necessary.

Can I access the archive with a Mac?

Yes and No.

No” - At this time, Outlook 2011 for Mac does not support the Online Archive – it may be supported in a future release.  More on Technet.

And “yes” it is accessible with Outlook 2013 and higher and via a web browser when using webmail (http://webmail.royalroads.ca).

More info?

How can I search Online Archiving?