Shivering on the 49th Parallel
Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Absolutely there is… and stop calling me Shirley.


Importing and exporting mailboxes is a pretty basic function, yeah?  Take for example, hosted Exchange. Exchange in the cloud. Makes you feel light, fluffy… makes you think of ice cream, puppy dogs and unicorns… but if you’re not careful it will also make your wallet lighter, too.

This is one of the big things in “cloud” computing these days, is a lack of governance. A few years ago, it was virtualization and avoiding server-sprawl. Then it was SharePoint, governing that from spreading across your network like a cancer. Now it’s the cloud’s turn.

If you’re paying-by-the-cycle for hosted servers in the cloud, or even just for storage in the cloud, it makes sense to store the minimum required and pay the least amount of money, right? Same goes with hosting your mail server in the cloud. In our case, we pay a small fee per-month to cover the server and the account and that sorta sorta, but then we also pay per-mailbox on top of that. What happens when someone leaves the company? in the past, that sort of housekeeping, or mowing the lawn to use another analogy, just kinda got forgotten about. One day you’re running low on space and you start looking around and you find 20-30 old employees mailboxes are still laying around on the Exchange server. You don’t want to outright delete them, and you don’t have a proper archive solution in place, but you want to get them off the server because NOW, you’re paying a few bucks per month just to leave them sitting on the server.

It’s not so bad if there are four or five mailboxes sitting around. if you’re paying $10/month, that’s only $50 per month or $600 per year… pocket change when compared to the rest of the IT budget. A rounding error. What if it’s 50 mailboxes? what if it’s 100? now we’re talking the equivalent of someone’s bonus and that’s the kind of money Accounts is going to notice on Monday morning, Michael Bolton! You and your shitty little decimal error!… but I digress.

Easiest thing to do would be to export the ex-employees mailbox to a PST and store it somewhere on your own file server for now. There are two ways you can do it: you can set up a profile in Outlook, log in as them, sync your mailbox to a local OST file and then export to PST. OR you can go to the server, right-click on their mailbox and “export”… except they took that feature out from Exchange Server 2010 RC to the finished product. Oh well, at least you can do it in the Exchange Management Console, right? sorta.

First of all, the power wielded by import and export is so great that mere Enterprise Administrators cannot hold it. Like the sword of fucking Excalibur, only the anointed, chosen one can pull  the Export-Mailbox cmdlet out of the stone.

Obstacle #1: add the “import export mailbox” role to yourself. Some of the blog posts I found actually recommended creating a new administrator account JUST for holding this role. I dunno about you, but I have enough passwords and logins to try and remember.

OK, so now I’m anointed, let me export the mailbox… not so fast.

Obstacle #2: you have to have Outlook installed. Outlook 2100 to be exact. No wait, it HAS to be Outlook 2010 x64. The version that Microsoft themselves tell you not to bother installing unless you have a specific need for Office x64. I suppose this would be one them. Once you have all those ducks in a row, congratulations, now you can do the sorts of tasks that are generally handed down the chain of command to the new guy or the intern.

Except I pretty much fly solo around here, so it’s back to me again. I suppose in the grander scheme of things, that because email is now evidentiary, and because of those ridiculous SOX compliance laws in the US and A, that you have to make sure no one can tamper with the mailbox, but what a friggin hassle. SOX is the main reason I didn’t even bother returning any phone calls for jobs in the US last time I was looking.

To finish off this tragedy, in order to exercise some governance over cloud sprawl, and save a few bucks per month paying for mailboxes that are no longer used, I’m having to spin up a Windows 7 Pro x64 Virtual Machine, patch it, then install Office 2010 x64 (even though I’m not even going to use it) and then install the Exchange Management Tools and configure those and Powershell, JUST to export some frigging mailboxes from the mail server.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011 13:58:04 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Rants | Mail Server | Microsoft | Servers | Windows#
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