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Using Outlook's Auto-Archiving Feature
to Remove your Old Emails - Is it a Good Idea?


Archiving means moving emails that you've received and sent, which you don't want to delete but will rarely, if ever, need to refer to, out of your Arrowmail Outlook Folder Tree and into a separate Archive Folder Tree.
Outlook 2003 is keen for you to do this and, by default, will prompt you every 14 days.
The Archive Folder Tree would, in fact, be a PST file stored on your local hard drive.

At first sight this sounds daft.
You've got yourself an Arrowmail account just so you can have all your email in one place and safely backed up, so why would you move some emails to a file, stored on just one hard drive and accessible from just one computer?
The answer is, if you keep 10s of 1000s of old emails in your Arrowmail Folder Tree or, worse still, in your Inbox, it will slow Outlook's operation down, eventually exceed your storage limit and make it almost impossible to find those old emails that are important.

Emails, to a large extent, have replaced faxes and phone calls in business as a method of placing orders and requesting changes.
Instructions in emails are used as official requests and so, when something goes wrong or there's a dispute, you want to have the emails you sent and received on the matter available as proof that you're not at fault.

In some industries it's a legal requirement to keep all emails for a minimum of 3 years.
This requires special archiving at your server or off-site where the archive copies are kept safe from "tampering".
This form of archiving is expensive and not required by most companies.

My experience is that I often look back at emails from the last 6 months to check exactly what I, or a customer, requested or promised, when a payment is due, check when I last had dealings with someone or re-read a conversation thread to refresh my memory on some situation that's cropped up again.
I look at emails from 6 to 12 months ago less often, 12 to 24 month ago ones very rarely and older than that, never.



Our Recommended Archiving Strategy

The goals are:-


The emails you need to access regularly are part of your fully-synchronised Arrowmail mail-store.

Emails from 1 to 5 years old are stored safely in one place making them easily searchable and can still be accessed conveniently, but maybe not instantly.

Emails older than 5 years can still be accessed from backup media.

The speed of operation of Outlook is not slowed by large numbers of irrelevant emails.

The storage requirement for your Arrowmail and Archive folder trees will not continue to grow indefinitely.

As much as possible, once setup, these processes are automated.



Inbox

This should only contain new emails and emails relating to issues that have not yet been resolved and are there so you don't forget that some action on your part may be required.
Emails in your Inbox should mostly be less than a month old as most matters are sorted out within a month or a new email arrives with updated information so the old email can be filed or deleted.
It should be your aim to keep the number of emails in your Inbox as small as possible.



Filing Old Emails

In your Arrowmail Folder Tree you should make top-level folders and sub-folders to store emails that you want to keep.
A top-level folder could be called Customers and each customer can then have their own
sub-folder.
When a new email arrives and you've read it, you decide whether to delete it, file it or leave it in your Inbox for now to "mature".

Emails that you always file and read later, such as Newsletters, can go straight to their relevant folder by using Rules.
To create a a rule in Outlook go to Tools - Rules and Alerts.
With an Arrowmail account, the rules are stored on our server so are in operation all the time, even when you're not connected and can also be edited, or added to, from any PC on which you use Outlook or from OWA.
Setting up rules is important when you have Push Email in order to stop you being constantly alerted by unimportant emails.
With rules, you'll still know when, say, a new newsletter has arrived as the folder it's sent to goes Bold to indicate an unread email.
There's more information of working with Rules here.

You should regularly review the older emails in your Inbox to see if they can now be filed or deleted. This is the last chance to delete an email before it goes into long term storage so don't be afraid to delete an email if it's contents are trivial.
I've seen too many cases of "Runaway Inbox" and anyone with 5000 emails in their Inbox, many of them unread, is never going to sort through them, and all they'll be doing is slowing down Outlook.
Reviewing your Sent Items folder from time to time is also worth it if you send large attachments as these can be needlessly taking up a lot of storage space.



How to Prevent the Total Storage Space Required for your
Emails from Growing Indefinitely

The storage space required for your filed emails will just keep growing and, even if you adopt the good housekeeping techniques we suggest and are realistic about the emails you need to keep, it can't be just left to grow indefinitely.

It's a chore to go through your sub-folders of filed emails, at regular intervals, seeing which email can now be deleted. So don't do it.
Let Outlook's automatic archiving process remove the emails that are no longer relevant, using the simple condition that, say, they're over a year old.
Outlook will remove them from your immediately accessible on-line email store and put them into an off-line archive, accessible from only a single PC.
This way, even heavy email users can keep within the 1 Gigabyte of on-line storage we offer in our standard Exchange Mailbox package and, when you setup Outlook on a new PC, it will only take an hour or so for an initial synchronization.

I've seen people who have 1000s upon 1000s of emails in their Deleted Items and
Junk E-mail folders.
At Arrowmail we're proactive about this and a daily clean-up process automatically deletes items in Deleted Items over 14 days old and Junk E-mails over 7 days old - see how we look after you!

It's important to only enable Outlook's archiving feature on one PC otherwise you'll have your archive split randomly across several PCs.
Preferably choose a Desktop PC with a backup system in place to do your archiving on and only use a laptop, on which the archive file is more susceptible to loss or damage, if you need emails over 12 months old readily available.

The archive.pst file should be regularly backed up to prevent the loss of the whole archive.
Finding where this file is can be tricky as the default location is:-
C:\Documents and Settings\Local Settings\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook which is one of those folders that, by default, Windows hides and obstructs access to.
I change it to a folder called Outlook Data under My Documents so if you back up your My Documents folder your email archive also gets backed up.



Changing Your AutoArchive Settings in Outlook

To access the AutoArchiving settings in Outlook, go to:-
Tools - Options… - Other - AutoArchive…


 
The AutoArchive settings page in Outlook


The full path to the archive file in the above screen-shot is:-
C:\Documents and Settings\john.smith\My Documents\Outlook Data\Archive.pst

Remember that there should be a tick in the Run AutoArchive every in the above configuration page on only one PC you use Outlook on.
This is the archiving PC, all other PCs where you use Outlook must have the Run AutoArchive every box deselected.

It's usually simplest to click Apply these setting to all folders now button and then, if necessary, change individual folders where you want different AutoArchive settings.
This changes the AutoArchive settings on all the folders in your Exchange mailbox folder tree only and not in any other folder trees visible in Outlook such as the Archive tree.

The 2 folders you'll commonly want to change the AutoArchive settings for are
Deleted Items and Junk E-mails.
Right-click Deleted Items and choose Properties - AutoArchive and select:-
Do not archive items in this folder


 
Changing the setting on the Deleted Items folder to Do Not Archive

Because at Arrowmail we automatically delete emails in your
Junk E-mail folder over 7 days old and in your Deleted Items folder over 14 days old, there should never be any emails there that qualify for archiving.



Finally, after changing your AutoArchive settings, you'll probably want to trigger archiving to happen straight away.
In Outlook, click File - Archive… and select:-
Archive all folders according to their AutoArchive settings and click OK


 
Manually trigger an archiving run  


When AutoArching is taking place, you'll see as indicator in the bottom-right of the Outlook window:-

 
Outlook indicator showing that archiving is taking place  


Archiving Your Archive

This is still not quite good enough.
Your archive.pst file will continue to grow over time at 250mb per year or even 1gb per year if you're a heavy email user.
Although there is no limit to the size it can be, the larger it gets the more inconvenient it is to deal with.
If it exceeds 700mb it can no longer be backed up to a CD.
Over 2gb and it will take forever to backup over your wireless network to another computer or NAS drive.

To complete the archive process, you need, once a year, to make a permanent copy of archive.pst to a CD or DVD and then run Outlook's archiving system on the archive itself, this time deleting items over a certain age.

Outlook won't run AutoArchiving on the Archive folder tree so you have to do it a different way:-
Right-click on Archive Folders and choose Advanced Find…
Select the Advanced tab, in Define more criteria: - Field select:-
Date/Time fields - Received
In Condition: select on or before
In Value: type the date you want to delete emails on and before, such as 26/10/2006
Click Add to list and Find Now
When the search is complete, select one item that's been found, press Ctrl+a to select all the items then right-click and select Delete:-


 
Using Advanced Find to locate old emails in your Archive for deleting  


For light to medium email users your archive.pst can contain 5 years worth of archived emails while heavier users might have to limit this to 3 years

The yearly CD/DVD you burn means, as long as you keep the CD, you'll still have a permanent record of the emails deleted out of your archive.
All your other archived emails from, say, 1 to 6 years old, will be all together in one place, making searching easier, and not clogging up the day-to-day operation of your main Exchange mailbox.

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