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Exchange Server 2010 : Meet Message Retention Compliance (part 1) - Enforce Records Management

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In business today, information spreads very fast, thereby making it difficult to track and maintain records. The demand to maintain records of communication between people has increased in order to satisfy legal requirements. There have been many cases in recent years of large companies that could not comply with government email compliance mandates, and many of them paid large penalties, to the tune of millions of dollars.

These legal responsibilities are accompanied by several technical challenges. When users are required to keep email messages about specific topics, they need a place to put them. Keeping them in their mailbox eats precious space that contributes to the user's email quota. If messages are kept in personal folders (PST files), they are moved off the mail server and onto the user's local hard drive or onto a network share. This makes the mail data hard to collect and search for. You have to find the PSTs on various client computers and on your network, hope that they are not password protected, and search through them for what you are looking for. When you are required by law to produce proof in a legal matter, not having access to these messages can cost your organization dearly.

Exchange Server 2010 brings a lot to the table to ease these pains. This section discusses how to implement the mechanisms that will keep your organization legally sound.

1. Enforce Records Management

There are two ways to enforce records management in Exchange Server 2010. The old method, adopted from Exchange Server 2007, uses managed folders. Managed folders operated on the notion that users would drag messages into an administrator-defined folder that meets the records management requirement of the message. This method assumed that users would be "filers" and file their messages away into separate buckets.

However, some users can be classified as "pilers." Because of the robust search capabilities in Outlook, many people will keep large amounts of email in their inbox or in a single folder. To find the messages they need, they simply search for them based on keywords. The managed folders approach does not work well for these individuals, so Exchange Server 2010 introduces the option of retention tags. With retention tags, individual messages can be tagged with retention policies that enforce the records management requirement.

1.1. Use Managed Folders

Managed folders are created by administrators in the Exchange organization and applied to mailboxes using a managed folder policy. Each managed folder has managed content settings associated with it. The managed content settings define what happens to the items in the managed folder when they expire. The Managed Folder Assistant runs in the background on Mailbox servers and applies managed folder policies to mailboxes on a scheduled interval.

You need to complete three tasks to implement managed folders:

  1. Create managed folders. (You only need to do this if you want custom managed folders. Managed default folders are created automatically.)

  2. Create managed folder policies.

  3. Apply managed folder policies to mailboxes.

1.1.1. Create Managed Folders

There are two types of managed folders that you can work with: managed default folders and managed custom folders. Managed default folders are the default folders inside a user's mailbox, such as the Inbox folder or the Sent Items folder. You can also create managed custom folders that you want to appear in user's mailboxes. These folders appear under the folder called Managed Folders at the root of the mailbox.

To create a new managed custom folder in the Exchange Management Console (EMC), use the following steps:

  1. Open the EMC and browse to the Organization Configuration => Mailbox node in the Console tree.

  2. In the Actions pane, click the New Managed Custom Folder task to launch the configuration wizard.

  3. On the New Managed Custom Folder screen, enter the name of the folder in the Name field. The field below it can be used to define a different name when the folder is viewed in Outlook. By default, this field is set to the same value that you type in the Name field.

  4. If you want to apply a storage quota to the managed custom folder, click the option Storage Limit (KB) For This Folder And Its Subfolders. In the text box to the right, enter the limit of the folder in kilobytes. For example, a 10 MB quota would be entered as 10240.

  5. You can also set a comment for this folder that the user sees when the folder is opened. Enter this comment in the field Display The Following Comment When The Folder Is Viewed In Outlook. If you check the box Do Not Allow Users To Minimize This Comment In Outlook, then the comment is always visible to the user.

  6. After filling out the fields as shown in Figure 1, click the New button to create the folder.

  7. At the Completion screen, click Finish.

The managed custom folder is created, but it will not yet show up in anyone's mailbox. You must perform these tasks first:

  1. Define what happens to items in this folder. (See the next section, "Control the Lifespan of Messages.")

  2. Apply this managed folder to a managed folder policy and apply the policy to a mailbox .

1.1.2. Control the Lifespan of Messages

Now that you have a managed folder, you need to set managed content settings to determine what happens to items in the folder. You can define how long items stay in the folder before something is done to them and what action is taken when the time period expires. You can also choose to forward a copy of any message placed in the folder to another mailbox, which is also known as journaling the item.

Figure 1. Creating a managed custom folder in the EMC

Although you can have multiple managed content settings for each managed folder, you can have only one setting for each type of item. For example, if you already have managed content settings defined for Calendar items in the folder, you can't create another set of managed content settings for Calendar items.


To configure managed content settings for a folder using the EMC, use the following steps:

  1. Open the EMC and browse to the Organization Configuration => Mailbox node in the Console tree.

  2. Select either the Managed Default Folders tab (if you are defining content settings on default mailbox folders) or the Managed Custom Folders tab (if you are defining content settings for a folder that you created).

  3. In the list of managed folders, select the folder and click the New Managed Content Settings task in the Actions pane.

  4. In the New Managed Content Settings wizard, type a name for content settings, such as Delete After 1 Year.

  5. From the Message Type drop-down list, select the type of content that you want this setting to apply to. For example, you can apply the setting to specific items such as email only. Or you can apply the setting to every item type by choosing All Mailbox Content.

  6. Check the Length Of Retention Period (Days) box and type the number of days that you want the items to be retained before an action is taken on them.

  7. In the Retention Period Starts box, you can choose when the retention period starts. It can start either when the item is delivered or when it is moved into the folder. For example, if you want to create a setting to delete items after one year, you could set the retention period for 365 days.

  8. In the field Action To Take At The End Of The Retention Period, choose what happens to the item when the period is over. If you choose to move it to a managed folder, click the Browse button to select that folder.

  9. After you have filled out these fields as shown in Figure 2, click Next to continue.

    Figure 2. Configuring the managed content settings for a folder
  10. At the Journaling screen, you can choose to forward copies of the message to a mailbox when it's placed in the folder. Check the Forward Copies To option and click the Browse button to select the mailbox. You can also define a label for the message in the field Assign The Following Label To The Copy Of The Message. Doing so can make the messages easier to sort through. Click Next to continue.

  11. These messages are forwarded when the Managed Folder Assistant runs and processes the managed items in the mailboxes.

  12. In the Configuration Summary screen, click New to create the managed content settings for the folder.

  13. At the Completion screen, click Finish to exit the wizard.

The settings for the managed folder are now configured and the folder is ready to be added to a managed folder policy.

1.1.3. Configure Managed Folder Policies

To apply managed folders to users, you need to add the managed folders to a managed folder policy. There are two parts to this process:

  1. Configure the managed folder policy.

  2. Assign the policy to one or more mailboxes.

You can have multiple managed folder policies with multiple managed folders in each. You can deploy different policies to different users, but each user can have only one managed folder policy applied to them. To create and assign a managed folder policy in the EMC, use the following steps:

  1. Open the EMC and browse to the Organization Configuration => Mailbox node in the Console tree.

  2. Select the New Managed Folder Mailbox Policy task in the Actions pane.

  3. In the New Managed Folder Mailbox Policy wizard, enter a name for this policy in the field Managed Folder Mailbox Policy Name.

  4. Click the Add button to add a managed folder to this policy. The Select Managed Folder dialog box will be displayed. Select either a managed default folder or a managed custom folder and click OK.

  5. After you have added all the managed folders that you want in this policy, as shown in Figure 3, click New to create the policy.

    Figure 3. Creating a managed folder policy
  6. At the Completion screen, click Finish to close the wizard.

  7. Back in the EMC, browse to the Recipient Configuration => Mailbox node in the Console tree.

  8. From the list of mailboxes displayed in the Results pane, select one or more mailboxes that you want to apply the policy to.

  9. Click the Properties option for the selected mailboxes in the Actions pane.

  10. In the properties dialog box, select the Mailbox Settings tab.

  11. Select the Messaging Records Management option in the list of mailbox settings and click the Properties button above the list.

  12. In the Messaging Records Management dialog box, select the Managed Folder Mailbox Policy check box. Click the Browse button to select the policy that you just created. When you have added the policy, as shown in Figure 4, click OK to close the Messaging Records Management dialog box.

    Figure 4. Adding a managed folder policy to a mailbox
  13. Click the OK button to close the Properties dialog and make the changes to the managed folder Mailbox Policy. You may receive a warning indicating that some versions of Outlook will not support managed folders. If you are sure that these mailboxes are using compatible versions of Outlook, click Yes to continue.

The policy is now created and assigned to your users. This policy will be applied when the Managed Folder Assistant runs.

1.1.4. Modify the Managed Folder Processing Schedule

By default, the Managed Folder Assistant runs every day from 1 a.m. to 9 a.m. During this time, the settings defined in the managed folder mailbox policy for each mailbox are enforced. The assistant runs once during this interval and stops. If it doesn't finish processing before this interval is over, it picks up where it left off at the next scheduled interval. You can adjust this schedule. You can also use the Exchange Management Shell to manually start the Managed Folder Assistant.

To adjust the Managed Folder Assistant schedule in the EMC, follow these steps:

  1. Open the EMC and browse to the Server Configuration => Mailbox node in the Console tree.

  2. In the list of Mailbox servers, select the server that you want to modify the Managed Folder Assistant's schedule for and click the Properties option in the Actions pane.

  3. In the server's properties dialog box, click the Messaging Records Management tab.

  4. Click the Customize button to create a custom schedule for the assistant to run during. You must allot at least one 15-minute interval between the time the assistant stops and starts again. Therefore, you cannot schedule it to run 24 hours per day for an entire week.

  5. In the Select Schedule dialog box, click the boxes that correspond to the hours that you want the assistant to run. When the box is blue, that means the assistant is allowed to run during that hour. You can see this in Figure 5, which shows a modified schedule, every day from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. After selecting the schedule, click OK to close the dialog box.

    Figure 5. Selecting the schedule at which managed folders are processed
  6. Back in the properties dialog box, click OK to close the dialog box and make the changes to the schedule.

You can manually launch the Managed Folder Assistant and it will run even if it's not within a scheduled time interval. You can do this by running the following two commands in the EMS:

Restart-Service MSExchangeMailboxAssistants
Start-ManagedFolderAssistant

The managed folder settings will be updated in your Outlook clients as soon as the mailboxes are processed. For small organizations, this could happen quickly, but it might take a while longer (potentially hours) for larger organizations with thousands of mailboxes. When the process finishes, an event with ID 9018 (or ID 9022 if you manually launched the process) will be written to the Application event log on the server. The event description will say that the Managed Folder Assistant completed, and it tells you how many mailboxes were processed.

1.2. Use Retention Tags

Retention tags are a new feature in Exchange Server 2010 that offers more flexibility for users than managed folders. With managed folders, users are required to file email away into specific folders. However, with retention tags, a user can apply retention settings directly to specific items. This eliminates the need for users to change their email management habits to conform to your organization's managed folders structure. Also, users can create their own folders and apply retention tags to those folders, effectively duplicating the same functionality as managed folders, but the process is controlled by the users rather than the administrators.

Retention tags are similar to managed folder content settings. You define the type of message the tag applies to, the retention period, the action that you want to take when the item expires, and the journaling options. Retention tags are linked to retention policies, which are similar to managed folder policies. A retention policy can be applied to mailboxes.

The following process is used for setting up retention tags for your users:

  1. Create the retention tags.

  2. Link the retention tags to retention policies.

  3. Apply the retention policies to mailboxes.

1.2.1. Create Retention Tags

You can create a new retention tag using the New-RetentionPolicyTag cmdlet in the EMS. You will need to specify the name of the tag, the type of items that the tag applies to, the age limit, and the action to take when the item expires. You can also specify a journaling address so that the message is forwarded to another mailbox when it's tagged. Some of the important parameters are listed in Table 1.

Table 1. Parameters for Creating New Retention Tags
ParameterDescription
NameThe name of the retention tag.
TypeThe folder that the retention tag applies to—for example, Calendar, Inbox, SentItems. You can also specify a value of Personal to allow the user to use the tag for custom folders and single items.
MessageClassThe class of item that the retention tag applies to. For example, this could be E-mail or CalItems (for calendar items).
AgeLimitForRetentionThe number of days that an item is retained for before an action is taken.
RetentionActionThe action to take when the message expires. The possible values are MoveToDeletedItems, MoveToFolder, DeleteAndAllowRecovery, PermanentlyDelete, MarkAsPastRetentionLimit, and MoveToArchive.
RetentionEnabledSet to $true to enable retention. This must be enabled before the retention limit applies to the tagged items.
AddressForJournalingThe address for where a copy of the tagged items will be sent.
JournalingEnabledSet to $true to enable journaling of the tagged items.

Using these parameters, you can create meaningful retention tags for your content. The following example creates a tag that archives every message after 5 years (1,825 days):

New-RetentionPolicyTag "RPT-ArchiveAfter5Years" -Type All 

-MessageClass E-Mail -AgeLimitForRetention 1825

-RetentionAction MoveToArchive -RetentionEnabled $True

1.2.2. Link Retention Tags to Retention Policies

Now that you have a retention tag created, you need to create a retention policy to link the tag to. You can use the New-RetentionPolicy cmdlet in the EMS to create the new policy. You can link the retention tags to the policy when you create it, or you can do it later. The following example creates a new retention policy and applies the tag we created previously:

New-RetentionPolicy "RP-FinancialTeam" 

-RetentionPolicyTagLinks "RPT-ArchiveAfter5Years"

You can also link a retention tag to an existing policy using the Set-RetentionPolicy cmdlet. You will need to specify the RetentionPolicyTagLinks parameter and list all the tags that apply to the policy, separated by commas.

If you omit a retention tag that is already linked to the retention policy, the tag will be removed.


The following example illustrates how the retention tag is linked to an existing retention policy:

Set-RetentionPolicy "RP-FinancialTeam" 

-RetentionPolicyTagLinks "RPT-ArchiveAfter5Years",

"RPT-Default"

1.2.3. Apply Retention Policies to Mailboxes

After the retention policy is created and retention tags are linked to it, you can apply the policy to mailboxes. To do this, use the Set-Mailbox cmdlet with the RetentionPolicy parameter:

Set-Mailbox "John Smith" -RetentionPolicy RP-FinancialTeam

You may receive a prompt indicating that retention policies are only supported by certain Outlook versions. If you are sure that the user using this mailbox meets this requirement, press Y and then Enter to continue. The policy will be applied on the next scheduled managed folder processing run.

1.3. Suspend Retention Policies on a Mailbox

If users are away for an extended period of time, such as on vacation, it might be a good idea to suspend any retention policies until they get back. If not, users might not get an opportunity to review any messages that the retention policy would cause to be deleted or moved. You can do this by placing a mailbox on retention hold.

Be careful not to confuse retention hold and litigation hold. In retention hold, the messages can be deleted permanently and not returned in discovery searches. But in litigation hold, everything is kept for as long as the mailbox is in litigation hold. Retention hold just suspends the retention policies so that items aren't deleted or moved while the user is away.


To place a mailbox on retention hold using the EMC, follow these steps:

  1. Open the EMC and browse to the Recipient Configuration => Mailbox node in the Console tree.

  2. In the Results pane, select the mailbox that you want to place on retention hold.

  3. In the Actions pane, click Properties for the mailbox that you have selected.

  4. In the properties dialog box for the mailbox, select the Mailbox Settings tab.

  5. In the list of mailbox settings, select Messaging Records Management and click the Properties button.

  6. In the Messaging Records Management dialog box, select the Enable Retention Hold For Items In This Mailbox check box. If you know the time period that the user will be away, you can set a start and end date for the retention hold, as you can see in Figure 6.

    When the time expires, retention hold is automatically lifted from the mailbox. Click OK to close the Messaging Records Management dialog box.

  7. Click OK to close the properties dialog box and apply the retention hold.

To place a mailbox on retention hold in the EMS, you can use the Set-Mailbox cmdlet with the EnableRetentionHold parameter, as shown here:

Set-Mailbox "John Smith" -RetentionHoldEnabled $true

When the user returns to work, you can take the mailbox out of retention hold by setting the RetentionHoldEnabled parameter to $false.

Figure 6. Setting a time period for retention hold

1.4. Convert from Managed Folders to Retention Tags

Both managed folders and retention tags exist in Exchange Server 2010. They both accomplish the same goal. If your environment consists only of Outlook versions that can support retention tags (such as Outlook 2010), you can solely use retention tags for managing content instead of managed folders. You can convert your existing managed folders into retention tags by using an existing managed folder as a template.

To create a retention tag that uses a managed folder as a template, you can run the New-RetentionPolicyTag cmdlet and specify the ManagedFolderToUpgrade parameter. The following example creates a new retention tag that mirrors an existing managed folder:

New-RetentionPolicyTag "RPT-ProjectABC" 

-ManagedFolderToUpgrade "Project ABC"
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