Product Review: MailStore Server

Product: MailStore Server: Email archiving for SMB

Product Homepage: www.mailstore.com

Introduction

MailStore is developed by deepinvent Software GmbH, located in Germany’s Rhine-Ruhr region. Building off tremendous response from the success of MailStore Home, which from a personal archive solution for your home email is absolutely perfect for the home user to keep private email safely archived, MailStore Server takes things to the next level for the SMB market to benefit from.

From a business perspective, the case for an archive solution is easily made through the recent enforcement of regulatory compliance laws that insist on solutions, like this one, where the data is retained for many years. At the same time, if you have ever worked within a company that has been called to task for something and you have to locate archived messages, it’s important to be able to do so expeditiously, hence the need for eDiscovery to be built in to any solution you decide upon.

MailStore is designed to be easy to deploy and easy to use. It can safely maintain any amount of data for many years.

Let’s look at the setup and management tools and then we can discuss more in-depth features.

Installation

I don’t think the installation could have gone any smoother. Quite simply a Next-Next-Install that installs the product and then allows you to quickly configure the service using the MailStore Server Service Configuration tool (shown in Figure 1). I could have installed it on any system including Windows XP, Vista or 7, as well as Server 2003/2008/2008 R2 and I decided to install it directly on the server running Exchange 2010 in my environment.


Figure 1: The MailStore Server Service Configuration tool

The server configuration side is somewhat light (in a good way) in that you only have to determine the location of your MailArchive, enable a few features for either http or https Web Access or IMAP Server access depending on the email messaging solution you are looking to archive and confirm and review the various ports you might need to work with for access from the MailStore Client or the Outlook Add-in and so on. At the bottom, perfectly located are three buttons to Start, Restart and Stop the service itself. The Server Service Configuration also provides Event Viewer and Debug Log information if needed.

Beyond the service itself, the MailStore Client (shown in Figure 2) is really where you’ll spend most of your time configuring the features of MailStore. Everything is laid out in a hierarchical tree structure that we are already familiar with from other solutions we typically work with and this layout for MailStore is very easy to use. From a Help perspective I was also impressed with the extent of the Help available through their online Help options. With other products I’ve seen that are polished and easy to use it never fails that they’ve forgotten to make sure the Help documentation is up to par. But in this case I found everything I needed to get MailStore up and running without having to call support for any reason. That’s always a good thing in my book.


Figure 2: The MailStore Client

From an installation perspective the only other element I needed to install, for the sake of testing the client side eDiscovery options, was the add-in for Microsoft Outlook that creates a MailStore ribbon (shown in Figure 3). Users can use a browser as well to locate their data. Again the installations went smoothly, although you have to ensure a port exception is used if working with a firewall. All the ports are listed in the Server Service Configuration tool and with the add-in the default is TCP port 8461. The add-in proved to be a great way for users to search for and locate their archived data easily and without IT intervention.


Figure 3: The MailStoreOutlook add-on

Features

It’s easy to quickly see from the MailStore Client the flexibility of MailStore Server. Selecting the Archive E-mail option (shown in Figure 4) shows you the various email servers, clients and files that you can create profiles all from one location. My main focus was Exchange, and in selecting Exchange for the profile it gave me to option to establish a profile for a single mailbox, multiple mailboxes, public folders and inbound and outbound automatic journaling.


Figure 4: Creating profiles for archiving servers, clients and/or files

Before configuring the profile, the Help documentation recommended that I jump over to the Administrative Tools section and configure a connection to the Active Directory so that my users would synchronize over with their email accounts. This worked perfectly and now when I returned to configure my profile for multiple mailboxes for Exchange, the wizard showed me all my mailboxes by pulling them from the Users section. Once you finish walking through the wizard and either accepting the defaults or making some adjustments to the settings (which include folders to archive, possible filters based upon unread messages or a date range, delete options and a connection timeout) if you wish, the archive will kick off and will show you a simple progress bar that allows you to watch the process.

Note:
One thing I found to be odd is that the account you use to configure the archive must have “access to all Exchange mailboxes to be archived” and it mentions, quite accurately, that “Administrators do NOT typically have those privileges.” To accomplish this you have to create a central user account for “impersonation” so that this account can access the mailboxes but this account must not be a member of any Windows or Exchange administrative group. Knowing this little tidbit would have saved me several failed attempts prior to realizing something was missing. It was in the documentation though, so it didn’t take long to figure it out.

Once you have the profile configured, in order to ensure you have up to date information archived you can right click the profile and select Schedule to occur according to a defined trigger.

From this point you can click the Search E-mail option to perform a search of archived email and it worked well. Very quick (granted I didn’t have much email in my lab environment for it to have to struggle to find it, but the response was immediate).

It’s good to note that you also have an export feature that allows you to restore archived data. This export feature also makes migrations much easier because you can import email from a location and then export it to another location.

From here you might want to look into the Administrative Tools for more options from MailStore. There is a Compliance option where you can configure general compliance options like Legal Hold and Retention Policies. You can also create an auditor use with read access to all user archives. You can also enable auditing of specific events that will be added to the Event Log, as shown in Figure 5.


Figure 5: Auditing of users will be written to the Event Log

The Storage section allows you to configure additional locations for your archive stores. You can also perform an archive backup and view statistics regarding your archived mailboxes.

From the Miscellaneous section there are a cornucopia of different tools including a Management Shell built right into MailStore.

Pricing and Support

The pricing structure is per user and starts at $38 per user with a base account requiring a 5-user purchase for $190. As the number of persons using MailStore Server grows, the price reduces dramatically. At 10 users you are down at $28 per user, and at 3200 users you are all the way down to $7 per user. There is an easy to use chart available through the Web site.

As for support, as already mentioned, I felt the online documentation and Help structure was enough for me to get MailStore Server up and running without any additional support. I did reach out for assistance from the company because I had a question and they responded immediately and pointed me in the right direction.

Final Thoughts

I liked MailStore Server. I liked it a lot. I felt it was incredibly easy-to-use, extremely flexible, reasonably priced and well supported. There was only one thing that kept nagging me. While I could see the value in all other situations, I couldn’t immediately see why an Exchange 2010 (RTM or SP1) environment would consider using MailStore Server. Archive features are built into Exchange 2010 and improved with SP1 so it would seem to be a solution that was lost on the Exchange 2010 audience.

In asking the company about this it was pointed out that there are many reasons why you might prefer a third-party archiving solution over the built-in one and I have to admit, they won their case. One example is that Single Instance Storage is missing in Exchange 2010. So as items build up they not only take up storage within your environment but within your archive as well. However, with MailStore Server SIS remains and it will reduce the storage requirements. Moreover, the flexibility of the location of the storage itself within MailStore also allows for premium storage to be used for the more recent archived data while pushing older data to other storage media.

Once that last piece of the puzzle allowed the full picture to form, I felt confident giving MailStore Server the Gold Award it deserved.

MSExchange.org Rating 4.5/5


For more information about MailStore Server, click here.

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