Many Outlook and Entourage users have problems with performance. The program may take a long time to load, navigation between messages may be sluggish, and overall usage can be frustrating. There are some general guidelines for performance that can significantly improve user experience. In addition, ITS is enacting some small changes that should make a difference to users.
There are 4 core areas of a mailbox: Inbox, Sent Mail, Contacts, and Calendar. Keeping these folders under control will help performance tremendously. What does “under control” mean?
Some basic guidelines are:
- For best performance, Inbox, Sent Items, Contacts and Calendar each should have fewer than 2500 items
- Mailboxes larger than 2GB must have caching disabled or caching enabled for selected folders that total less than 2GB
- Keep e-mail on the server, not in PST files
Item count is the single largest cause of poor performance. For many users, though, the 2500 limit seems completely unattainable. This does not mean nothing can be done. One solution that ITS will be rolling out is use of Managed Folders. Managed Folders are created by rules that can be set on the server to organize mail. Using Managed Folders means that Exchange moves mail based on specified criteria to a folder whose items do not have to be counted when Outlook or Entourage opens up. The messages are still there in their entirety, however, they are not indexed until they are accessed. This often speeds up the performance quite a bit. Messages over 90 days old will be stored in Managed Folders. This includes Inbox and Sent Mail. These folders are fully searchable and there is no loss in functionality.
A quick word about PST and local mailboxes
PST files result when messages are pulled from the server store and saved locally on the computer. This option seems appealing because reducing the size of the mailbox on the server by creating these separate stores usually results in quick relief. However, there is great exposure here. This mail is no longer backed up with our central mail system backup. Corruption of these .PST files could easily result in lost mail. The local desktop backup will skip these files if Outlook is open while the the backup is running.
Entourage has a similar feature for local storage. A user can drag folders to the Inbox in the On My Computer section. This will move the messages or folders to a local mailbox. However, just like Outlook, this has major limitations for backup and recovery. Should this local mailbox become corrupt, the mail will be irretrievable, nor does the mail backup when Entourage is open.
Many users like to categorize their mail by making separate folders. This can be a very useful way of storing mail. The key is the location of the folder. A user can create folders within the Inbox (subfolders) or at the same level as the Inbox. This is a very important distinction. Messages within Inbox subfolders all comprise the total Inbox item count. Folders at the same level as the Inbox allow the user to move messages out of the Inbox and into a location where the messages won’t count toward the item total and where they won’t be indexed automatically on start-up thus impacting performance.
Location is also important with respect to how folders relate to Managed Folders. Subfolders of the Inbox will be subject to the Managed Folders policy. An exact replica of the user’s Inbox folder tree will be created under Managed Folders. Folders at the same level as the Inbox will NOT have their messages moved to the Managed Folder area. Users who prefer to create folders need to consider these differences to determine what is best for them.
Most of the performance problems that arise from Exchange are either due to limitations on the local email client program or users far exceeding the intended use of these programs. Wesleyan is looking into longer-term archival solutions in the next year that we hope will ease the burden even further and allow users a long term-storage option that doesn’t impact performance.
Entourage Managed Folders
Outlook Managed Folders