5 Reasons for Larger Email Inboxes

MailboxesMy colleague Paul Mah recently wrote an excellent article called “The Argument for Smaller Email Inboxes.” In this post, he laid out several compelling reasons why companies may want to limit the size of their users’ inboxes, and I encourage you to review Paul’s article, either before continuing with this one, or after. Every story has two sides, and his post addresses real issues companies may encounter if they simply allow unlimited mailbox size without first assessing their environment.

However, I have been and always will be an advocate for larger mailboxes. The larger, the better, and if you have the infrastructure, and the clients that can support this, I think you’ll understand that this is a great way to go. While my post here will address Microsoft Exchange, several of the ideas are applicable to other mail servers too. Here are my 5 reasons for supporting larger inboxes.

1. All email, all the time

I have had a Gmail account since the days of the pre-announced betas. My mailbox capacity is currently listed at > 7.5 GB. I only have about 412 MB of mail in it, but I have every old email I might ever need to find, no matter what or how long ago it was received. The oldest email I have in it is from 2001. In a company, I want the same thing. Who cares if the email was from five years ago? I know I received an email that has the information I need… I ought to be able to simply find and open it. I don’t want to have to parse through dozens of archives, or request a tape be brought up from the catacombs. Outlook 2010 has a great search tool and I should be able to use it.

2. Ready access from anywhere

If all the email I have is on the server, then I can get to it from anywhere. Whether I use Outlook on the laptop you just gave me because mine died, or OWA, or my phone, or my iPad, mail that lives on the server is backed up, online, and accessible no matter what happens to my client devices.

3. It’s discoverable

Sure, there are two sides to this argument too, however, if something comes up and you are served with a court order to provide emails relevant to an issue, being able to simply index and dump from the server is quick, easy, and keeps you from having to bring in the users’ laptops for imaging, pull tapes from years old archives, or any of the other fun things that might be necessary to comply with the order.

4. Exchange is designed with this in mind

Exchange 2010’s design is intended to keep all your mail on the server, ready for whatever client device an authorized user has to access it. Exchange 2010 has reduced IOPS per user to 0.1, ensuring optimum performance from the largest drives even if you are not buying top of the line SANs. Reducing IOPS was done with less expensive hard drives in mind. Since that does not come without its own set of risks, consider Database Access Groups and the self-healing capabilities of Exchange 2010.

5. PSTs (the alternative) are evil

When you limit users’ mailbox size, your intent may be to encourage them to prune their inboxes of unnecessary emails, but the result is they will create PSTs; lots of really big ones. After the first hard disk crash on a laptop (which will probably result in lost business data unless you can recover the PST,) the users will start to move those PSTs off to network shares so they are backed up. Congratulations, they have just crushed your fileservers. PSTs are NOT supported as an enterprise means for storing mail (KB297019) and you can read more about their performance hit on the network here.

As I indicated at the start of this post, a lot of the above is predicated on you having current version clients, the latest version of Exchange, and adequate storage for these large mailboxes. If you are running on an older system now, please keep the above in mind as you begin to plan for your new system. Whether that is for next quarter, or next year, being able to support large mailboxes offers significant advantages to businesses, and will make the email admin’s day much easier.

At my current company, we give each user, whether they are the CEO or an intern, 25GB of space. How large (or small) are your inboxes, and why?

Written by Ed Fisher

An InfoTech professional, aficionado of capsaicin, and Coffea canephora (but not together,) I’ve been getting my geek on full-time since 1993, and have worked with information technology in some capacity since 1986. Stated simply, if you need to get information securely from a to b, I’m your guy. I’m like "The Transporter," but for data, and without the car. And with a little more hair.


  1. Jamie · February 22, 2011

    I am all for this argument. Our company permits 250 Mb of e-mail for all employees, and there’s no way my inbox can possibly keep up. I have to archive or delete emails every day just to let them keep coming from internal and client resources, and it probably takes more time out of my day than it should.

    The difficulty for me is getting a global corporate policy like this changed even on a site level.

  2. Bernard Cassidy · February 24, 2011

    Jamie, word.

    But obviously many companies these days, even the big ones, don’t care much about this. As long as all their employees have inboxes, everything is going fine. Besides, they would see this as an additional expense for them. If only there are cheaper options out there, right?

  3. George Sinclair · February 25, 2011

    The company I work for allows only a couple of Gb and really I can’t complain. I personally think that 2 Gb is more than enough space for a company’s inbox. although I agree with all the points mentioned in this article, it’s important to point out the simple fact that most people working in a company, have their own personal email. A smaller inbox encourages employees to use their work email for business purposes only: sending memos etc… a small inbox also encourages users to keep their inbox more organized by frequently deleting any emails which are not important.
    Having said this, companies who offer small email space should consider not to block popular online email clients such as gmail or hotmail.

  4. alan · February 27, 2011

    As the world becoming more social, so are most companies. Many employees, albeit unproductive, are now exchanging personal messages, photos, and videos using corporate email inboxes.

    My point is, a large company inbox is essential for every employee even if some of its contents are personal.

  5. Ed Fisher · February 28, 2011

    250 MB? Ouch, I had more than that on Compuserve in the early 90’s! Show this article to the policy makers and maybe they will understand that it is not just you wanting more space. Good luck!

  6. Ed Fisher · February 28, 2011

    There are some cost effective options out there. Exchange 2010 has dropped its IOPS per user in part to enable systems to use less expensive storage. Combining this with a good archiving solution can stretch the inbox even more. I have an upcoming article about that, and will try to put a link into this thread when it publishes.
    Thanks for commenting.

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