In this article, I will be covering some of the most useful (and sometimes unknown) features found in Mail Attender. Mail Attender is a robust administrative tool designed to provide complete control over the content found in Exchange and O365 mailboxes, online archives and public folders, as well as PST files located on both network shares and end-users’ machines. For instance, if you need to ingest PST data back into Exchange, apply retention policies against these email stores or find messages related to a specific project, you can do so with Mail Attender. Mail Attender is readily configurable, and its options are limitless. Additionally, its processes can be automated, making it a true powerhouse.
There are several different types of tasks that can be automated in Mail Attender; for instance, the automation of rules is commonly known and utilized. In Mail Attender, rules define how the items found in your mailboxes, online archives, public folders and PST files are processed. They are the most frequent type of tasks run in Mail Attender. To “automate” a rule, administrators can specify schedules for when and how often it will be applied. The remaining automated tasks found in Mail Attender comprise the advance features covered in this article.
Automated searches are used to routinely identify the email stores in your organization. For example, you can create a search to automatically add mailboxes found in your environment, and also revoke the licenses of those who have been removed. That way, when new employees are hired and added to AD or Exchange, they are automatically added to Mail Attender; on the other hand, if anyone were to leave the company and subsequently be removed from AD or Exchange, you can configure the search to ensure any future processing on those users is stopped.
Additionally, you can use automated searches to build dynamic groups. Groups are a list of email stores that are added to Mail Attender rules to help determine what will be processed in the rule. You can construct your groups to guarantee specific email stores are processed, while others are not. For instance, if any user is placed on a legal hold, you can create a search that builds an exceptions group to guarantee its members are not processed by Mail Attender. Using such a search, the exceptions group will dynamically change as users are added and removed from the legal hold.
Once you have your automated searches configured, there should be little need to manage the email stores Mail Attender will process.
Sample of Automated Searches Found in Console
Determining the Owners of PST Files
In Mail Attender, an AD user can be assigned as the owner of a mailbox, an online archive and PST files. Assigning ownership to these email stores ensures that further automation can occur. For example, if the user is in a legal hold and cannot be processed, you can setup Mail Attender to ensure the email stores he/she “owns” (i.e. the mailbox, online archive and PST files) will not be processed (this would be used in conjunction with automated searches, which were discussed earlier) . Similarly, if you are trying to ingest PST files into Exchange, its ownership allows you to dynamically ingest the data into the proper user’s mailbox or online archive.
Assigning an owner to a mailbox or an online archive can be done within an automated search:
Automatically Assigning Owners to Mailboxes
However, determining the owner of a PST file is trickier. Without having some sort of automated process, you would have to manually assign each PST file with an owner, and the name and location of the PST file typically give little help with this assignment. Plus, the number of PST files in your environment can make this task even more daunting. If you have 100 users who each have five PST files, that is 500 PST assignments that need to be made; the chance for human error is high. A company with thousands if not hundreds of thousands of PST files is not out of the ordinary. Can you imagine manually mapping a user to each of those PST files? To make this easier, Mail Attender offers two ways to automate the ownership assignment:
- Based on the logged-on user
- Running a scan for ownership
First, you can change a setting in the Mail Attender console such that the logged-on user will be automatically assigned as the owner of the PST file. This assignment is quick since no data analysis occurs in determining the owner; however, this will only work for desktop-based PST files (i.e. PST files managed by the Mail Attender Desktop Agent). Network-based PST files cannot use this assignment since the logged-on user is not applicable. Nonetheless, many companies only have PST files on the end-users machines, making this a viable solution.
The second method, scanning the PST file to determine the ownership, can be performed on any type of PST file. This will initialize a process that analyzes the sender and recipients of each message in the file. Based on a weighted system, the top five addresses are recorded. If a threshold is exceeded (i.e. the top user is higher than the specified percentage) and the address can be located in AD, then the owner of the PST file is automatically assigned. Although the scan for ownership can process both network- and desktop-based PST files, Mail Attender does need some time to perform this analysis, which means this assignment method takes longer compared to the first method.
The scan for ownership is configurable. For instance, you can increase or decrease the threshold to better suit your needs (and avoid potential false positives or negatives). Additionally, you can specify multiple domains to search against. That is to say, Mail Attender can be configured to search for users across multiple domains, if your environment requries this step.
Since Mail Attender can be so highly automated, many administrators will forget that it is even running. What if a user is added to Exchange, but Mail Attender does not have the appropriate permissions to process it? Or, what if you migrate to a new Exchange server that has throttling policies enabled which may prevent Mail Attender from consistently accessing it?
Note: Both Exchange 2010 and 2013 have throttling policies enabled by default. You can read more about Exchange 2010 throttling policies here.
Notifications allow administrators to remotely monitor Mail Attender as they automatically send alerts when certain behaviors occur within Mail Attender. For instance, you can configure notifications to be sent when processing errors occur; notifications are sent via email to any email address specified. If the notification is regarding an error, it will include the processing log file as an attachment so you can begin troubleshooting the issue without needing to log into the Mail Attender machine. You can also configure notifications to be sent when rules start or finish processing, as well as when reports are created. (Reports are generated by rules and will list the items that were processed or provide a summary of what was processed.) Depending on how you setup the notifications, you can vary how closely you want to monitor Mail Attender.
Other Features in Mail Attender
As you can see, there are many automated processes that will allow you to better utilize Mail Attender. Mail Attender is truly a “set it and forget it” application, and you can configure it to do pretty much any administrative task.
If there are any features you would like to see in Mail Attender, please contact Sherpa Software. We are driven by feedback and almost everything you see in Mail Attender was requested by a user.
If you would like to try Mail Attender, click here to register for a free 30-day trial.