Microsoft Recommends Against Stubbing

An important feature of email archiving is called "stubbing." This is a process whereby an entire email or just the attachment is removed from Exchange and replaced with a "stub" file. When the user opens the message in Outlook, the stub file retrieves the archived email and/or attachment from the archive. The benefit is reduced Exchange storage.

Microsoft is now recommending against the use of stubbing:

  • Search problems. If you retain months (and years) of stub files, several hundred thousand messages will be processed in this way. The probability of successfully locating a specific message with Outlook search is greatly reduced when you do not have a significant portion of the message body available. Users need to go to the archive multiple times to find a desired message. Third-party email archiving solutions solve the problem of mailbox size, but they reduce search efficiency and increase user time performing multiple searches.
  • Performance. If folders contain a large number of messages, even ones just consisting of stubs, Outlook slows down a lot.

Microsoft therefore recommends that third-party email archiving solutions be configured to move email content completely out of the mailbox without retaining stub files in the mailbox. For more information, read this TechNet article. The information targets Exchange 2007, but it is also relevant for Exchange 2003 systems considering third-party email archiving.

... Bob Spurzem

One Comment

  1. Posted August 7, 2008 at 4:55 AM | Permalink

    This is an interesting article on Microsoft’s opinion on stubbing with email archiving as far as Exchange/Outlook goes. Stubbing is coming for GroupWise soon too Some of the same arguments will apply with GroupWise stubbing.

    It is definitely worth stating that stubbing should always come with a health warning to customers. It suits some scenarios but it is by no means a panacea to easy access to archived items from the mail client, whether that is Outlook or GroupWise.

    All too often administrators think that stubbing is a one size fit’s all solution which can just be turned on and forgot about

    My advice to customers that want to use it and also have discovery as a driver will be along the lines of implement a policy such as archive after 10-30 days to get things into the archive store for discovery purposes, stub after 1 year to get things out of the mail system (assuming your archival system can do post archival stubbing), then delete stubs after 3 years to avoid unnecessary build up of stubs (users will manually delete some in the intervening period also), meaning that older items are accessed from the archive store. Time periods are adjusted to suit particular customer scenarios.

  2. Posted August 7, 2008 at 9:09 AM | Permalink

    I think Bob Spurzem is “on the mark” and also has a “CLEAR MISS”. Older “stubbing” technology present in some first generation email archiving solutions are dangerously fragile with respect to loss of data, loss of links, and spoiling the Outlook experience.

    However, new, second generation solutions like MailMeter avoid the problems mentioned by Bob because they remove only attachments from candidate messages (leaving the message body intact) and replace the attachment with a link to the archived attachment. The attachment is launched dynamically from the archive when the user clicks on the link.

    The advantages to this approach are: 1) the user’s Outlook experience is not spoiled by having only partial messages; 2) there is no need to retrieve the message from the archive to view it; 3) the attachments removed are the largest part of storage used in a message – giving big storage savings; 4) the attachments are retrieved directly from the archive for the user without going back through the Exchange server; 6) in case of a lost message, the user can get a copy from the archive.

    So we agree on leaving the Outlook user experience intact – don’t stub messages (just stub attachments). And do it like we do without an Outlook Add-in!

  3. Posted May 1, 2009 at 1:07 PM | Permalink

    I can kind of see your point Tom, but over complication of an already complicated messaging system such as Exchange can never be a good thing especially in a disaster recovery situation.

    It also doesn’t address the performance issue namely where more than 5,000 items in any mail folder in a mailbox can lead to latency and performance issues (you can find this information all over the newsgroups) – not the size of the messages, but the number of messages.

    The only true solution is to remove the whole message and attachment from the Exchange database.

    We use GFI MailArchiver and finds it works very well for ourselves and our clients.

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  1. […] items from the database automatically and leave stubs behind, but GFI adheres to Microsoft’s “no stubbing” guidance instead and does not do […]

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