Email Archive Migration: Plan for Stubbing

Archiving technology is evolving, and this means that sometimes customers move between solutions. The migrations aren't straightforward.

A major area of difficulty is email "stubbing"--where the archive solution removes much of the email in an Exchange Store and leaves behind a short pointer to the removed information. Before archived data can be migrated to a new archive server, email stubs must be reunited or reversed. Sometimes it is impractical to put the email back together because of the space constraints of Exchange. In other cases, the archive solution does not provide tools to perform the stub reversal.

Here are some relevant suggestions when considering a new email archive solution:

  • Make sure the email archive product or service has tools to reverse stubbing.
  • Make sure PST export tools are available to assist the migration process.
  • Consider the amount of archive data that will accumulate in the archive, say over five years, and calculate if there will be space on Exchange to reverse the stubs.
  • Ideally, find an email archive solution that keeps a complete copy of email and attachments in the archive so stub reversal is not required.

... Bob Spurzem

One Comment

  1. Posted April 3, 2009 at 4:37 PM | Permalink


    As the leaders in the Archive Migration space one of the consistent questions that our customers ask is “what are you going to do with my stubs/shortcuts/tombstones/etc?”

    Our answer is simple “Don’t worry, we will convert them to shortcuts for your new application.” While there are many variables that we can apply to the update process, the key is that it is seamless to the end user. The concept of our application is that on Monday the user clicks on a shortcut and it is retrieving it from ArchiveA and on Tuesday clicking on the “same” shortcut retrieves the message from ArchiveB. While there obviously are changes in the shortcut itself since no two archiving companies use the same format for their shortcuts, our application maps existing shortcuts to new shortcuts on a one-to-one basis.

    I also totally agree on the key points of not putting data back into Exchange. Consider the fact that most organizations have 3-5+ years of email in their archive and 90-180 days in Exchange, the amount of volume that would need to be restored to Exchange would cripple virtually all environments.

    Our unique ability of working with all of the major archiving vendors is to ensure this seamless transition for the end users. To further your point on the ideal archive, ensure that if the existing archive platform does not do this today, that you select an archive migration application that can perform these shortcut tasks for you.

    Thanks for bringing attention to this key issue during archive migrations.


  2. Posted April 4, 2009 at 3:52 PM | Permalink

    Hi Bob,

    Excellent post. We’ve seen this a ton as clients migrate from stub-based solutions to our’s. Stubs have a number of great benefits but clients need to make sure they understand the migration implications.

    I wrote a bit about this at:


  3. Posted April 6, 2009 at 2:43 PM | Permalink


    An excellent post with some very valid points raised. Stub/shortcut migration can be a very daugnting prospect for some organisations at first thought – but actually, when you have the correct tools and technology behind you, the process is totally seamless – whether you are converting shortcuts from a single legacy archiving solution, consolidating a huge number of archive types in a multi-national aquisition, or moving your entire archiving platform to a hosted archiving solution.

    Some of the biggest challenges facing organisations relate not only to seamlessly converting the shortcuts, but also adjusting the content, style, watermarks and hidden properties of stubs – whilst fitting in with an organisation (and vendor) stubbing policy, and maintaining compliance.

    When archive vendors, migration partners and customers use our product to migrate or consolidate archives, transition into a new or existing archive happens in front of the users eyes – without even noticing the transition. No need for overnight migration, no need to worry if your Shortcuts are out-of-mailbox in PST files, no need to worry about lost shortcuts or loss of audit trail – all integrated as part of the end-to-end process.

    I think the days of needing to ‘reverse stub’ or restore to Exchange have become a memory from the past!


    Dan Clark
    Chief Technologist, TransVault Software

  4. Posted April 6, 2009 at 6:15 PM | Permalink


    Looks like you hit upon a topic that many people are concerning themselves with, great topic selection.

    Nick has a few great points in his blog posting as well. Too few of companies think about the “Exit Strategy” when deploying an archive. They are concerned in the here and now, vs. what will I need to do in 3, 5, 7+ years. The years of the data just going away are long behind all of us.

    I agree with Dan that the need to reverse stub or restore to Exchange are over and are clearly not on anyone’s best practices list. They key is ensuring you select a migration solution that eliminates the need for this. Thankfully there are many choices that will now enable users to select the solution that best meets their needs.

    The illustration I used earlier about the overnight migration scenario was just that. The reason most of our customers choose to perform an overnight migration of shortcuts has nothing to do with the inability to perform this in real time, rather it is due to the impact that users running Outlook in Cached mode experience with the vast # of changes occurring in their mailbox during the day.

    As noted in my blog post, we’ve performed migrations where customers had in excess of 60,000 shortcuts to process in a single mailbox. Clearly transparency is absolute key in migrations of this size.

    The one thing we haven’t touched on yet is also the key point of “what happens if my new archive fails and I need to go back to my old archive?” While this never happens 😉 – the fact remains that customers at some point will state “we need to revert back to our old archive.” So when selecting an archive migration solution, make sure you also consider the ability to roll-back all shortcut updates.

    Procedo, Inc.

  5. Posted April 7, 2009 at 5:54 PM | Permalink

    I’d like to suggest a fifth point for prospective customers to consider in the area of choices you might want to consider (and later reverse) – archive storage. I’d advise customers to look for flexibility in the storage support of an archive solution but also (and more importantly) look for the ability of the system to move the archive from one storage location to another, changing the format as required.

    There are a large number of archiving customers out there who are finding themselves in the position of needing to move to new storage – perhaps after the first three years worth of maintenance is done and they’re staring at a large hike in annual cost when there are lots of new storage systems coming to market with better TCO or technical capability.

    Almost all the systems in the marketplace leave you to your own devices at that point! Ask the vendor whether they have a ‘storage manager’ capability in their product.

    We’re happy to apply our archive migration for those customers who don’t have that option, but we also know that customers would rather have it as a standard capability.


  6. Posted April 8, 2009 at 3:04 PM | Permalink


    You used a very important word in your post – ‘plan’.

    Each of our colleagues above has made valid points with regard to migrating existing archives/archive storage, but there is no substitute for good planning. True, none of us have a crystal ball – we could find that our very reasons for implementing archiving five years ago (i.e. storage) are now superseded by another requirement (e.g. compliance/discovery), nevertheless I see far too many archive deployments where the word ‘plan’ was given little attention at the time of deployment. Soon after, the member of staff who originally ran the project leaves, and so the legacy begins….

    Good planning should ensure that many of the technology / solution dead-ends are avoided.

    The drivers for archiving are changing and therefore products and services like those mentioned above will by necessity become more relevant day by day. However a good bullet to add to your own list would be:

    • ‘In my solution design is there a verifiable exit strategy – and what would be involved?’

    Matthew Edwards

    bluesource, Inc.

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