Window of Opportunity for Tidier Outlook

Earlier in the year we explained the importance of having plans in place to replace Small Business Server 2003 (SBS 2003), Windows XP and Microsoft Office 2003, within your business, when they go out of support on April 8th 2014.

Since then we have been helping our customers cope with this impending change and in the process have encountered a range of common problems that businesses are experiencing, the most common of which involves how businesses have come to use Microsoft Outlook.

Outlook was primarily designed as a communication platform for sending and receiving email messages and documents. To this end, it is very effective and has become a staple of many people’s working days. The problem however occurs when Outlook is used as a way of storing documentation.

As we attempt to move clients to newer operating systems such as Office 2013 on Windows 8, the sizes of Outlook mailboxes that we are encountering are colossal. So much so that some Outlook mailboxes have become corrupted as the data is too large to transfer to a new operating environment during migration.

The practice of keeping large documents on emails is a bad habit and if you or your employees have been doing it, then it’s time for a clear out.

First, find out how big your mailbox actually is. If it’s over the limit your system administrator allows, you’ll know how much you need to reduce it by. Take advantage of Outlook features that help keep your mailbox size down, such as AutoArchive, filtered HTML and mailbox management rules.

AutoArchive is a great tool that saves the messages you want to keep to your hard disk drive, instead of letting them take up space on your mail server. You choose where you want your e-mail messages to be saved and how often you would like AutoArchive to run, and your messages are archived automatically.

By using rules (also referred to as filters), you can have regularly received e-mail messages, such as daily reports or mailing list messages, automatically moved from your Inbox to a designated folder. You can read the messages in a separate folder when you have the time.

However, the above just deals with the management of Outlook it doesn’t address the use or the bad habits we have all adopted, for example when we receive an e-mail with a large attachment, which could be an image, a drawing file or a detailed report, we may need other members of staff within our organisation to see this file. Our immediate reaction is probably to forward this e-mail with the attachment to those people. Now if that attachment is say 10MB in size and we forward the e-mail onto four people we have just increased the storage within our collective mail store (exchange) by 50MB, this not only has an impact on our storage requirements but on our backup requirements too, and if the recipients of this e-mail decide it needs to be forwarded on to other members of staff, you can see that the problem just expands. As they say ‘If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got”.

When upgrading systems it is a good time to take a serious look at how you store information, be it e-mails or large attachments and to perhaps look at alternative solutions such as Microsoft SharePoint that will allow for the better control, management and retrieval of information rather than using Outlook as your main document store. Simple things such as saving the attachment of an e-mail into SharePoint and then sending the relevant staff a hyper link to that document means that the document does not ‘travel’ around the organisation, taking up valuable storage space in everyone’s outlook store and perhaps evolving into numerous versions along the way, but resides in one secure location where it can be easily accessed and viewed/edited with built-in version control.

It can be easy to slip into bad habits when using your PC daily but by taking steps to avoid or curb the practices now, it is likely that you will save yourself and your business considerable time, money and inconvenience in the future.

For more information on this topic, or any others featured contact us.