Archiving Outlook e-mail messages and their attachments into SharePoint libraries

It’s a common e-mail concern. Most of us want to get stale information out of Outlook folders. But we resist deleting those pre-historic messages because you never know when you need to track down that obscure reference to a forgotten project seven and a half years ago. We just hate letting go.

Although there are a number of e-mail archiving applications out there, you may not have the budget for them. So, you’re looking for a poor man’s mail archival solution. Now a great place to put these dusty e-mails would be in a SharePoint 2010 library. Although you can email-enable a SharePoint library, it may not be set up at your site. Besides, it splits any attachments from the .msg file, which may not be suitable for your organization’s compliance policies.

Here’s another approach that let’s you drag and drop your email messages into an archive, offload storage to SharePoint libraries, but still smoothly manage the process from within Outlook. This approach offers a number of advantages including:

  • Dragging and dropping e-mails from Outlook to a SharePoint library in .msg file format with all attachments present and accounted for.
  • Offloading files so you can maintain your quota and avoid your Exchange administrator’s reprobation.
  • Allowing you to still search, locate, and open the file from within Outlook.
  • Enabling you to use Records Management retention and disposition policies because the files are stored in SharePoint libraries. (Find more information about Records Management here.)
  • Optionally use SharePoint Workspace to further streamline your archiving operations.

Note Before you use any e-mail archiving strategy, make sure you are not inadvertently circumventing any policies defined within your organization about e-mail retention that are intended to ensure regulatory compliance, SharePoint governance, and legal risk management.

Tip It’s easy to track your Exchange quota and cleanup temporary or unnecessary files with Outlook 2010. On the File tab, click Info, and then click Cleanup Tools.

cleanup.png

Setup your environment in SharePoint

  1. To create a library, in SharePoint, click Site Actions, click View All Site Content, click Create; under Libraries, click Document Library; in the Name box, enter My Mail Archive, and then clickOK.


    Note
    It’s a good idea to set permissions on the library, which often requires several steps including breaking inheritance, removing groups, and then adding permission to yourself. Find more information about setting library permissions here.
    If My Sites is configured in your site collection, consider creating the library there for added convenience and safekeeping.

  2. To connect the My Mail Archive library to Outlook, on the Library tab, in the Connect & Exportgroup, click Connect to Outlook.

    In Outlook, the library is added to the Navigation Pane under SharePoint Lists.

    OutlookNavPane.png

    Notes

    • You can’t drag and drop email messages from Outlook directly into a Connected SharePoint Library.
    • Storing files in a document library connected to Outlook does not add to an Exchange Quota because the files are stored in an Outlook Data File (.pst) on your computer.
    • To open the document library directly from Outlook, right click the folder name, and clickOpen in Web Browser.

  3. Optional: If you have SharePoint Workspace installed on your computer, synchronize the My Mail Archive library to SharePoint Workspace, by clicking the Library tab, and then in the Connect & Export group, click Sync to SharePoint Workspace.

Archive the email messages

  1. Locate and select the email messages that you want to archive.

    Note You can use Outlook’s Instant Search to search for messages by size, date, and whether they have attachments. Find more information about using Instant Search here.

  2. Do one of the following:

    Using SharePoint:

    1. Open your My Mail Archive library in Windows Explorer by clicking the Library tab, and then in the Connect & Export group, clicking Open with Explorer.

      ExplorerBefore.png

    2. Drag and drop the selected email messages into the Windows Explorer folder.

      ExplorerAfter.png

    Using SharePoint Workspace:

    • Drag and drop the email messages into the SharePoint Workspace view of the synchronizedMy Mail Archive library.

      Workspace.png

    Whichever way you choose, the email messages automatically show up in the Outlook-connected SharePoint library.  

    OutlookNavPaneFiles.png

  3. To delete the selected the email messages from Outlook, press the DELETE key. Make sure you remove them from the Deleted Items folder as well.

Find and open archived email messages

How often does this happen? You really do need to track down that obscure reference to a forgotten project seven and a half years ago. When you need to find and open an archived e-mail, there are two approaches you can take.

Using Outlook

In most cases, you’ll find using Outlook is the easiest way to find and open an email message. You can use Outlook’s Instant Search to track down the file in the same way you track down any email message. You can limit your search to the specific folder in the Outlook Navigation pane or search for all mail items.
When you click the e-mail message to open it, you may get one or more dialog boxes asking if you trust the file source or if you want to save the file. But, you can safely ignore them.
To avoid either dialog box, turn on the reading pane (On the Outlook View tab, in the Reading group, click Reading Pane, and then select Right or Bottom.
Find more information about opening files from a SharePoint site within Outlook here.

Using SharePoint

Because the email message (and any attachments) are actually stored in a SharePoint library, the contents are subject to your site collection’s search crawling and indexing. This provides another way to find and open the email message.
But when you attempt to open the email message, there are several different things that can happen depending on your site configuration:
  • It opens in Outlook.
  • You are prompted with a dialog box to open or save the e-mail message.
  • You are only prompted to save the e-mail message.
The difference in behavior is dependent on your site collection’s Browser File Handling setting and whether it is set to Permissive or Strict.
Find more information about this and other Web application settings here.

About various limits and quotas

The e-mail and site quotas you may or may not be subject to are unique to each organization. See your Exchange and SharePoint site administrators for assistance. Each product — Outlook, Exchange, SharePoint, and SharePoint Workspace — have different sets of limits which you may need to be aware of. The following table summarizes links that provide more information about each of these various quotas and limits.
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