exchange online archiving

In earlier versions of Exchange On-Premises, organizations typically pursued 3rd party products for email archiving, so that older messages could be stored on more affordable disk while obtaining the ability to control how long archive data will be kept. Archiving, in general allows an organization to keep email data for legal and compliance reasons while keeping the cost affordable for the organization. Journal archiving can ensure that all email sent and received has a copy maintained which is especially useful for organizations that serve in highly regulated industries such as government or financial. Traditional archiving can be used to replace pst files that typically live in an unsupported form on network files shares, or to archive data that is currently in a persons mailbox. In this case the archiving process can be automated to apply retention allowing to email messages.  This allows your organization to keep existing email for whatever time frame is suitable.  Personally I have seen all of these varying strategies used over the years, and archiving can ensure your email will be retained in the way your organization requires it to be. So how does this work today with exchange online archiving? Let’s look!

Archiving Today

Today with product advancements within Exchange On-Premise, we can now run on affordable disk without performance degradation. Meaning that both the mailbox and archive data can be run on affordable disk.  This makes the Microsoft product offering for archiving more appealing.  Microsoft archiving also allows for pst replacement, the ability to meet organizational compliance regulations, users can more easily search messages from within the mailbox, and administrators have more control over how long the data is kept through simple retention policies that can be configured in the product.

With Exchange Online, the Microsoft product offering is essentially the same, but without the worries of what the backend storage will be. Administrators can ensure that email data is kept through retention policies in lieu of not having backups, and users benefit by having the search capabilities they need to do their jobs efficiently.

Exchange Online Technical Advantages

While we’ve already highlighted some of the benefits already, I wanted to dive deeper into them. So, other advantages of archiving include that the email no longer counts toward the user mailbox quota, with its own default size limit of 100GB in the current subscription options for Exchange Online. Data is also stored in Database Availability Groups (DAGs), which provide multiple copies of the data, across the multiple data centers used for Exchange Online. So there are many reasons to consider archiving in the Exchange Online platform.  For additional detail on this topic see

Also, archiving is NOT an option with ALL Office 365 subscriptions, so be sure to take a close look at your plan. The current strategy is that it is available as an add-on to some of the Office 365 subscriptions, but is included in the E3 and E4 level plans. Further detail on this can be found here

How to Get Started with Archiving in Exchange Online

So now that we’ve considered the many details on why we would use archiving, and the some of the technical considerations let’s take a look at what it means to enable this feature for your email within Exchange Online. There are a couple different ways to do this, and we will address both.
First, archiving can be enabled on a per user basis by logging into your Exchange Online subscription. The second option would be to enable archiving for all of your users. In both cases the simplest implementation approach would be through Exchange Management Shell.

Regardless of the approach you choose your administrator must have Organization Management and Recipient Management permissions to enable archiving for a user. For more information on permissions see the following article. Once this is in place you will be on your way to configuring this for your users.

Option 1: Individual User through the Exchange Online graphical interface

Exchange Online Archive

  • On the left side of the screen choose Admin, Exchange

Exchange Online Archiving

  • Under Recipients, choose mailboxes

Exchange Online Archiving

  • Select the User to enable archive for

Exchange Online Archiving

  • On the right side of the screen, scroll down and choose Enable under In place Archive

Exchange Online Archiving

  • Click Yes

Exchange Online Archiving

  • Once complete, click “View details” on the right side of the screen to look at your configuration optionsExchange Online Archiving
  • See below to visually verify that the In-Place Archive has been created

Exchange Online Archive

Option 2: Enable Archive Mailboxes through Management Shell for the Entire Organization

To get started with enabling archive mailboxes for your entire organization just follow the next two steps

Get-Mailbox -Filter {ArchiveStatus -Eq “None” -AND RecipientTypeDetails -eq “UserMailbox”} | Enable-Mailbox –Archive

Retention Policies for Archiving

Alright, so now we have archiving setup, but by default this option will only archive items that are 2 years and older. If your organization requires a different archive retention policy this can be changed. In this example we will modify these settings from 2 years to 6 months using Exchange Management Shell. While we are moving forward with 6 months, this policy can be changed from anywhere between 1 day to 24,855 days.

  • Connect to Exchange Online through PowerShell. For additional details on how to do this see the following article.
  • Once connected, run the following command to change the existing default policy from 2 years to 6 months
  • Set-RetentionPolicyTag “Default 2 year move to archive” -Name “Default 6 month move to archive” -AgeLimitForRetention 180

That’s all that is to it! Here is a great resource that covers these options and more related to retention policies in Exchange Online.


Within Exchange Online there are many options that can ensure our user email data will be retained in a way that meets any organizational compliance needs. Regardless of whether or not this is done on a user by user basis, or for the whole organization this is the direction required to start that process today! Happy Archiving!