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By: Bob Spurzem on June 23rd, 2016

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Journal Archive Data – The Elephant in the Room

Office 365 | Journal | Email Archive Migration

Elephant_Blog.jpgAre you familiar with the concept of Exchange Journal Data?  Many are not so let me give you a quick refresher.  Journaling has been a mainstay of the Exchange Server for many years.  In fact, it was introduced in a Service Pack for Exchange 2000 and has been a feature ever since.  Journaling is enabled per mailbox and sends a copy of every message sent or received to a designated storage location, in many cases an email archive.

So what is the main purpose of journaling?  Journaling fulfills record keeping requirements for important industry regulations which require that all communication be preserved in an unaltered manner.  For example, organizations in the financial industry rely on the journaling feature to meet the very prescriptive SEC record keeping regulations. 

When journaling is enabled, it generates a substantial amount of data.  Depending on the number of mailboxes enabled, the total journal data store can easily exceed the total size of the email archive.  Remember, journal data is usually required to meet regulatory compliance requirements and is not meant to be accessed by end users.  Journal data is usually kept in a secure repository for the length of time required by law, i.e. 7 years for SEC 17a-4.

The Elephant in the Room

Fast forward to the present. You’re planning a migration of an on premise Exchange Server to the Microsoft Office 365 cloud.  The first thing to ask is; do you have a legacy email archive?  If the answer is yes, it’s very likely (greater than 80%) that you also have journal data that should be migrated as well. 


But the question is; what should be done with your archive journal data?  According to Microsoft, they do NOT want journal data migrated into Office 365. Microsoft has published guidance via a TechNet article addressing this question:

You can't designate an Office 365 mailbox as a journaling mailbox. You can deliver journal reports to an on-premises archiving system or a third-party archiving service. If you’re running a hybrid deployment with your mailboxes split between on-premises servers and Office 365, you can designate an on-premises mailbox as the journaling mailbox for your Office 365 and on-premises mailboxes.    Read More

When talking to experts at Microsoft, they suggest keeping your legacy email archive up and running to maintain the journal data store.  In reality, this makes no sense financially. When organizations migrate legacy email archives to Office 365, a prime goal is to decommission the legacy email archive (both server and storage) to put an end to the high support and maintenance costs.

Be warned, if you ask many archive migration consultants – some will tell you that they can “split” the journal envelope and move the journaled email back into individual mailboxes in Office 365.  This practice is extremely risky for three reasons:

  • In the process of splitting the journal envelope, you will destroy the envelope data that contains the names of any distribution lists.  Federal regulations and legal rules for preservation of Electronically Stored Information (ESI) require 100% preservation of the journal data, including the envelope data.  You should always consult with your corporate GC or outside legal counsel before you decide to “split” the journal data.
  • The process of splitting the journal envelope requires hundreds (if not thousands) of mailboxes be created for all the email recipients.  Consider that a large portion of these recipients will not be active employees anymore.  You will be required to re-create all these names in Active Directory and create new mailboxes in Office 365.
  • And the final reason is you will be violating the Microsoft recommendation.  Microsoft is very clear that they do NOT suggest nor want journal data to be stored in Office 365.

To wrap up, capturing journal data has been a popular practice with legacy email archives for many years so you should carefully plan your archive migration to ensure you fully preserve all journal data, including all metadata. The bottom line when dealing with archive migrations is to understand all possible legal and regulatory consequences.

If you find yourself in this situation, give Archive360 a call.  We will be making a major product announcement next week so come back and visit our News page for more details on Tuesday June 28!

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