Using Public Folders to Maximize Exchange Standard Edition Use

by Amit Zinman [Published on 3 March 2004 / Last Updated on 3 March 2004]

Most small businesses rarely use their public folder. At most they share their company contact list there. It is ironic that these businesses can benefit most from using public folders.

The Exchange Version Dilemma

It seems that a lot of businesses today depend on the use of e-mail. E-mail accumulates, even for small businesses and when people do not know how to manage their mail things can get easily out of hand. Frequently these users are the managers of the company so they cannot be "told" to keep their mailbox light.

This leads a lot of companies to break the 16GB barrier that Exchange Standard Edition (and SBS) has on the private information store. So if you're managing a small network you know that the extra money for the more expensive Exchange Enterprise Edition or another Exchange Standard server will not be approved being very expensive.

A lot of field technicians carry this burden. They create PST files for users, and have to start manage what is known as "PST hell". If a user (that is not a manager) grows over a certain quota mail is moved from the mailbox to the PST. Also, the Exchange database has to be defragmented frequently to cut the database size down.

Why Not Use Public Folders?

People tend to overlook the fact that Exchange Standard is actually limited to 32 GB of data, 16GB for the private information store and 16GB for the public information store.

So, instead of using PST files which basically defeat the idea of having a centralized Exchange server, you can setup public folders for users. This effectively doubles the amount of information a user can store on Exchange. Eventually you will run out of the 32GB limit too, but my experience shows that this is enough for most small businesses.

Setting up a Public Folder for Personal Use

First of all create a folder tree for company users

Then create a folder for the specific user and open the property page permissions tab. Delete all the default permission. Then configure permissions so that the user will be "Publishing Editor", able to do with the folder everything but delete it. You can more users if the folder needs to be shared.

Public folders can be made available offline by right clicking the folder and adding it to the Favorites folder then adding them to the list of synchronized folders by using keyboard combination Ctrl+Alt +S and selecting "Edit".

Why Stop There?

As long as you're already using public folders, now is the time to really consider their advantages for filing away mail. Why not setup a single folder for co-workers working on the same projects or are responsible for similar areas? This can save the space that normally is taken by people forwarding e-mails instead of filing. It can also make it easier to locate e-mail correspondence. 

Public Folders have so many benefits for Exchange users that they are worth the time to educate users on how to use them. Although filing mail items for users on public folders might seems strange at first, it can be a great cost saver for you company.

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