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Best Practices to Inbound and Outbound e-Mail Message Size Limits

Email is a very prevalent way of sending and receiving files between users. However, when sending and receiving large files, the email places a substantial burden on messaging servers. An email message (along with its attachments) passing through Exchange server, unlike an FTP server, behaves in the following way; the email message is crushed into binary files pieces which must be scanned, encoded, transferred, re-encoded, scanned, and stored as a blob in a mailbox database. A large PowerPoint presentation in an email message, for instance, could easily consume the messaging services thousand times more than a regular message, which incurs enormous loads on the messaging servers’ storage infrastructure. Consequently, it is a best practice to pay good attention to Exchange 2010 message size limits.

Scoping the message size limits depends on business requirements. Fortunately, Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 is robust enough to provide us the granularity required to set message size limits for the entire business, or users per database, or even on a user-by-user basis. Unlike Exchange Server 2000 and Exchange Server 2003, we can also set one limit internally and another externally. With all these resources and options in hand, it is alluring to allow larger message size limits for internal users only, or to enable large message size to some users but not others. However, my experience taught me that it may lead to various significant problems for an already overloaded system administrator; a large message sent to multiple users, including the user who was privileged to send and receive large email size, will only be received by one user and not others. This situation injects frustration to these other employees who in-turn start blaming the system administrators and the messaging system complaining that they are “not receiving email message”. In a large enterprise, this situation gets exacerbated when multiple users were privileged separately with different message size limits. Moreover, it becomes increasingly difficult with time to keep track of which user was privileged for what message size limit. While troubleshooting the “email not received” problem raised by high-profile users, the system administrator or his newly hired replacement, may forget to check the user’s send/receive message size limits and search elsewhere for the solution. Consider another situation. A user with a smaller limit tries to forward a message he received from another user who was allowed to send large message size! Such possibilities are endless, and result in considerable resolution time by system administrators, which costs the IT department reputation and cost company time. You can see where this can go! Hence, unless there is a dedicated and large team of system experienced exchange administrators who are following a matured message tracking and troubleshooting standard, stick with a single uniform email size limit for all users, if at all possible, and apply that to both incoming and outgoing messages.

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