We recently did a mail migration with a user who had a 19GB mailbox that spanned across 3 archive files. There were no subfolders to speak of as all his mail was within the inbox. This was not only a nightmare to migrate and put together between all the archives but Outlook simply cannot handle a single folder holding all those messages without constantly crashing and freezing. If you are one of these people who has a massive mailbox with everything located in the inbox or if you just want to learn how to organize your mailbox, this article is for you. We’ll give you some strategies on how to get your mailbox size down and how to make it easier for Outlook to handle massive amounts of mail while at the same time organize your mailbox a bit.

Organization

Needless to say, if you have a 19GB mailbox with all messages residing within your inbox, you were never really taught how to organize your mail the right way. Outlook likes organization and rewards you with quicker load times and less crashes. The trick here is to make folders and subfolders. Make subfolders for subfolders if you have to, the point is to get organized and be able to find messages easily within your mailbox. Make a folder and label it the name of one of your clients. If you do a lot of business with this client and correspond with many people within that organization, make subfolders for each individual you speak with. While there is no official limit to the amount of messages per outlook folder, it’s nice to have a maximum of 100,000 and even less than that. Over this limit, you may see some slowdowns. If you receive personal email within your business mailbox (which you should avoid altogether) create a folder called private or personal and make sure all emails are moved to that folder once they are read. The point is that if you to keep up with this, your mailbox will be organized and messages will be easy to find when you need them. The ultimate goal is to keep your inbox empty. Don’t treat your inbox folder like a storage folder. Treat it as a message’s first stop within your mailbox until it gets filed into the correct folder. With this setup you’ll find emails quicker and work more efficiently.

Deletion

It’s a simple concept, delete any mail that you don’t need to save. This process may take a while which is why I like to organize my folder by sender to group messages for bulk deletion. It’s easy to delete message that are advertisements like such as BestBuy or Macy’s mailers. It’s harder to go through your actual work mail and delete email that you no longer need. Keep in mind that one email is a tiny amount compared to your huge mailbox. To make a dent you’ll have to stick with it and part with a lot of mail to make it worth your while.

Misc. Large Mailbox Tips

These are the tips that don’t really fit into one category so here goes. Make sure your PC is defragged once a week. You or your IT support can set this up to be done automatically over night or over the weekend. After the first defrag, the ones that will follow will take less time. The point of this is to lower the freezing and slow downs that Outlook may have with a huge mailbox on top of a heavily fragmented hard drive. With this option we’re just making it easier for your PC to find and pull up your requests. Another fix that we have done for users with large mailboxes is installing solid state hard drives. Standard hard drives have always been a speed bottleneck when it came to pulling up applications including Outlook data. Solid state hard drive technology has become affordable and can make your mailbox and your PC faster than the day it was purchased. Just remember, never defrag an SSD, different technology means no fragmentation on the drive. Sometimes you can get away with turning off cached exchange mode which is an option in Outlook for Exchange users. When you turn this off, you basically removing a local cached version of your mailbox that resides on your PC. Every time you go into a folder your PC will request the contents of that folder from the server. I really only advise this to firm with fast networks. On a slow network it might actually be slower than having a local copy of your mailbox on your PC.

The Last Resort, Make An Archive

Normally I don’t like archives. When you make an archive, your ripping a portion of your mailbox out and making a portable file that can be seen within Outlook. Normally the archive is setup on your PC and it opens whenever the user opens Outlook. This is a terrible setup because if your computer dies, so does your archive. A lot of IT people put the archive on the server and make the archive part of the nightly backup. This is fine, but if the archive is huge like the file I was working with this weekend, the office network better be fast enough to not slow down the user’s Outlook. Working with mail archives over a network often causes Outlook slowdowns. Another option is to have the archive reside on your PC and have your backup pull the archive in for a backup every night. That works pretty well.

The Best Solution

Many of you won’t like this solution but it is the best one out there. Move to a cloud based email solution, migrate all your mail up to the cloud, and then work within the web based email client, not Outlook. This means saying goodbye to Outlook, but if you work with Office 365 or Hosted Exchange you’ll have a web version of Outlook which is pretty identical. With this solution, searching through email will be lightning fast, there is no bogging down your PC with the Outlook PC client or large mailboxes and you can access all your mail from anywhere in the world without the need to make archives. Did I mention that that most cloud based email solutions are now offering unlimited mailboxes. They all offer 25GB mailboxes for the most part, but I am seeing more and more cloud based solutions offer unlimited mailboxes which is the perfect situation for people with extremely large mailboxes.

The idea is to keep your mailbox manageable in terms of size and efficiency. The truth is that if you use Outlook, have a large mailbox and work with shotty IT support, your going to have a lot of problems with your email. If you find that this is your situation, give us a call.