Best Practices for Public Folders


Topic Last Modified: 2005-04-17

You can help your users collaborate on projects and manage shared data more efficiently by learning when and where to deploy Microsoft® Exchange 2000 Server and Exchange Server 2003 public folders.

Deploying and managing Exchange Server public folders is a complex task, which is kind of odd if you think about the basic problem that public folders are solving. The problem: "Give me a place where I can store documents and everyone in my organization can read them and post replies to them." How hard is that? Well, if your organization spans the globe, things can get a bit confusing. And if you've got thousands of clients who want to access a particular set of documents? That confuses things even more. Throw in some unique permissions for specific sets of users, an upgrade from a previous version of Exchange Server, and...oh yeah, how about three or four different clients on the workstation who need to access the folders. There. That's a good mess.

Now, let's assume you are the person who's in charge of rolling out public folders at a huge corporation. Or maybe you're the person who just has to maintain an existing public folder infrastructure. And you need some help. Who at Microsoft would be best suited to help you in make sure that your Exchange Server public folder deployment is sound?

Answer: the scalability and performance folks. Generally, these are people with advanced math and computer science degrees who really, really enjoy figuring out how to optimize systems. If you were stranded on a desert island with thousands of public folder users to support, these are the people you want to have with you. We'll just call them the Exchange Uber Geeks (EUG). Note that I am using the term "Geek" here in the contemporary sense, the what-everyone-now-strives-to-be sense.

Anyway, the EUGs work closely with developers and testers from the feature teams. They spend lots of time benchmarking, figuring, and tweaking. In addition, they work with folks in our dogfood lab, where pre-release versions of Exchange Server run in production, and with Microsoft IT, to ensure they are solidly grounded in practical application. It's not all theory with these people. Sometimes when big customers come to the Redmond campus, they'll get lucky and one of the EUG will give them a talk about how to better scale their systems.

One of the most requested talks is one that Pauline Batthish cooked up called, "Public Folder Best Practices." In it, Pauline describes the best practices that she and other EUGs have culled from years of public folder troubleshooting, analysis, and benchmarking. It's full of solid recommendations.

I have adapted Pauline's presentation into a collection of short articles. The articles were reviewed by Pauline and other folks on her team. In addition, I made sure to get our Product Support Services (PSS) folks and Microsoft Consulting Service (MCS) people in on this too, since they are the ones with the in-the-field-dealing-with-real-issues experience. Specifically, the following people reviewed and provided valuable input to this content: Pauline Batthish; Edwin Huber; Ramon Infante; Ross Smith IV; Willie Ryder; and Nino Bilic.

Later you'll find a list of the articles, each with a quick explanation of what the article contains. One thing to note: These are "Best Practices." If you have spent any time deploying software across an enterprise, you know that, ultimately, decisions around complex deployments rarely boil down to a single, unqualified "Best Practice." In fact, the concept of a "Best Practice" might better be defined as "a good practice to follow, in general, but not optimized for all cases and should be balanced against a host of dependencies and interdependencies." But that description is a bit cumbersome.

At the end of the day, you must understand exactly what your requirements are when you implement public folders. You must couple this understanding with a solid understanding of the environment in which you want to roll out public folders. From there, the "Best Practices" detailed in these articles will help you deploy and maintain a public folder infrastructure.

Selecting the Appropriate Public Folder Solution   This article describes the difference between Exchange Server public folders and Microsoft Windows® SharePoint Server Technologies. Be sure you are deploying the right one. Understand your requirements.

Selecting the Appropriate Client for Exchange Public Folder Access   This article really explains the difference between the application top-level hierarchy (TLH) and the MAPI TLH, and the clients that can access each TLH.

Exchange Public Folder Best Practices: Implementing Replication   I like this one. Re-read my earlier paragraph about the definition of "Best Practice," before you dive into this article. There's lots of good information there, but a sound replication strategy is dependant on understanding client needs and your Exchange Server topology.

Exchange Public Folder Best Practices: Understanding Referrals   There really aren't any specific "Best Practices" in this article, but understanding referrals is like the glue when you're piecing together your overall public folder strategy. You must understand how referrals work to build an efficient system.

Exchange Public Folder Best Practices: Mail-enabling Public Folders   I sniped most of this from Andrew Moss's great blog entry. That part earlier, where I talk about "who to ask?" Andy would be a great person to ask about anything having to do with public folders.

Exchange Public Folder Best Practices: Managing Data   This article talks about capacity planning, maintenance, and content expiration.

Exchange Public Folder Best Practices: Scalability   This article describes public folder hierarchy "width and depth," and how to optimize hierarchies for scalability. It also gives recommended limits on items per folder and users per public folder.

Exchange Public Folder Troubleshooting Resources   This article addresses a collection of common public folder issues: deleting public folders, permissions, and other good stuff.