Phew… we made it! (Well, the first half at least)

A little over a year ago, as I was finishing up on SQL Multi Script, Colin, our head of Product Management wandered over for a chat about what we were going to get up to next… something completely different…

Over the course of the next few weeks, we went out and visited a number of sysadmins in the Cambridge area, and chatted to even more on conference calls. The goal was quite simple: find out what it was they were doing, day in, day out, that was taking up their time, and causing them pain. It was a great experience for me as a developer, and we gained a lot of useful information as well, narrowing it down to a few options, mostly in the Exchange Server area.

Chatting to Richard Mitchell, who would be project managing things, whatever “things” turned out to be, we considered the idea of a data management tool – everyone we spoke to was getting hassled about mailbox quotas, struggling with server performance, or having to trawl through backups to recover lost messages. Wouldn’t it be a pretty ambitious project to take on, though? After all, even those people with archiving solutions already didn’t seem very happy with them, so it must be a difficult problem to solve…

“How hard can it be?” he asked. “Surely it’s just something to pull data out of Exchange, somewhere to store it, and a way of viewing it… we’ll be done by next week!” That meeting was when Exchange Server Archiver was born.

Of course, it turns out it isn’t quite that simple, especially when you actually want the software to be scalable, robust, and easy to use – the last one in particular being sorely missed by a lot of the people we spoke to, who’d had to pay others to come in and set their systems up for them. But, a year on from first concepts, we’ve just made a public beta release available.

It’s a major milestone for us, and one that we’ve been looking forward to achieving for a long time. But it’s by no means over yet – there’s still lots we know we need to do, but more importantly, there’s going to be things we don’t know we need to do yet, and that’s where we’re really looking for your input in the beta programme.

What did we get right, but more importantly, what did we miss? What doesn’t quite feel right, or doesn’t quite behave as you expect? What did you spend five minutes looking for, only to find it somewhere else?

We’d appreciate any comments you have over on the beta forum, where you’ll also find the release notes, and a whole load more details.