Slow Outlook inbox, or can’t find an email? This might be the reason

Slow Outlook inbox, or can’t find an email? This might be the reason

We regularly get requests for support from clients who report that their Outlook inbox has slowed right down, or that they are seeing messages about approaching their mailbox limit. Most users aren’t aware that indexing – how Outlook files emails to enable searching – past a certain inbox size commonly comes with frustrating performance issues. Increasing your mailbox limit by buying more storage space isn’t the answer – it could actually make things worse!

What impacts Outlook performance?

As users approach their standard 50GB limit, that’s when performance issues tend to get flagged to us. We hear that their inbox seems slow, ‘hangs’ with a spinning blue circle, or they receive warnings or error messages. Outlook indexes your emails so they can be searchable, but that means the larger the inbox, the less efficient that indexing is.

As most people use Outlook as a desktop client, the specification of the device you’re using can also affect performance. For larger inboxes, your laptop (for example) may be trying to process 50GB of data every time you go online. Some laptops inevitably cope better than others, depending on the spec and how much processing capacity is available.

You might be tempted to pay to upgrade to Business Premium to get 100GB of storage, but that can actually prove unwieldy and lead to further performance issues as indexing will still be a struggle – and even more so for larger amounts of data.

How to solve common Outlook problems

For starters, we highly recommend managing your inbox so it doesn’t get out of hand (and reminding your teams to do the same). Here are five simple tips for how to tame your inbox:

  1. Don’t use email as a document management system.

Your inbox is for emails; it’s not a filing system. Keep files safe and readily searchable by storing documents in the cloud – OneDrive and SharePoint come with your Microsoft license.

  1. Keep your inbox tidy, and do it regularly.

Delete emails you don’t need and empty your deleted items on a regular basis to free up storage. Set aside a few minutes to do it once a week and it’ll become less cumbersome.

  1. Hit unsubscribe and report ‘spam’.

Unsubscribe from promotional emails and newsletter subscriptions unless you need them. And regularly report any spam emails to reduce unwanted emails in future.

  1. Use ‘rules’.

Automate filing by subject, automatic deletion and emptying the deleted items folder, so you don’t have to think about it.

  1. Consider the ‘archive’ feature.

If you do get to the point where your inbox is full, email archiving is a better solution to maintain inbox performance than simply buying more storage. We can help set this up – more on this below.

Archiving 101

Exchange Online Archiving allows you to set automated retention policies on your inbox. For instance, you could set it to archive anything more than two years old. You can still see and search your more recent emails, reducing all the performance problems that come from indexing large amounts of data, but you can go back further whenever you need to in your online archive.

By storing your older emails online, you free up processing on your device – but you’ll need internet access to be able to access your archive if you need it.

It’s worth knowing that your online archive will show as a separate inbox in Outlook – here’s a screenshot of how that looks:

Archiving is easy to set up. When we do it for clients, we ask what a good retention policy could be (usually two or three years, depending on business requirements), and then we implement the archive for everything older.

It’s important to note that this isn’t an email archive for legal or regulatory purposes. A third-party email archive provides a more robust, immutable record that can evidence emails sent and received to a standard that would stand up in court. With a third-party archive for compliance purposes, it should be tamper-proof so no emails can be permanently deleted from the archive. By contrast, the Microsoft Exchange Online Archive is more flexible, providing a valuable tool for managing the size – and therefore performance – of your Outlook inbox.

Not enough people know this exists. We can help you get archiving set up – both the Exchange Online Archive and something more stringent for compliance reasons, if you need it. Get in touch to find out more.