back to article El Reg presents: Your one-step guide on where not to store electronic mail

Friday is upon us, bringing with it the promise of an early finish, the pub and a carefree weekend. Unless, of course, you are one of those unfortunates condemned to deal with... users. Welcome to On Call. Today's tale comes from a reader The Register's patented anonymiser has opted to call "Mick" and concerns either some …

  1. Alister Silver badge

    Friday is upon us

    I know I had a drink last night, but I'm not that drunk. It's still only Thursday, here.

  2. druck Silver badge
    Happy

    Did we retrieve this one out of the trash can from a couple of weeks ago?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Deleted

    The problem with the "deleted items" folder is that it exists. It is a fundamental design flaw.

    The designers of Outlook (and all other email clients that share this problem) should never have created such a folder because they should have known that people are stupid. Not all people and not all of the time but a good slice of us will do stupid things. If you created a folder named "gone forever" there would be someone who thinks it a good idea to store their most valuable files there. Much like putting a post-it note with ID and password stuck to your monitor.

    If a deleted email disappeared immediately after that "are you sure" button was clicked then the hapless user would learn PDQ not to do it again. As it is, the system encourages stupidity because it doesn't actively punish it.

    1. Martin Summers

      Re: Deleted

      In the real world things can be thrown away by accident. Most times you have the option to retrieve whatever it was from the bin. That's the same principle as this and I think that's fine. I don't think user stupidness should always be designed around, carelessness yes but stupidness definitely not. If the user actually tried to make something of their 'important' emails disappearing from the deleted items box then they only make things look worse for themselves. I don't think something like that could ever make a HR meeting let alone a court without someone telling the person to stop being stupid and drop it. People have to deal with the consequences of their actions and sometimes IT people helpful as they are feel an unjust sense of guilt about users troubles even though they didn't cause them. It's why IT departments get shat on from a great height the world over because they don't stand up for themselves and let people think the worst of them. We are at the point now where if someone can't get something back that's important it becomes the techs issue and they're deemed as unhelpful if they didn't manage to pull off a miracle. Maybe not to their face but you can bet they've told everyone else that. A simple, 'you did the digital equivalent of chucking it in the bin and its gone forever' is sufficient for this and not looking apologetic or acting in an unsure way as if you could have done more. We as IT people need more confidence in ourselves!

      1. Andraž 'ruskie' Levstik

        Re: Deleted

        That's why you have backups, maybe a daily cleaned trash can as well. And work with that alone.

        1. Robert Am

          Re: Deleted

          Backup/Recovery is NOT a corporate undelete service and should never be treated as such. Backup/Recovery is for service restoration using it as an undelete service is a time-waster if it designed as an undelete service then you compromise its operational security because you end up with users and the Service Desk access to your data protection facilities.

      2. Dinanziame Bronze badge

        Re: Deleted

        It is fine to have a folder keeping all deleted mail. The problem is making it easily accessible. If every single thing deleted could be rescued, but only by a technical person who knows the proper incantations, users would learn, but important items chucked out by mistake could still be retrieved.

        The problem here is that it's exactly as easy to read an item from the deleted folder as from any other folder. It should be harder.

        1. Imhotep Silver badge

          Re: Deleted

          I'm with you. It makes life easier for IT since it is easier and faster than restoring from a backup.

        2. Martin an gof Silver badge

          Re: Deleted

          The problem here is that it's exactly as easy to read an item from the deleted folder as from any other folder. It should be harder.

          Which OS is it that lets you see which files are in the trash can, but won't let you use them directly, requiring that they are restored to their original locations first? Wouldn't that be an appropriate way to deal with deleted items in Outlook too? More often than not things are in the trash can because some limit or other has been reached in the main mailbox. Being forced to restore them would help people think about whether or not they are necessary.

          Combine this with some kind of non-turn-off-able auto expiry of deleted items (only).

          M.

          1. Montreal Sean

            Re: Deleted

            @Martin an gof

            "Which OS is it that lets you see which files are in the trash can, but won't let you use them directly, requiring that they are restored to their original locations first?"

            That would be OSX. Not sure if there are others.

            1. doublelayer Silver badge

              Re: Deleted

              Windows won't let you either, at least not with the normal interface. Mac OS makes it a little easier to edit the files in their hidden trash location, but you have to go to way too much effort to do so.

            2. Josh 14

              Re: Deleted

              Linux as well, from what I am used to.

              I'm using xUbuntu, and while I can see the files, I have to recover them from the trash if I want to do anything with them.

          2. Keith Langmead

            Re: Deleted

            The Recover Deleted Items option in Outlook (for recovering a message that's been "permanently deleted" but still within Exchange's protection period) only lets you see the Subject line, date, to/from details of a message, so you have to restore it in order to view the content. Wish they'd apply the same to the Deleted Items folder!

            I believe with an Exchange setup you can already set it at server level to clear older items from all users' deleted items, so they can't override it... but of course you need to combine it with ensuring all staff know that 1) email shouldn't be "stored" there, and 2) anyone ignoring rule 1 WILL find those messages have disappeared in due course. Plus having management buy in that it's needed and not just IT being nasty, for instance showing how many gigs are taken up by Deleted Items, and the money that costs in terms of Exchange server storage and backup capacity.

        3. Pascal Monett Silver badge

          Re: users would learn

          Nope. No guarantee. It's like backups. You can explain their importance to a user, you can regularly send a reminder, you can go around and make a point of asking them eye-to-eye, it's only the day that the hard disk crashes and all those precious files are gone that the wailing will start, the gnashing of teeth and the beseeching of all gods old and new, all to no avail.

          At that point, and that point only, the user has a chance of learning the lesson. And even then, there's no guarantee that he will actually start doing regular backups.

          But at least there's a chance.

          1. Empty1

            Re: users would learn

            In the old days (80's?) I used to hope for new hardware customers to have a data-losing fault. Learning the lesson early on reduces the chance of heart ache in years to come.

            Far too many times at far too many places II was offered a couple of floppies when asking for their backups after replacing their dead 10Mb drive s

            1. Aussie Doc Bronze badge
              Pint

              Re: users would learn

              I remember a time when a complete backup would probably fit on two floppies.

              1. jake Silver badge

                Re: users would learn

                To be fair, probably not. In the early days floppies stored under 100KB.

                1. Kiwi Silver badge

                  Re: users would learn

                  To be fair, probably not. In the early days floppies stored under 100KB.

                  To be fair, he probably can, as can many of us.

              2. Kiwi Silver badge
                Pint

                Re: users would learn

                I remember a time when a complete backup would probably fit on two floppies.

                I still have a 250MB tape that holds many backups of my old drives (assuming the tape is readable - think I know where the drive is even). Largest non-NASA photograph I've dealt with was more than 10 times the size of that drive, and I frequently play with files much larger than that.

                And I still have both of my backup floppies from years back. Hell, I could fit OS, graphical game and save files on a 720K disk! Still haven't played Quake Champions because by the time the latest steaming pile of updates is down I'm off doing something else, and by the time I get game time there's another 20+ GB update to be downloaded. Glad I got that game for free...

                1. SteveCoops

                  Re: users would learn

                  I still have a few 100Mb Zip disks with backups on. Still readable too as I only tested them recently!

        4. Phil W

          Re: Deleted

          "If every single thing deleted could be rescued, but only by a technical person who knows the proper incantations, users would learn"

          Really? Do you really honestly believe that? Because I can tell you now that you're 100% definitely wrong.

          Aside from the built in Outlook/Exchange functionality that allows items to be retrieved from Deleted Items and even from Reoverable Deleted Items for a period of time after they've been purged from Recoverable Deleted Items, we still get not infrequent requests to restore from months old tape backups emails which were "accidentally" deleted 6 months ago. Repeat customers for these requests are no uncommon.

          The problem is the sort of user who doesn't just write off an email they accidentally deleted x number of days/weeks/months ago is also the sort of person who is quite willing to repeat the mistake and then demand that IT fix it (or even take the blame for it going missing in the first place) because that's we're there for as far as they're concerned.

          1. Kiwi Silver badge
            Pint

            Re: Deleted

            Really? Do you really honestly believe that? Because I can tell you now that you're 100% definitely wrong.

            I disagree. I do know some users who would learn from this...

            Can we agree on 99.975% wouldn't?

            And may all y'all have a great new year!

        5. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Deleted

          Yes! Emails opened from the deleted items folder should require clicking a button to make them visible, with a 5 second delay before it enables, for each and every email.

          1. Kiwi Silver badge
            Paris Hilton

            Re: Deleted

            Yes! Emails opened from the deleted items folder should require clicking a button to make them visible, with a 5 second delay before it enables, for each and every email.

            No.

            A 30 second system lock out (like the "anti-RSI" things we had a while back, or modern anti-clog or whatever) with appropriate signage, perhaps even annoying sounds like variants on "this idiot accidentally deleted an email and needs it back" playing for the duration.

            Even then, I doubt that'd be enough for some users. They think they're so smart having a folder called "nroP" that we could never find in a billlion picoseconds....

            Paris coz.. At her dumbest she'd be better than whole officeloads of some users I've dealt with :(

            1. Kiwi Silver badge
              Facepalm

              Re: Deleted

              "...modern anti-clog..."

              I meant anti-clot, ie the 'you've been on your arse too long, get up and walk around or bad things happen to your veins" thingamajig.

      3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Deleted

        "A simple, 'you did the digital equivalent of chucking it in the bin and its gone forever' is sufficient for this and not looking apologetic or acting in an unsure way as if you could have done more. We as IT people need more confidence in ourselves!"

        Whilst I agree with the sentiment, in terms of email at least, many jurisdictions have legal requirements over the retaining of emails. So, even if the user has done stupid things, the email should still be there, somewhere, because users are not allowed to permanently delete emails. The server should still have a long term archived copy of everything, even the stuff no longer in the users deleted items folder.

        1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

          Re: Deleted

          Those legal requirements are irrelevant as the (l)user shouldn't keep emails in the trash can (or whatever the folder for deleted items is called). It is nice if deleted items can be recovered that way, but getting angry because your trash can was emptied is just not done.

          1. Strahd Ivarius Bronze badge
            Headmaster

            Re: Deleted

            Usually, when you have a legal requirement to keep emails, you store them in another system, before they even reach the user, so they are tamper proof.

            Users can then access the other system if they really need to find a specific item they shouldn't have deleted.

            The only issue is when the backup system doesn't keep the emails for as long as the users deem it necessary (10 or 20 years can be common in some industries) because storing is sooo expansive...

      4. This post has been deleted by a moderator

        1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
          Alert

          Re: Deleted

          How about a simple graphic of a Black Hole & serves a two fold purpose.

          Once in a black hole it's literally gone from this universe.

          They are super dense......... Much like my users.

        2. sodium

          Re: Deleted

          If she has a "wee trolley" she's either the maintenance man or the tea lady.

      5. swm Silver badge

        Re: Deleted

        The user interface could be improved. One email client I used would draw a line through deleted messages but undelete worked just fine. If you expunged the deleted messages they were gone forever.

        Another possibility would be to have a trash can but restoring from the trash can would take one hour.

        1. TimMaher Bronze badge

          Re: Deleted

          Yup @swm, one hour per item.

      6. Muscleguy Silver badge

        Re: Deleted

        Yup, I used to be the guy in the lab with the Norton Utilities folder and the knowledge to use it and would occasionally have to try and resurrect deleted files for people who should have known better.

        Later I had charge of two image grabbing systems (microscope, CCD Camera, computer, software) and instituted draconian rules: backup your files to your own system over the net, they are liable to be deleted to make space without notice and files left anywhere than in the designated place WOULD be deleted (the software was set to default to the designated space).

        They continued to run under those rules after I left. That software company pretty much owes me for getting their system. First in the building and they sold lots afterwards. People came to look at ours. I should have negotiated a retainer.

      7. Scott 53

        Re: Deleted

        Is "stupidness" a word now?

        1. Martin Summers

          Re: Deleted

          https://www.dictionary.com/browse/stupidness

          You could have looked that up yourself. Also, look up 'irony'.

        2. shedied

          Re: Deleted

          "stupidness" - when stupidity did not quite cover it, also see raising the bar

    2. Andy Non Silver badge

      Re: Deleted

      Maybe instead the user should be prompted when recovering items from the deleted items folder that "they were in luck" as the deleted items had not been destroyed yet, but warning them this is not a place to store wanted items. Maybe also prompt them to re-enter their password to access such deleted emails too, to add another hurdle. This extra step or hassle recovering deleted emails may give the user pause to realise the undesirability of storing items there.

      1. ReadyKilowatt

        Re: Deleted

        Confirmation popups are probably no better. Muscle memory is more powerful than reading comprehension.

        "Are you sure you want to do this? It cannot be undone."

        *clicks Yes*

        Oh, wait...

        1. tatatata
          Devil

          Re: Deleted

          Or nice interfaces like:

          computer: "Are you sure you want to delete all files?"

          you: "NO!"

          computer: "Deleted anyway."

          1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

            Re: Deleted

            We will leave that kind of things to Microsoft (remember the Windows 10 "upgrade"?).

            Ohhh .... wait, Outlook is from Microsoft.

          2. shedied

            Re: Deleted

            better:

            Computer: shows graphic of cleaning lady throwing her match into the trash

            You: NO!

            Computer: Oh well. Incinerated anyway

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Deleted

          Yessss which is why the button to confirm he wants to read the item should switch randomly with the Empty All Trash button too.. but not reliably or often.. just often enough that it causes HUGE frustration cos they KNOW it does this and should have been paying attention. Maybe 1 in 20 times feels about right, especially if it's cos some screen elements end up bumping it down a row and it looks like a rendering glitch that pops under the mouse LITERALLY right as they click :D

      2. Jamie Jones Silver badge

        Re: Deleted

        It reminds me of something a sys-admin of a university wrote years ago, back when people cared about such things:

        Every time a member of staff left, he set up an email autoresponder on their old email address, saying something like:

        "XXX has left the university. His new email address is YYY. Your email has automatically been forwarded onto this new address, but please update your address book, as this old address will be deleted on ZZZ [ 6 months after leaving date]

        He said that after the account was deleted, he always got people asking for the new address, as they'd forgotten to update the old one.

        So subsequently, he changed the system, and the email response to say that the email HASN'T been forwarded on, and the user HAS to resend it to the correct address themselves.

        From then on, when the old account was deleted, he barely had any comeback.

        People are lazy. Do something for them once, they'll expect it forever, which is probably why I'm pissed off I wasn't invited to my brothers for Christmas like I was last year :-)

      3. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: Deleted

        Prompting the user won't work unless we also make it impossible to read messages in the folder. Most of the time when people do this, they are just going in to read something. If they can do that without restoring, they'll never see the prompt.

        We might also consider changing the client so there is an archive folder and deleting a message from the inbox or sent will send it there, with deletions from the archives folder going into the trash. Reconfiguring this would of course be an option. I will admit that I'm an abuser of deleted items, in that I will delete messages from my inbox when I'm confident that my responsibilities with regard to that message are fulfilled, and then someone will come to me a couple weeks later requesting information from that message and I'll go into deleted to search for it. Now that we live in a world of very large disks, I think we could manage an archive-by-default policy.

    3. vtcodger Silver badge

      Re: Deleted

      If a deleted email disappeared immediately after that "are you sure" button was clicked then the hapless user would learn PDQ not to do it again.

      Ah yes, the human trainability assumption. The notion that humans are capable of learning from experience has been around for thousands of years. It is apparently rooted in mankind's long standing association with the domestic dog (canis familiaris). Dogs -- chihuahuas, terriers, and springer spaniels excepted -- learn from experience. They are trainable. Some folks naturally, but incorrectly, assume that people are like dogs in this respect. Not so.

      Pro tip. If it has a tail and non-retractable claws it is quite likely trainable. Otherwise you'll save yourself a lot of effort if you simply design around its idiosyncrasies.

      1. tiggity Silver badge

        Re: Deleted

        Animals with retractable claws can be trained to some degree - plenty of things I have trained my cats to do over the years, e.g. getting cat to bring back the toy you throw for it to chase.

        .. Though some cats far more trainable than others & it is far harder than training dogs.

        1. jelabarre59 Silver badge

          Re: Deleted

          Animals with retractable claws can be trained to some degree - plenty of things I have trained my cats to do over the years, e.g. getting cat to bring back the toy you throw for it to chase.

          The trick with training cats is to convince them that *THEY* wanted to do whatever it is you were trying to train them to do. In extreme cases you may have to convince them you want them to do the exact opposite of what you're training them to do, so they'll do the trained action just to spite you.

          1. Aussie Doc Bronze badge
            Pint

            Re: Deleted

            "...convince them that *THEY* wanted to do whatever it is..."

            Methinks your premise is the same folk human critters.

            Whenever I taught IT to adults I always designed the course around the mythical radio station WIIFM - What's In It For Me.

            Unless a bod feels that they can directly benefit from what you are sharing with them, they're not too interested.

            Just my 2c, plus GST and overtime if applicable.

      2. bpfh Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: Deleted

        Pavlovian response: can you hook up some sort of vba macro that sends 2000 volts up the mouse whenever anyone clicks on the “Trash” folder. Though my users would just start wearing rubber gloves rather than attempt to understand the reason why that folder is off limits...

    4. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

      Re: Deleted

      It's not a design flaw as it is a holding area for unwanted emails before they are permanently deleted. The functionality has to exist. What is a bigger problem is the improper use of folders and filtering (probably none) of the emails. Properly filtered into useful folders they will not be deleted easily.

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: Deleted

        "The functionality has to exist." but for how long?

    5. Shadow Systems Silver badge

      Re: Deleted

      I think every person should be forced to carry a backpack on their shoulders from which could come their own personal TrunkMonkey to beat/bite them about the head when they've done (or are about to do) something stupid.

      Folks would quickly learn to not do something if every time they did it they suddenly had a mad monkey doing obscene things to their face. Either that or they'd stop wearing their backpack & *that* would be license for everyone *else's* monkies to gang up on the dimwit.

      Now if you'll excuse me, it's time to go bribe my monkey with a bunch of bananas & a book of animal porn...

      1. Nunyabiznes Silver badge

        Re: Deleted

        For those that don't get the trunk monkey reference:

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hq0mUxRKHQY&list=PLoxADsZ9YforxtjWODy3Kz_8JjLH-Nxp7

        1. Shadow Systems Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: Deleted

          Please go enjoy a festive pint in gratitude. I LMAO over the memories those videos resurfaced. =-)

      2. Jamie Jones Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: Deleted

        ......of bananas & a book of animal porn...

        "And that, your honour, is why I had that book in my posession..."

        1. Shadow Systems Silver badge

          Re: Deleted

          Thank you for that mental visual. I shall now go imbibe about a metric fekton of MindBleach to get it out. You glorious bastage! XD Hahahahaha

          1. Jamie Jones Silver badge
            Happy

            Re: Deleted

            Thanks-you! I feel my work here for the day is done!

            Now it's time to relax with some monkey-porn!

    6. EVP Bronze badge

      Re: Deleted

      I call ”Deleted items” and similarly named folders evolution. The smart ones get it right away. The ones who fall once but won’t make the same type of mistake twice are despite their shortcomings eligible to contribute to the ever evolving human gene pool. Natural selection will take care of the rest. Like in this particular case, there was a happy end in the story.

    7. chivo243 Silver badge
      WTF?

      Re: Deleted

      PST Hell! This is another thing I am glad we ditched. It was never fun trying to resurrect a local .pst file that is larger that some 4K films.

      1. Killfalcon

        Re: Deleted

        Me: "Oh, your PST is full, that happens at 2GB."

        User: "Yes, I know, that's why I have five of them."

        1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: Deleted

          I think 16Gb was the largest I ever encountered.....possibly 24Gb.... 6 - 8Gb was average.

          Oh & one user with 119 of them.

    8. myootnt

      Re: Deleted

      Is this man in your family tree?

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gordon_Tullock

      1. Aussie Doc Bronze badge
        Pint

        Re: Deleted

        Must say, I do like the idea of "Tullock's Spike".

        Must be some BOFH way we could use this.

    9. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      Re: Deleted - why is it a problem?

      the delete file is counted in mailbox size limit.

      So its just like any other folder.

      Whats the problem if the user wants to use it as a normal folder?

      Its moronic surely , but whys that our business?

      If a person uses the wastebasket to store their tv remotes , who are they hurting?

      1. ArrZarr Silver badge
        Unhappy

        Re: Deleted - why is it a problem?

        The TV repairman who they badger endlessly that the TV's remotes are not fit for purpose as they keep disappearing the night before the bin men come.

      2. Kiwi Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: Deleted - why is it a problem?

        Its moronic surely , but whys that our business?

        If a person uses the wastebasket to store their tv remotes , who are they hurting?

        Many of us are tasked with keeping systems running, often on tight budgets. Often those tight budgets mean limits on storage space (more so in the past today). Clearing out 'junk' becomes a regular part of the job. You don't put important stuff in the office waste bin and expect it to be there the next morning.

        Many of us also are or have been tasked with migrating users data from one machine to another, often in the case of a hardware failure. There's automated tools for this, and often said tools ignore the trash bins for obvious reasons.

        Who does it hurt? The IT people who did a proper job with the tools they have, within the limits of the budgets they're constrained by, and who still get abuse from idiots who think the sewer is a good place to keep their lunch.

    10. Fatman
      Joke

      Re: New Icon for `Deleted Items` folder...

      Should be a shredder.

      'nuff said.

  4. ChrisElvidge

    Always work on a copy!

    Shut down outlook, copy the .PST file, restart outlook then do the "always in this order".

    1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Bronze badge

      Re: Always work on a copy!

      Would be correct IF it wouldn't be on an exchange (or IMAP, but I doubt that here). You rarely get a "mailbox full" message when using PST files. You just lose everything when you hit the PST Limit, not just the deleted items.

      1. MiguelC Silver badge

        Re: You just lose everything when you hit the PST Limit

        Not really, it happened to me once and I just followed online instructions on how to delete the last e-mails from the PST file (using an offline tool, if I correctly remember it) in order to get the file under the size limit again.

      2. Sandtitz Silver badge

        Re: Always work on a copy!

        "You just lose everything when you hit the PST Limit, not just the deleted items."

        Nope.

        With the old style ANSI PST 2GB limit you did lose some information after 2GB, but that was it. Yes, it was very annoying. Same 2GB limit was also found with Outlook Express mail files (inbox, sent etc) but at least OE just didn't allow writing to them anymore after that. (though it didn't indicate the problem to the end user which also was quite stupid)

        The PST file format changed with Office 2003 and the limit went from 2GB to 4TB.

    2. ma1010
      Devil

      Re: Always work on a copy!

      If Mick had been a true BOFH, he would have expected no less of a user than storing important emails in the DELETED folder and would have planned accordingly. Of course, his plans may also have involved electricity, carpet, quicklime, etc., but he certainly would have expected those important emails to be in DELETED.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Always work on a copy!

        Perhaps he did, and thus likewise did plan accordingly.

        1. Kiwi Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: Always work on a copy!

          Perhaps he did, and thus likewise did plan accordingly.

          Yes.. The article did say the offender left not long afterwards. It doesn't say he was ever heard from again, or whether or not his leaving was immediately prior to a long stay at a local asylum or quiet forestry plot......

          (El Reg, can we get the BOFH icon back?)

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I swear on this one, I could not believe.

    My father had a co-worker, that was the *ultimate* slob. Filthy, lazy.

    He wrote a telephone number *in the dust of his desk*.

    I shit you not.

    It was thick enough to read off it, like writing "WASH ME" on your car.

    And he got angry when the newly hired janitor...

    yep.

    Cleaned his desk.

    Guess who got fired 6 months later. Saving things on the "deleted" folder is like writing phone numbers on CAKED DUST.

    Some people don't DESERVE technology.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I swear on this one, I could not believe.

      You don't DESERVE a keyboard, you're abusing that Shift key so much.

  6. paulll

    Outlook should intersperse e-mails with random instances of the word,"fuck," on their way to the deleted items folder. Analogous to being able to grab something out of the bin but you'll have to give it a bit of a wipe down 'cos it's been sitting on a banana peel for six hours.

    1. Bill Gray

      Nice thought, but you don't want something fixable with a simple search/replace. The interspersed words should be selected randomly from the Profanisaurus, to require a more manual fix.

  7. Tinslave_the_Barelegged
    Linux

    So close to the opposite...

    I may have told this one before, so forgive me. We imposed a soft 5GB per user limit on email stores, which in reality meant just having a discussion with users who might be using email inappropriately. We hadn't noted email sizes for a while, and one user's email was approaching 11GB. This was a small pharma company, and he was head of compliance. When I asked him about it, he said he never deleted any emails. I asked if there was a reason or just whim (or whimsy - we've all known those users....) He explained that he had worked at a larger pharma company that was taken to task by the regulators after something had gone wrong. To his horror, he found that the email trail that he and the company needed was badly broken (possibly by design, or possibly the result of someone as in "Mick's" story.) So since then he simply refused to delete even the most trivial of messages. Talking to him, I could tell how traumatic that experience had been for him, and I wondered how it was that some people become damaged by doing their corporate masters' dirty work for them.

    I told him I thought his reasons were valid and instructed the team to ignore the size of his mailstore.

    ( -----> penguin, as this was dovecot against maildir, so easy to manage and track.)

    1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Bronze badge

      Re: So close to the opposite...

      He is right! I had quite a few cases where ten or even twenty year old emails suddenly became important, VERY important. Or cases where a sales guy got a big win contract JUST because he still had that email from 15 years ago...

      The right method: Use the archive function the intelligent way: Export everything older than a specific date, copy the PST away to your server but leave it in the local machine named "2018 and older" in Outlook. Don't let Outlook do the archiving automatically.

      EDIT: I just saw your dovecot/maildir comment, so does his mailclient offer such a nice function?

      1. John Sager

        Re: So close to the opposite...

        I do exactly that with Thunderbird on Linux. My server uses dovecot/maildir. Some emails get filtered by the server into folders on receipt (mailing list stuff usually). Others I copy manually from inbox or delete to the trash folder. Then every year I archive a whole year out of inbox into an archive folder for that year, and occasionally I trim the trash back. Works great and I have archives going back 10 years or more if necessary, including the 'sent' folder (most essential!).

    2. Dave K Silver badge

      Re: So close to the opposite...

      I can emphasise. I do delete e-mails, but only the worst crap. It's truly amazing how much stuff you need to refer back to at some point. My current place of work has auto-archiving so that e-mails over 3 months old are shifted into an online archive. Works well enough! Previously I kept PST files and cleaned out my mailbox every few months into a PST file and used a new one each year to prevent them getting to large (as Outlook brilliantly can randomly break with very large PSTs).

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So close to the opposite...

      Yes but this should be handled by the IT dept., not the guy at the desk, since while your guy might keep everything, another guy might delete his stuff, some of which might be needed

  8. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Bronze badge

    But you can recover deleted Items ON AN EXCHANGE...

    TL:DR: The story is missing how fast the ticket was reopened.

    If that mailbox was on an exchange you have the option to recover deleted items. The options appears somewhere either when right clicking the bin or in the menus when the bin is selected. By default Exchange keeps deleted items for 15 days, I usually expand that to 30 days. If you are the exchange admin you can export the mailbox and get even items back which were moved to the .PST instead of being deleted to the bin and then cleared.

    That is IF the ticket was reopened fast enough, whether "Mick" was an exchange administrator who knows of such internal things or a normal service desk man, and whether the exchange was configured to keep deleted stuff for the default period.

    What I did not check yet (will do so next year when returning to work): Does 15 days default still apply to exchange online in Azure? I GUESS yes, but you never know how MS changes things around...

    1. trolleybus

      Re: But you can recover deleted Items ON AN EXCHANGE...

      I was thinking the same thing about 'permanently' deleted emails still being recoverable. For a certain number of days the user can recover the mails themselves through the Outlook UI. After that, but for quite a long time, an admin with Powershell magic can still recover deleted mails.

      As to those who whitter on about people needing to keep old mails for regulatory reasons, Exchange will enforce that for you, no need to concern the user.

    2. david 12

      Re: But you can recover deleted Items ON AN EXCHANGE...

      If that mailbox was on an exchange you have the option to recover deleted items

      If only that were true. On exchange you actually have several options for recovering deleted items, and even experienced exchange administrators are unlikely to know all of them. And when you go to the "the deleted items store" on exchange, to recover the deleted item, you do not find it there at all. Although you do eventually find it in one of the other undocumented places where exchange hides deleted items.

  9. HildyJ Silver badge
    WTF?

    No Limits!

    The question is: why is there a limit? I can understand if the limit is put in place for hardware reasons (like the disk is full) or for OS reasons (like FAT's indexing and addressing schemes), but I strongly suspect that Outlook and Exchange limits are due to programmers of the "no one will ever need more than 640k" ilk.

    In the dark ages of truly restricted storage, I could and did understand this. I worked on a US state unemployment insurance system which had to be modified when we sold it to Alaska because we limited quarterly earnings to 5 digits and it turned out that salmon fishermen could make over $100k in a quarter and then go on unemployment after the fishing season.

    But that was then and Office 365, Outlook, and Exchange are all young enough to know better.

    1. Nunyabiznes Silver badge

      Re: No Limits!

      We used to limit mailbox size because we couldn't get the funding to appropriately size the Exchange box.

      Interestingly, the elected official that most railed about IT funding was also the one that insisted on everyone keeping every email.

    2. Martin an gof Silver badge

      Re: No Limits!

      I think the point is that email is not a general purpose filing system. If you have important emails or (in terms of "size" limits) attachments, they should be put somewhere more permanent and appropriate.

      On the other hand, if your only alternative is a bog standard shared folder on the network drive I absolutely can see how even Outlook's truly awful search facilities are better. Judging by what I've seen though, content management systems are very hit-and-miss, and are often inappropriate for, or simply inaccessible for "normal" users. If there's no usable alternative, people will continue to rely on email.

      M.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: No Limits!

        "I think the point is that email is not a general purpose filing system."

        The point is that people like the user in the story aren't even aware that the concept of "file system" exists. Software designers and support personnel should be aware of this and take it into account when doing their jobs.

        1. Martin an gof Silver badge

          Re: No Limits!

          No, I meant 'filing system' in the 'filing cabinet with marked and labelled drawers' sense. People still need to keep information organised, and computer Filing Systems make this difficult, at least for many kinds of information.

          In the absence of an easy, well-organised filing system, a pile of 'stuff' with a search function is the next best thing. Email offers this, most standard computer filing systems - which can't search for anything except file names and maybe date - do not.

          The problem with content management systems is that they are rarely suitable for everything. I've started using an indexing system for my home photos & films. Leaving aside the fact that it uses a single XML file for the index when it really should be using a database, it actually works quite well.

          It wouldn't be so good for organising the paperwork relating to our recent house buding project though.

          M.

          1. Tom Chiverton 1

            Re: No Limits!

            You need Nextcloud. And/or PiWiGo.

            1. Martin an gof Silver badge

              Re: No Limits!

              I have tens of thousands of files in the "media" folders on my NAS. Both Nextcloud (IIRC) and PiWiGo insist on having your media in their "private" folders. No thanks.

              I've been using KPhotoalbum and it works very well, except for the index-in-XML thing which both makes it very (very) slow to load up with as many files as I have and is kept in memory so you can't have two or more people updating at the same time.

              There is a .db file created as well, and I believe there was a GSOC project to move from XML to SQL or something, but unless I've missed something, this part has not been completed.

              M.

              1. Kiwi Silver badge
                Boffin

                Re: No Limits!

                Both Nextcloud (IIRC) and PiWiGo insist on having your media in their "private" folders. No thanks.

                ???

                Nextcloud does tend to encrypt the stored material by default, which is generally considered good practice with web-facing servers but IIRC it doesn't have to.

                However... It does have WebDAV which any decent OS should be able to talk to natively in this day and age, and decent enough clients most of the time (though the .htaccess thing bugs the hell out of me!).

                I currently only have "142,618 items, totalling 514.9 GB" across 3 servers (one heading into retirement very soon now, I promise!), with the bulk of that (all but about 10g or so) on the one machine - and that's a Dell D630 running Devuan ASCII (no GUI) with a whopping 2gb of RAM and 2TB HDD. Small stakes I know, but it does what I need and I don't need to keep that much stuff around! (he says as he tries to surreptitiously tuck the 300GB of mostly crap photos into a corner out of sight)

                1. Martin an gof Silver badge

                  Re: No Limits!

                  I'll have to look into WebDAV, but the first thing I understood on the "how to" pages for PiWiGo is that it runs atop a web server (never set one of those up before, but how hard can it be?), and that you have to "upload" or "import" files to PiWiGo. I'd rather point it at my existing NAS share, which runs to a rather ridiculous 330+GB of photos and 2.1TB+ of videos, nearly all of which are self-generated "family memories" (i.e. very little downloaded content). There's a load of other stuff too, which takes the total up to somewhere around 3.4TB. It's quite a lot to have to re-organise :-)

                  On a related but off-topic note, whatever happened to "decent" large 2.5" HDDs? I went for 2.5" when I first built the NAS many years ago for reasons of neatness - I found a lovely Startech 4x2.5" caddy which fitted into a single 5.25" bay, initially with a mirrored pair of 300GB, then with four 1TB in the ZFS equivalent of RAID 6 (2TB online), then with six 1TB drives giving me 4TB online, which was as many as I could physically fit in the small case I'd bought, and needed an extra SATA card to give me the 6 ports I needed.

                  Now I need to upgrade again. All those years ago I had assumed that 2TB discs would be common by now, but they're not. Or, at least, you can get Toshiba laptop discs and WD Blue discs of that size, but WD Red? Seagate Ironclad (or whatever it's called?). Nope. So I can't follow my original plan of swapping out the 1TB discs for 2TB discs and letting the thing rebuild and I'm left with a dilemma; do I buy the laptop discs and see what happens (speed isn't really an issue)? Buy a bigger case and reconfigure the thing for 10x 1TB discs? Or buy a bigger case and move to 3.5" discs?

                  M.

      2. Imhotep Silver badge

        Re: No Limits!

        I worked for a company that had to allow access to emails as part of a discovery process. What was exposed in that discovery was not just embarassing, but expensive.

        Afterwards, a hard limit was imposed, all emails over 30 days old were deleted automatically unless individually exempted, and it was made plain that emails were not acceptable business/project documents unless saved to the appropriate network share.

        It"s hell when you let Legal dictate how to run your business, but that is the kund of crap that msjes it happen.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: No Limits!

          Work in a UK hospital - explaining the difference between Information Technology and Information Governance.

          IT - allows you to create, modify, send and delete stuff.

          IG - Not allowed to do the above.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: No Limits!

        It might not be a general purpose filing system, but the courts have tested many times the validity of email as a system of record. We use the wrong tool for the job, for a proper communication system of record is not available off the shelf at MS Office/Exchange prices. Doesn't help that those systems that are intended to be used as a system of record are generally also crap. I've yet to find a good one that doesn't come with a 8figure price tag and a ongoing opex of 10+ staff.

    3. HildyJ Silver badge

      Re: No Limits!

      According to the article "he was at the hard limit set by MS for Exchange."

      My point was and is that such a hard limit should not exist.

      As far as disk limitations due to budget, been there, done that. In my most recent job the issue was the shared file server, not the Exchange server. I offered to buy IT a new, certified, terabyte network drive if they would add it to our server farm (and give my group the added space). They refused (of course).

      As for keeping emails for possible enquiries, the official US Government policy was that emails possibly subject to FOIA requests should be printed out, on paper, with attachments, and physically filed. This was within this decade and I doubt if it has changed. Needless to say, no one I knew actually did this .

      1. Spanners Silver badge
        WTF?

        Re: No Limits!

        ...emails possibly subject to FOIA requests should be printed out, on paper...

        I was told that if you all have is a printout of an email, the only thing it proves is that you have a printer.

        Just look at a printout of an email. How long would it take you to run that up with a word processor?

        1. Killfalcon

          Re: No Limits!

          Maybe a few hours,depending on the length of the email conversation, and how many people's email addresses (time stamps, time zones, etc) you need to get right - which can be very hard if the original address is no longer valid, for instance.

          If you're talking discovery (or even FOIA), faking an email trail is basically about getting a dozen small details right and hoping the other side doesn't have the real email trail.

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: No Limits!

            "faking an email trail is basically about getting a dozen small details right and hoping the other side doesn't have the real email trail."

            In just about every case I've seen of one side trying this in discovery the other side has enough detail to show that manipulation or withholding of what's being offered up is going on. REAL discovery will bring up email envelope information and headers including Received: stamps/serial numbers which are surprisingly hard to fake (expereinced sysadmins can easily pick out discrepencies and logs can be crosschecked)

            At that point, if you're lucky all that happens is a Norwich Pharmecutical order - allowing the discoverers to send their OWN people in and go through your files _AND_ your backups to look for discrepencies - where obstructing them or "losing backups" becomes a trip in front of the judge.

            Even if that doesn't happen, once the oppostiion can start picking holes in the evidence found through discovery (such as supposedly complete email trails referencing emails that weren't part of the offered evidence) the credibility of the target is utterly shot in the eyes of the court. As for being caught fabricating stuff - that's contempt of court territory.

            1. shedied

              Re: No Limits!

              that's contempt of court territory could have been shortened to isn't that Hillary territory

              Don't blame me; I happen to be a reader that follows visual cues (even if those cues came from El reg)

      2. eionmac

        Re: No Limits!

        Dealing with "Soviet" contracts which run for over 15 years and upwards, I printed out every email to hard copy and stored locally in case of legal and technical problems later on site.

        We changed ownership, drastic reduction in hard copy storage enforced by Finance, then I asked Finance to get copy of hard copy stored to show we were not liable for a lot of money to sort a technical problem. Oh, suddenly Legal sat on Finance (who had no iron curtain experience of knew how to deal with those brought up under it) regrettably to late to safe that cash to redo what we had never contracted to do. The addendums in emails never got put into original contract documentation hard files.

    4. LateAgain

      Re: No Limits!

      Ha. Outlook 365 has either 50GB or 100GB mailbox size limit. (Guess which most people have)

      Say that again when you see someone running out.

      There's keeping stuff and then there's never tidy up.

  10. jake Silver badge

    As any fule kno ...

    ... one should always takes a quick peak and ask the user "Are you sure? This file looks like it might be important!" before nuking the trash. Preferably with a witness or two within earshot. This has been true ever since Apple, Inc. invented the "special" class of computer user with the advent of the Lisa, and then lowered the entry bar to this "special" class with the Macintosh.

    1. Alan W. Rateliff, II
      Mushroom

      Re: As any fule kno ...

      As a matter of policy, I do not delete customer data or information. I will happily explain how to do it but I will not pull the trigger without making a CYA backup of my own. This came in handy once as a short-lived customer flat-out accused me of deleting important files out of his archive, files he had not touched in several years, archives in which he said there was absolutely nothing critical. The accusations and abusive attitude we not enough to push me over the edge, but the threats of legal action certainly were.

      I restored his files all while he seethed over my shoulder, handed him an invoice and a list of other IT people he could call for any future needs.

  11. A Non e-mouse Silver badge
    Facepalm

    I had a user complain, after we replaced their faulty desk phone, that they lost all of their speeddials. This surprised us as speeddials were stored on the PABX and not on the phone. We popped over to take a look at the problem and discovered that what the user was calling "speeddials" was just the phone's call history: New phone, new call history.

    1. Alan W. Rateliff, II

      Similarly, people tend to use Outlook's auto-complete as their contacts.

    2. Rob Daglish

      I had a similar situation with a user who complained I'd deleted his "Favorites" when I replaced his PC, despite copying the folder from one PC to the other. Turns out what he referred to as "Favourites" was the Internet Explorer Autosuggest list. Which I found could be copied from one machine to another - and then explained to him how to use the real "Favorites" folder. I'm not sure he ever changed though!

  12. Yes Me Silver badge
    Happy

    Moving story

    So I know an operating system where move (mv), remove (rm) and cp (copy) all do different things. For example 'remove' does not repeat 'move'. I suspect there are some excellent help desk stories there.

    I did once hear a tale of a Soviet visitor to the West who entered M for MOVE instead of C for COPY on a JCL card when attempting to steal a Fortran compiler from an MVS mainframe. He was intercepted at the airport with his mag tape before he could board his Aeroflot flight to Moscow, since the removal of the compiler was rather quickly noticed.

  13. Admiral Grace Hopper Silver badge

    Just waiting for this to happen

    We are migrating all our developers to a new file store system. We’ve decided that in the new regime the Scratch drives, designed for transitory non£permanent file store, will have a TTL of 8 days before the files are wiped, automatically and irrevocably. This is longer than a week and, we feel, generous and merciful. We’re waiting for the squeals when all the holiday snaps that were held in the old Scratch drives start to disappear.

    1. Killfalcon

      Re: Just waiting for this to happen

      I recently got caught out when I was asked if I needed access to an old scratch drive from an old role. "No" I replied "I haven't needed that in five years. Wait, how did you know to email me?"

      Turns out the scratch drive with an advertised TTL of three days since last modified date... had no TTL. At all. Thankfully I'd not put anything there that could have caused issues, but bloody hell...

  14. chivo243 Silver badge
    Trollface

    Mick eh?

    In most other places with a D level, giving the apple in the trash analogy will get you moving boxes and an escort to the loading dock...

  15. steviebuk Silver badge

    Still an issue today

    I still see this today. About 10 years ago saw someone using the recycle bin as another folder. They'd put sub folders within it. Nuts. Its why I always double check before I empty someone's bin.

    'For those that have been spared the delights of Outlook and its ilk, the .pst file can normally be found lurking locally on a user's computer or network share, and isn't necessarily subject to the same size restrictions as an Exchange mailbox."

    PST files shouldn't be stored on a network drive. Had an issue 2 years back of Outlook randomly freezing on a users laptop and wouldn't recover. Ran a trace when it did it with Process Monitor and there it was. Despite having full access to the network drive the pst file was on, outlook was stuck unable to connect to the path. File wasn't required anymore so I got rid of it but was also I confirmed my suspicions with MS site that pst files shouldn't be stored on network drives.

    1. Killfalcon

      Re: Still an issue today

      We cheat. Desktop user profiles are synced to the 'user home' network drives at logout and re-downloaded at login. The network drives are backed up, so in theory we can recover deleted items from desktops.

      It does mean the folks with massive PSTs have a slower login experience than others, admittedly. I found out all about this when I was running a beowulf cluster under my own user account - probably found every way Novell's profile management could fail back in the day... I really don't miss that.

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Still an issue today

      "About 10 years ago saw someone using the recycle bin as another folder. They'd put sub folders within it. Nuts. Its why I always double check before I empty someone's bin."

      And the reason?

      Quite simple really: There are (usually) no quote enforcements on trash folders

      1. steviebuk Silver badge

        Re: Still an issue today

        I can't fully remember their stupid logic but if I'm remembering right they were aware in was the bin. The thought obviously never cross their mind that it could be emptied at any point.

        1. Kiwi Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: Still an issue today

          With some of my users I think it's a case of...

          The thought obviously never cross their mind that it could be emptied at any point.

          :)

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Still an issue today

      I think the biggest misnomer in Windows is this thing called the Recycle Bin. Why not call it compost pile, or septic tank? How about hell? They are all equally valid.

      1. Kiwi Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: Still an issue today

        Why not call it compost pile, or septic tank? How about hell? They are all equally valid.

        A compost pile is a great thing to have, and a real benefit to your garden (or any other gardens you can supply - I'd encourage anyone to get a cheap lidded bucket (there's ways to get them free), dump your kitchen waste into that, and give it to anyone local who has a garden).

        The rest of those labels, however, are already 'reserved terms' that describe the OS itself.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Still an issue today

          Doesn't look like the fish are biting today.

  16. bed

    (not) deleting emails...

    As a true hypocrite, whilst imposing mailbox limits on users, I ignored them myself because I never knew when I would need to refer back to some previous event, project, or whatever. Of course users bypassed the limit by using ost files then failing to back them up or failing to migrate them when upgrading hardware. The problem was, in reality, we lacked the hardware resources to support a large exchange server with the associated online, nearline and offline storage and backup requirements. Having moved on, o365 has a 50gb mailbox limit and I see I have barely 40gb free despite having emails going back to, seemingly, the beginning of time and, now, backups are someone else's problem.

    1. Kiwi Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: (not) deleting emails...

      and, now, backups are someone else's problem.

      Well.. Backups are only "someone else's problem" when you don't need them. When you do need them, they become your problem - and when they become your problem, the other person can say "that's not my problem".

  17. HorseflySteve

    Rename the folder...

    ...to Shredder. They'll be a lot less likely to store emails in it then!

  18. N2 Silver badge

    Lookout

    There was one hapless user whose insistence on using Outlook depite it being contrary to company policy. You know its going to end in tears...

    To cut a long story short, they decided to use the 'Outlook inbox repair tool' at least thats what Microsoft called it, to fix a problem.

    Running the tool did precious little to resolve things, however it did manage to strip all the attachments that had been emailed to said user which they had saved from the mailbox to a server share.

    Thankfully, I restored these from backup, but how anyone could program such mallevolence under the auspices of 'repair tool' is beyond me.

    The next day the offending garbage was replaced.

    1. Kiwi Silver badge
      Windows

      Re: Lookout

      Thankfully, I restored these from backup, but how anyone could program such mallevolence under the auspices of 'repair tool' is beyond me.

      Those MS "repair" tools were programmed for a specific reason, and I believe that they succeeded in their job exceptionally well.

      They were made so a user would go online, find that tool, download and run it, and wind up with an even worse problem then before. They'd finally give in and take the machine to a repair shop.

      Just so happens, and completely irrelevant to the story and completely done in total innocence (honest!) that the writers of those repair tools also had shares in large repair franchises.. Which did not in any fashion cause them to make their tools such a steaming pile of corrupted turds...

      That, or it was to give the MSVP or whatever they called them people on the MS forums something to make them sound useful and intelligent, for a moment. Until someone tried to follow their advice (when the advice actually showed signs of them listening to the user rather than repeating instructions the user has said several times don't work - like the old "I get BSOD 0x7B immediately on startup, even safe mode - help!" "Oh that's an easy fix. Just let your machine boot, then go to system restore.. " "It doesn't boot, just bluescreens" "you're not listening. When it boots, go to system restore..." "doesn't boot" "to fix that, when it boots go to system restore.. why won't you listen? I'm an MSVP and know everything about your problem without even once listening to your issue!"

      I'd be very surprised if they ever worked, even once.

      [El Reg, we need an icon for PTSD-levels of frustration - the windows icon is close but not quite close enough!]

  19. Anonymous Tribble

    I have many tales about email. Some I just can't talk about.

    There was the manager who thought that deleting his old emails was the responsibility of the Sysadmin (me), so never bothered and then complained when his mailbox filled up. Of course I could have just gone in there and deleted everything - but how would I know what was important to him or not?

    Also, he assumed that the spam filter should be 100% perfect and stuff in his Spam folder didn't need looking at, just in case it was a £20,000 sales opportunity...

    I did manage to delete a few hundred thousand old emails in the sales and support inboxes that dated from long before I joined that company. I'm glad I'm no longer working there, but I still run a mail server of my own and it works just fine. No spam and I clear down my own mail when I need to.

  20. Anonymous Tribble

    Ye dogs... I just remembered someone I used to work with who kept every email he received archived. Not only that, but he replied to every email using "Reply to all" and also set the return receipt option - and archived all the return receipts!

    He also had a habit of writing very long emails with very little content. Like twenty paragraphs on a support email where he was just requesting for his password to be reset because he'd cocked up a password change.

    Oh yes, and there was the manager who sent out a three line email with a 10MB attachment to "All Employees" which clogged up the mail servers for hours.

    Then he realised he'd made a mistake... corrected the email and sent it out again with the same 10MB attachment to all 13,000 employees!

  21. Suricou Raven

    Change the icon, and the metaphor.

    Just replace the recycle bin icon with a recycle bin on fire.

  22. Alan Brown Silver badge

    "Sure enough," sighed Mick, "he had been storing them in the Deleted Items folder as he thought it was the best place."

    Common mentality.

    I've run across users with _YEARS_ of shit that they think is a good idea to store in there.

    Use of the recycle bin or trash folder for storage of supposedly critical files is also commonplace.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      following up on my own post....

      In a lot of cases users do this because there's no quota enforcement on "Deleted" or "Trash" folders - something to be aware of when you're adminning a network (and to check for)

      Of course the fact that we admins don't usually back such folders up somehow never crosses a user's mind - until they lose them.

      1. Kiwi Silver badge
        Boffin

        In a lot of cases users do this because there's no quota enforcement on "Deleted" or "Trash" folders - something to be aware of when you're adminning a network (and to check for)

        Would be cool if you could set a quota on them - but not only set one but one that is much smaller than the normal quotas - say 100x the average email (including attachment) size (or whatever sizing floats your boat but sinks your users' ideas of using it as a bulk storage medium)

    2. Radio Ballet Shoes

      Versioning

      Yep had the same in the days of Exchange 5.5. The PM in this case had a reason. He was looking after multi-million pound contracts with lives from 15 - 25 years. The outlook deleted items folder was the only place on the systems with automated "object" versioning. The business didn't have a content management system. I can't remember how we resolved it in the end, he knew where too many bodies were buried for any disciplinary actions.

  23. Aussie Doc Bronze badge
    Coat

    But...

    I do think some of us BOFHs are to blame for some of the thought processes involved here.

    Everybody knows that when you delete or lose just about anything, the genius from IT will be able to do magic and bring back the dead.

    I think we perpetuate that myth by actually performing our ritualistic acts that do, indeed, bring stuff back from the abyss (unless it's someone who needs to be taught a lesson).

    My book of Incantations is in my pocket.

    Or do I need the joke icon?

  24. Steve C#

    Where I used to work we had a Project Manager who insisted in storing her old email in the "Deleted" folder. She was constantly complaining that her email was not working properly. I told her it was the 30,000 emails in the Deleted folder that was causing the problem but she refused to listen. The Exchange admin had a policy in force that blocked PST file creation. The two system admins there proved the Peter Principle to be true.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I used to work in a place that had a 100MB email limit on Exchange and also blocked the creation of PST files for security reasons. We were also supposed to retain any emails to/from clients for a period of time, I forget how long. These mutually exclusive requirements meant I would often have to "store" emails in the deleted items as this didn't count towards the exchange limit! After a couple of years they relented and upped it to 2GB, but it isn't suprising that users resort to these stupid workarounds - we aren't always given any choice.

  26. anthonyhegedus Silver badge

    Exactly the same thing happened to us with a large firm of <sometradeorother> in a big capital city near London. And it was also the finance director. He didn't realise that you could create folders. This was about 8 years ago as well, actually.

    I proffered to him very similar advice - do you normally keep important physical documents in your bin and expect them to stay there?

    He still works there.

  27. ColinPa

    Storing documents in a real bin

    We used to have a clean desk policy and you could have no paper on the desk or walls. Rather than carefully put his papers into a drawer, and sometimes forget to lock the drawer, one guy would put them in the waste paper bin, and retrieve them in the morning. He said this was foolproof because the people who did the clean desk policy did just that - check the clean desk. They did not check the bin. The cleaners came after lunch when the papers would be on his desk. Genius

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Storing documents in a real bin

      " The cleaners came after lunch when the papers would be on his desk. Genius"

      Until the day he gets nailed out with a virus and/or the cleaners come in early...

  28. Alan W. Rateliff, II
    Stop

    In regard to your inquiry

    Yes, I have. There are sooooo many that I cannot count but do remember a few specific incidents. Everyone ranging from the normal home user to business owners and c-level execs. Grandmother who lost family photos in emails kept in Deleted Items, attorneys and other firms involved in litigation who thought it smart to store the relevant emails in Deleted Items rather than creating a new folder. Seriously. I literally cannot fathom why. Why?!

    Fortunately in almost every case I was able to recover them by slightly altering the header of the PST and run of SCANPST against it. Outlook Express was a little different but not impossible, and Outlook's Recover Deleted Items against Exchange has been a life-saver more than once. I want to say that fortune smiled on all but two or three lost souls who emptied their Deleted Items so long before discovering missing information that they were no longer recoverable.

    My first encounter as a fresh and new IT consultant was a migration into Exchange 2003 before any service pack releases. We were going to head right up against limitations of the data stores, even with multiples. It was decided that we would clear users' Deleted Items before the import, which we found greatly and significantly reduced the amount of required space. Cue a call two days later from accounting. Fortunately, and I really have no idea why we did this, but copies of their PSTs were made before emptying the trash.

    Harsh lessons learned.

    I, too, have used similar analogues with my customers: would you store your lunch in your recycle bin or trash can?

  29. fluffymitten

    Retention policy?

    In some industries, especially regulated ones, there is a retention policy so that even if something is deleted from the users' perspective, it's still retrievable by and admin. Shouldn't be used as a backup / restore but if the emails were that important, the company should have had such a policy in place.

  30. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    It's a long time since I suffered Outlook so my experience may not only be imperfectly remembered but thing may have changed. However AFAICR it shares a basic problem with the email client I've used at home for years: an ill-thought out UI. Ill thought-out, that is, in terms of what the user might reasonably want to do with an incoming email.

    In the physical world reading a message from an in-tray involves physically removing it. Having read it the recipient can do one or more of several things: reply, forward it, bin it or in extreme cases shred it, put it to one side to be dealt with later* and file it.

    With email there are options to reply, forward a copy and delete. Reading doesn't even remove it from the in-tray.

    The only readily available options for disposing of the item are either to leave it in the in-try resulting in a bulging in-tray (guilty as charged m'lud) or delete it, the latter leading to stories like this. Neither is appropriate.

    A start at a better UI would be to remove the item from the in-tray. The user can dispose of it by moving it to a delete bin (to be emptied later according to time or volume rules), shredded (deleted immediately and irrevocably) or moving to a pending tray. If the user does nothing it will go into a filing folder.

    Being computerised there are filing options that can be automated. Threads of liked messages can have their own folder. Emails to and from specified domains can have a folder specified; this would be useful for clients, suppliers, the bank etc. Specific addresses or groups of addresses in the address book can have a folder specified. Ad hoc folders can be specified so there can be a hierarchy with, for instance, individual thread folders grouped in an ad hoc project folder or specific client folders grouped in an overall Clients folder. Sent mails, including those which forward a message, would also go into the filing area. There could, maybe, be two holding folders, read and sent for anything not yet dealt with under rules.

    To some extent I can do this with filters on the Thunderbird/Seamonkey client but there are a few of annoyances, the first being that it isn't the default action for disposing of a read email.

    * It could be left in the in-tray or added to a pending tray.

    1. jake Silver badge

      The new-fangled alpine and Mutt can both be configured to do exactly what you ask. I still use (Al)pine for the bulk of my email. Works a treat, even over a 2400 baud dial-up. Or in a terminal emulator, if you insist on the massive overhead of a GUI for a function that is primarily text based.

      (What do you mean, 2400's too slow? How fast can you read and/or type?)

  31. WanderingHaggis

    Me too

    I our case the GD was "filing" everything in delete once he had dealt with it. The warning was the empty inbox when my PFY checked. Fortunately this was before anyone had emptied the trash and some remedial training was undertaken so no damage done. To his credit he took it well and I think appreciated that a disaster had been averted.

  32. TWB

    Some people

    I agree that people really ought to understand 'how to file (email) properly' but there are many people who are just plain messy, even without email their desks are a mound of paperwork - they know where everything is - even if it is not organised as such.

    I cannot get my wife to use folders in email or on her computer - she refuses to try and understand and she has been using computers for at least 20 years.

    It drives me mad and I'm not that tidy myself but I do try to have some semblance or organisation on my computer, at home, in the shed etc.

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