Last week I have volunteered giving a time management lecture to colleagues in the Israeli industry. Every time I give, I get something back. This time I was challenged by the audience about the usage of personal folders, which encouraged me to drill down to this topic a bit further. It seems the mailboxes of all the participants were extremely small (~150MB-200MB) which forced most of them to save their emails into folders under the personal folders section.
My view on personal folders is clear – do whatever you can to avoid using it. Here is why.
Lack of Backup
Personal folders are not saved on the Outlook server and therefore are not backed up by default. This means that if your Hard Drive is damaged, your emails are gone. Yes, gone.
You can configure Outlook to save the personal folder to a network folder, which can be used as a backup alternative. However, one needs to keep in mind that accessing the folders on a network drive slows down Outlook operation (for example, search results).
Lack of Accessibility
Personal folders are not stored on the Outlook server, which means they are not accessible for your account from other computers. For example, if you are using both desktop PC and a laptop, the search folders would be accessible only on original computer where you have defined them. You can work around it by pointing your personal folders to a network location, and configure the personal folders on both your computers to point to the same network location, but this alternative has its limitations. For example, there is no way you would be able to access those emails from a mobile application (since mobile applications have limited customization and configuration capabilities).
Conflict with Search Folders
Outlook search folders are a great way to provide us a specific search view on our emails. However, search folders can work either on the server folders (our mailbox) or on the personal folders, but not on both. I have failed to find a workaround to this issue. This is a huge drawback.
Let’s sum it up
We were giving some solid arguments on why we should not use personal folders – lack of backup, lack of accessibility and conflict with search folders. Now let’s look on one aspect we should use personal folders. We should use personal folders only in case our mailbox quota is close to its limit. In such case, it is recommended to move the oldest emails to a personal folder. This is being used as an archiving activity.
One last tip on that aspect – in case your mailbox quota is close to its limit, please go to the large-size-emails search folder and look for large size emails. Those emails usually contain large size attachments. You can go to such emails, right click on the attachment and select “remove attachment”. This provides you the ability to keep the email without the attachment that affects your mailbox quota. If the attachment is important for you, you can save it aside before removing it (thanks to Nave for proving me this tip during the lecture).
Be good and use personal folders properly.