A New Approach to Reporting Exchange Mailbox Statistics

Exploit Graph Usage Data Instead of PowerShell Cmdlets

The first report generated by Exchange administrators as they learn PowerShell is often a list of mailboxes. The second is usually a list of mailboxes and their sizes. A modern version of the code used to generate such a report is shown below.

Get-ExoMailbox -RecipientTypeDetails UserMailbox -ResultSize Unlimited | Sort-Object DisplayName | Get-ExoMailboxStatistics | Format-Table DisplayName, ItemCount, TotalItemSize -AutoSize

I call the code “modern” because it used the REST-based cmdlets introduced in 2019. Many examples persist across the internet that use the older Get-Mailbox and Get-MailboxStatistics cmdlets.

Instead of piping the results of Get-ExoMailbox to Get-ExoMailboxStatistics, a variation creates an array of mailboxes and loops through the array to generate statistics for each mailbox.

[array]$Mbx = Get-ExoMailbox -RecipientTypeDetails UserMailbox -ResultSize Unlimited
Write-Host ("Processing {0} mailboxes..." -f $Mbx.count)

$OutputReport = [System.Collections.Generic.List[Object]]::new()

ForEach ($M in $Mbx) {
  $MbxStats = Get-ExoMailboxStatistics -Identity $M.ExternalDirectoryObjectId -Properties LastUserActionTime
  $DaysSinceActivity = (New-TimeSpan $MbxStats.LastUserActionTime).Days
  $ReportLine = [PSCustomObject]@{
    UPN               = $M.UserPrincipalName
    Name              = $M.DisplayName
    Items             = $MbxStats.ItemCount
    Size              = $MbxStats.TotalItemSize.Value.toString().Split("(")[0]
    LastActivity      = $MbxStats.LastUserActionTime
    DaysSinceActivity = $DaysSinceActivity
$OutputReport | Format-Table Name, UPN, Items, Size, LastActivity

In both cases, the Get-ExoMailboxStatistics cmdlet fetches information about the number of items in a mailbox, their size, and the last recorded user interaction. There’s nothing wrong with this approach. It works (as it has since 2007) and generates the requested information. The only downside is that it’s slow to run Get-ExoMailboxStatistics for each mailbox. You won’t notice the problem in small tenants where a script only needs to process a couple of hundred mailboxes, but the performance penalty mounts as the number of mailboxes increases.

Graph Usage Data and Microsoft 365 Admin Center Reports

Microsoft 365 administrators are probably familiar with the Reports section of the Microsoft 365 admin center. A set of usage reports are available to help organizations understand how active their users are in different workloads, including email (Figure 1).

Email usage reports in the Microsoft 365 admin center

Graph usage data
Figure 1: Email usage reports in the Microsoft 365 admin center

The basis of the usage reports is the Graph Reports API, including the email activity reports and mailbox usage reports through Graph API requests and Microsoft Graph PowerShell SDK cmdlets. Here are examples of fetching email activity and mailbox usage data with the SDK cmdlets. The specified period is 180 days, which is the maximum:

Get-MgReportEmailActivityUserDetail -Period 'D180' -Outfile EmailActivity.CSV
[array]$EmailActivityData = Import-CSV EmailActivity.CSV
Get-MgReportMailboxUsageDetail -Period 'D180' -Outfile MailboxUsage.CSV
[array]$MailboxUsage = Import-CSV MailboxUsage.CSV

I cover how to use Graph API requests in the Microsoft 365 user activity report. This is a script that builds up a composite picture of user activity across different workloads, including Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, OneDrive for Business, and Teams. One difference between the Graph API requests and the SDK cmdlets is that the cmdlets download data to a CSV file that must then be imported into an array before it can be used. The raw API requests can fetch data and populate an array in a single call. It’s just another of the little foibles of the Graph SDK.

The combination of email activity and mailbox usage allows us to replace calls to Get-ExoMailboxStatistics (or Get-MailboxStatistics, if you insist on using the older cmdlet). The basic idea is that the script fetches the usage data (as above) and references the arrays that hold the data to fetch the information about item count, mailbox size, etc.

You can download a full script demonstrating how to use the Graph usage data for mailbox statistics from GitHub.

User Data Obfuscation

To preserve user privacy, organizations can choose to obfuscate the data returned by the Graph and replace user-identifiable data with MD5 hashes. We obviously need non-obfuscated user data, so the script checks if the privacy setting is in force. If this is true, the script switches the setting to allow the retrieval of user data for the report.

$ObfuscatedReset = $False
If ((Get-MgBetaAdminReportSetting).DisplayConcealedNames -eq $True) {
    $Parameters = @{ displayConcealedNames = $False }
    Update-MgBetaAdminReportSetting -BodyParameter $Parameters
    $ObfuscatedReset = $True

At the end of the script, the setting is switched back to privacy mode.

Faster but Slightly Outdated

My tests (based on the Measure-Command cmdlet) indicate that it’s much faster to retrieve and use the email usage data instead of running Get-ExoMailboxStatistics. At times, it was four times faster to process a set of mailboxes. Your mileage might vary, but I suspect that replacing cmdlets that need to interact with mailboxes with lookups against arrays will always be faster. Unfortunately the technique is not available for Exchange Server because the Graph doesn’t store usage data for on-premises servers.

One downside is that the Graph usage data is always at least two days behind the current time. However, I don’t think that this will make much practical difference because it’s unlikely that there will be much variation in mailbox size over a couple of days.

The point is that old techniques developed to answer questions in the earliest days of PowerShell might not necessarily still be the best way to do something. New sources of information and different ways of accessing and using that data might deliver a better and faster outcome. Always stay curious!

Insight like this doesn’t come easily. You’ve got to know the technology and understand how to look behind the scenes. Benefit from the knowledge and experience of the Office 365 for IT Pros team by subscribing to the best eBook covering Office 365 and the wider Microsoft 365 ecosystem.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.