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Improve message tracing in Exchange online

We have had a lot of issues with spam, whether its cryptovirus emails getting through, or good emails getting improperly blocked. Because of this, we need good message tracing (to find the emails), which we do not feel we have with exchange online. We would like to make the following suggestions:

1. Need to be able to trace further than 7 days back without a 4 hour wait per trace. Our previous message tracing system could go back the entire year nearly instantly, but we need at least 30 days without the 4 hour wait per trace. This was pitched as something that could replace our previous tracing system, and this does not do it.
2. UTC time is confusing in message tracing. It uses “AM and PM.” AM/PM in UTC time is ambigious since UTC time it used all over the world. So either use UTC, or fix the timezone to use our timezone automatically. It looks like very little effort was put into implementing message tracing if this made it past QA.
3. We would like more options in message tracing, especially completely basic fields like searching by subject. I would like to know how this was rolled out as an enterprise product without that a "subject" search field when tracing emails. Part of the reason it is so slow is probably because you have very few search fields to refine.
4. Overall speed improvements, even tracing back less than 7 days or less is slow (sometimes "spins" for several minutes", but more than 7 days is 4 hours+). We basically received a poorly formatted spreadsheet after 4 hours.

A premier case was opened for all of this, the features simply do not exist and its not a configuration issue. They did mention compliance center can help search for emails quicker, but does not trace.

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    John McNamara shared this idea  ·   ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →

    Thank you for taking the time to submit this feedback. Since there are multiple pieces and layers of feedback in this single post, it makes it more difficult than many to address. First, let us share a little about what we’ve been doing. Since this post was made, we have prioritized performance and reliability improvements for both Message Trace (inside 7 days) and Historical Search (typically outside of 7 days). We’ve added details to Message Trace that weren’t there before, decreasing the need to run Historical Searches inside of 7 days. For Historical Search, we have improved the results to be more clear for those who are not familiar with the Exchange Message Tracking log format. Additionally, while we get the total value of Message Trace, we’ve also prioritized reducing the constant need to search & destroy. We’ve made tremendous strides in effectiveness, even as the bad guys got more creative and aggressive. We’ve rolled out ZAP (which is the automatic version of ‘search and destroy’), and we’ve improved our compliance search capabilities. Hopefully you’ve noticed these investments.

    But, we’re not finished. We’re working right now to address some of the complaints and confusion around the Message Trace admin experience itself. Our strategy is to continue adding more events to the Office 365 Graph API, and provide ways for larger customers to get at larger datasets faster. More than just providing you with raw data, we’re working on Security & Compliance features that reduce the effort involved and focus on specific tasks, like identifying which campaigns we’ve protected you from, and what suspicious activity you might want to beware of.

    We also hear the feedback about improving subject based search, improving the retention time of Message Trace beyond 7 days, and continuing to improve performance. While we have nothing additional to communicate specifically in these areas at this time, we continue to welcome feedback and scenarios that helps us prioritize — know that we’re listening and we’ll continue working to improve these scenarios.

    16 comments

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      • Kaden Sinclair commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        The slow reports for longer than 7 days is pretty rough. We have a security issue and need it resolved right away. Waiting hours to find information that could protect the company makes hosted Exchange tough as a solution. Being told it could "take up to 48 hours" by support was astonishing. I feel like I should ask for the report by carrier pigeon and on stone tablets. Our on premise server could deliver a report in minutes and allow us to take action. Now, we risk more damage or acting out of hand. Effectively, this causes real damage to a company during a security risk. Our SOC 2 compliance for hosted solutions would never pass with this type of datacenter sluggishness.

      • Anonymous commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        In addition to your updates to the time format, i would like to see the time include the microsecond values too. Currently they only show up to the second interval and this means that the rules are often sorted in the wrong order. I.e. they dont show in the order of execution because many events happen in the same second and the list is not sorted by a value of less than 1 second. This unnecessarily makes troubleshooting more difficult.

      • John-Paul Muldoon commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        #2 point on John's list was in relation to UTC being used for message tracing. From what I can see, this point doesn't seem to have been responded to at all. Feature requests for the ability to use a Tenant's timezone, or some other ability to add a timezone option has been asked for years and years without any significant response or implementation from Microsoft.

        When an admin is running a message trace, or many, the last thing he/she is wanting to do is manually convert the timestamps to their respective timezone or explain to management why the times are different.

      • Anonymous commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        Our end users cannot wait hours or days for us to trace an email that was sent less than a month ago. This feature needs serious attention as it is currently unusable in a serious situation.

      • Anon I Mouse commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        When will we see a major overhaul to Message Tracing? As of May 2018 Message Tracing is still an ineffectual component. I don't even use it. To properly trace messages you must be able to trace every word of every header of a message. Not just a select few. And you need to be able to go back MONTHS, not just a few days. Query results, even in the 10's of thousands, should only take a few minutes. And the results should in effect be the message and it's headers, with the option to export the message to it's original format, or EML format. ProofPoint SmartSearch is already years ahead of any message tracing available in Office 365. When this is updated, I sure hope it's not an "E5" only feature....

      • Anonymous commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        Message tracking should also include full e-mail headers. Always asking user e-mail heades when they complain about junk mail is a pain. It should be possible to get message headers trought the web tracking interface

      • Blackmountain commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        There is no improvement what so ever... Historical search (7 Days +) takes at least a day even with couple of mailboxes. Having no search capability with Subject is not acceptable.

      • Scott Moore commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        Looks like Subject based searches has been added to SCC\Threat Management\Explorer, but this requires E5 licensing. As I noted over a year ago, this should be a fundamental functionality of Message Trace and should not require elevated licensing in order perform this action. Whether it is added to the Message Trace in EAC or the Explorer in SCC is available to all O365 customers regardless of licensing, that doesn't matter, just the basic ability to search by subject is what matters.

        Also, I have to agree with other here that >7 day old search performance is in no way improved. This takes FAR too long.

      • UB commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        Message tracking on 15 days for 1 user (about 50 email) not yes completed after 23 hours????

        The MS support told me that is normal behaviour, it can take 4 days... are you aware that this tool is totally useless and it waist the time of the IT support and also of the user that need support????

      • DC commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        Message trace performance on 7+ day old emails is getting worse and takes >11 hours! Totally unacceptable!

      • Seth Hohensee commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        We get requests for data over a week old very frequently. Getting a spreadsheet several hours later just isn't responsive enough. Also, given the small result and page sizes, subject filtering is a must.

      • Douglas Plumley commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        Glad to hear you are considering improving subject based searching. The only solution we have today is to dump all our message traces to file/memory and then search by subject over that. From a load perspective that means we might be dumping several hundred thousand messages just to find one message.

        It's an unnecessary, hugely inefficient load on your infrastructure and a lot of time wasted for us.

      • Scott Moore commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        The ability to perform message traces in the EAC GUI by Subject as John noted is a fundamental requirement. Also, the ability to search by sender domain in the GUI should be a fundamental requirement.

      • dcis team commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        Also, why are you only able to trace 500 results? If I want to see how many people received an email, I have to use the even slower compliance center.

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