PST FILE MANAGEMENT
A Personal Storage Table, or PST, is used in Microsoft Outlook to store email messages, calendar items and other data usually kept in Outlook. In contrast to normal Microsoft Exchange Server information, which is stored on a server and accessed by Outlook, a PST file is typically stored on a user’s local hard disk or, in a corporate environment, on a file server. Users often employ PST files to circumvent server storage quotas. Because these personal folders are stored on individual work stations rather than on a centralized server, they can present vexing management challenges and business risks. Here are some common problems that occur when corporate employees use PST files:
PST files contain business-critical information, yet they are housed locally
Having these files housed on end users’ computers makes it nearly impossible for corporate IT personnel to store, find and manage the important business information that the files contain. If the file’s owner leaves the company, the information in the PST file might never return to company control. A PST file stored on a laptop is unlikely to be encrypted, so if the laptop is lost or stolen, a thief would have ready access to the email stored in the machine.
PST files have a huge impact on storage and backup
Most employees who use personal folders have multiple copies of documents stored in their PST files. Multiply that situation by hundreds of messages per user and hundreds or thousands of employees, and the impact on enterprise storage requirements is enormous. Also, any opened PST file requires a full backup, even if the file has only been viewed. Since the combined size of all employees’ PST files can easily reach hundreds of gigabytes or even terabytes, the files can affect the capacity and performance of an enterprise’s backup servers.
PST files are prone to data loss or corruption
When their maximum two-gigabyte size is pushed to the limit, PST files are vulnerable to data corruption. Unfortunately, they also have limited recovery capability, so corruption can cause permanent data loss. Corruption of local or removable storage media that contain personal folders can also cause a permanent loss of data if the files aren’t subject to standard backup processes—a situation that is all too common with laptops. Even when PST files aren’t completely lost, they can cause significant problems, for example when multiple users at once contact the company’s help desk to attempt to recover corrupted PST files, these ties-up valuable resources who could be working on more strategic projects.
PST files can be an e-discovery nightmare
Information contained in a PST file is considered a business record and is subject to discovery requirements, just like email. But the dispersed storage of personal folders makes it difficult for organizations to safely identify and destroy documents that no longer need to be kept for legal or business reasons. PST files can also increase the cost and effort of litigation discovery. Administrators must ask individual users to manually identify email messages in files that are relevant to the litigation; put a hold on those messages; and produce those files when they’re needed for discovery. Because information stored locally is difficult to locate and collect, this manner of collection is labor-intensive and prone to errors.
PST files can elude enterprise-retention policies
Any organization that doesn’t address the risk-management issues of PST files is in danger of losing critical business information. Organizations that have a fixed data-retention period (e.g., 90 days) but also allow users to create PST files inadvertently encourage ad hoc archiving. In this situation, individual users may save their data for longer periods than specified by corporate policies. This unmanaged archiving makes it difficult to comply with regulatory requirements and it could subject an organization to charges of data spoliation (failure to adequately preserve electronic evidence) during litigation.
PST files only work with Outlook
Another disadvantage to using PST files is that they only work with Outlook. Mobile devices that attach to Exchange mailboxes using ActiveSync cannot open PST files. Similarly, Outlook Web App does not include any support for PST files.
Implementing a PST file Migration Project
Often the scale of a PST migration is not truly apparent until the project has already started, and the discovery process is well under way. Adept-tec can assist you to:
Stop the proliferation of PST files across your networks
- Sanitize the files and the data within those files – so you only migrate the data that needs to be migrated
- Automatically correct common errors within the files prior to discovering problems during the migration
- Make the data available on multiple devices, including mobile devices (phones, tablets)
- De-duplicate the data before ingestion – single instancing will take care of multiples, but searches will still show multiple hits for the same data otherwise
Tools for PST File Management
- PST Flightdeck
- Built-in- tool in EV