Office 365

5 Reasons to Eliminate PST Files in your Environment

PST files were created to reduce costly storage requirements for Exchange On-premise servers. They were an easy and ...

PST files were created to reduce costly storage requirements for Exchange On-premise servers. They were an easy and convenient way for IT admins to move the data load from the mail server to an end user's workstation. However, as the cost of server storage has dropped significantly and more environments move to cloud solutions, PST files are no longer needed. In fact, they could be hurting your organization.

Key Takeaways

  • PST files can lead to potential data loss due to lack of regular backups and increased risk of corruption, especially when shared among multiple users.
  • PST files can reduce performance and limit access, as they can slow down Outlook and are only accessible on the specific device they were created on.
  • PST files can make eDiscovery difficult, as they are not easily searchable and may not be included in routine IT backup processes.
  • PST files can interfere with compliance and regulatory requirements, as they may not be in compliance with data retention policies and can be difficult to collect and preserve for legal proceedings.
  • PST files can be a security risk, as they can be easily lost, stolen or accessed by unauthorized individuals, leading to sensitive data being exposed.

1: Potential Data Loss

5 Reasons to Eliminate PST Files in your environmentEmail has become one of the most widely used forms of communication in today’s workplace. Every day millions of email messages are sent and received. This content is critical to day-to-day operations. We often see end-users wishing to retain copies of important emails for future reference. In the past, a convenient storage location may be a PST file. However, when they move those messages to PST files, the critical data they contain is at increased risk of being lost.

  • Backing up PST files — PST files typically reside on workstations or on removable storage devices, which are rarely included in routine IT backup processes. Moreover, PST files are locked when in use, so it's often impossible to back them up even if you include them in your enterprise backup scope. And of course, most users are unlikely to back up the data themselves even once, let alone regularly.
  • PST files corrupt easily— The original PST file format had a maximum size of 2GB, and corruption would occur if the file grew beyond that limit. Modern PST files have higher size limits, but oversize PSTs are still prone to corruption. Other factors can also lead to corruption: For example, a power failure or other abnormal shutdown of Outlook while a user is accessing PST files can leave the files damaged, and some viruses can damage PSTs as well.
  • Shared PSTs are particularly problematic — The chances of a PST file becoming corrupt is increased when it is shared among multiple users, especially if two users attempt to open the same PST file simultaneously.

Recovering such PST data could require a great deal of effort from your already overburdened IT team. Or the data could simply be lost altogether — and the cost could be substantial, especially if the data is business-critical or required for litigation. The only sure way to prevent PST data loss is to eliminate PST files altogether.

2: Reduced Performance and Limited Access

Do your users ever complain that their desktop is slow or takes too long for Outlook to load?

PST files may be to blame. Users often create PST files to get around storage quotas, and those PSTs can quickly become very large. If a user has multiple PST files, each tens or even hundreds of gigabytes in size, this puts strain on application and device resources. Outlook has to call each one of these connections at startup.

PST files can further interfere with user productivity because of their limited availability.

  • PST files are local to a specific device — Users today like to access their mailbox data from various devices. But, unlike data in a mailbox on the server, PSTs cannot be shared between multiple devices; data stored by Outlook in a PST file is accessible only from that copy of Outlook on that specific device.
  • PST files work only with Outlook — Mobile devices that attach to Exchange mailboxes using ActiveSync cannot open PSTs, and Outlook Web App does not support PST files. Mobile users may find themselves unable to access critical information that would have been available if they had simply left it on the server.
  • Network-connected PSTs are not supported — Microsoft does not support storing active PST files on network shares. Placing an active PST file on a network share increases the odds that the file will become corrupted, further increasing the risk of data loss.

By keeping their email on the server or in the cloud, users can avoid these issues and be more productive.

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3: Difficult eDiscovery

Email archives and server mailboxes are primary targets of eDiscovery requests. These data stores can be searched extensively. This is not the case for PSTs because the data resides locally. In fact, the most challenging part of any eDiscovery project is often locating, centralizing, and processing hundreds of thousands of PSTs across the organization. Even if you manage to find all the PSTs in your environment, there is no way to search across all PSTs on all machines when using the native Exchange Server eDiscovery tools.

Failure to satisfy eDiscovery requests puts the company at risk of substantial fines and other litigation costs. These are risks which could be avoided if PST files were eliminated.

4: Limited Compliance Features

Every company has sensitive and confidential data. These could be HR records, customer information, financial reports, and personal identifiable information. Both compliance regulations and internal policies often require organizations to ensure the security of such information. Failure to comply with these guidelines puts the organization at risk of compliance failures, as well as loss of public trust and remediation costs.

Users can and do transmit sensitive data through email and move or copy that email into PST files. Because PST files are stored on the user's desktop, laptop, or mobile device, they are far less secure than email stored on a server. This can open the door to potential data breach scenarios.  

Many compliance regulations require that email be kept for a specified time. If you fail to retain it long enough, you could be subject to penalties. And if you store it too long, you put the organization at risk by potentially being required to provide evidence that you could have legally deleted.

Many companies establish policies to regulate the message lifecycle. They elect to automatically purge messages of a certain age to keep them from being subpoenaed in the event of litigation. And, of course, they protect the messages they are required to keep through data protection practices, such as backups and replication.

By storing email in PST files, users circumvent your message lifecycle management policies. They may delete messages that the organization was required to keep, and they may retain messages far longer than required by regulations, putting the company at risk of compliance failures and penalties.

5: Elevated IT Costs and Burden

Each of the preceding four reasons for eliminating PST files from your organization gives rise to IT challenges. Specifically, PST files put an additional burden on IT administrators by complicating tasks, such as:

  • Attempting to recover business-critical data that is lost or corrupted
  • Maintaining desktop performance and access to data
  • Fulfilling eDiscovery requests in a timely manner
  • Ensuring both internal and external compliance

Allowing users to retain valuable business email outside of standard IT data protection processes wastes valuable IT time and increases costs.

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Let’s Summarize 

PSTs in your environment can put your organization at risk in multiple ways. Consider investing in a migration tool, like PSTComplete, to remove this legacy PST data from your organization. With no PST files, you’re likely to see optimizations in the daily business workflows as well as reducing risk.

With unmatched next generation migration technology, Cloudficient is revolutionizing the way businesses retire legacy systems and transform their organization into the cloud. Our business constantly remains focused on client needs and creating product offerings that match them. We provide affordable services that are scalable, fast and seamless.

If you would like to learn more about how to bring Cloudficiency to your migration project, visit our website, or contact us.

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