Office 365

9 Key Considerations When Choosing the Best PST Migration Tool

In this blog, we’ll go over what’s involved in a PST file migration. Many enterprise-sized organizations have concluded ...

In this blog, we’ll go over what’s involved in a PST file migration. Many enterprise-sized organizations have concluded that PST files can put the business at risk and don't give a great end-user experience when coupled with cloud-based tools used to run the business. So, we’ll also share with you our top things to consider if you’re choosing a PST file migration tool to get your data into Microsoft Office 365 quick, efficiently, and with the least impact to end-users.

What are PST files?

Young girl thinking with glowing brain illustration on grungy backgroundIf you’re wondering what the acronym PST stands for, then wonder no more! It stands for personal storage table. Microsoft created this file format in the early 1990s. Many organizations were struggling with end-users wanting more mailbox storage space. Users would create a PST file on their desktop computer and drag and drop older (or larger) emails from their mailbox into the PST. They still have access to the email, and their mailbox is just that little bit smaller.

The PST file format changed a few times over the years mainly to offer more space, but the problems with intermittent corruption and end-users creating multiple copies of ‘similar’ PST data files have plagued the use of the files.

A lot has changed in the following decades, and now PST files are considered a high risk to many enterprise-sized organizations.

PSTs were never really for long-term storage, despite how end-users used (and abused) them. Even Microsoft says they shouldn’t be used for long-term storage of messages. But that’s not the only problem; here are some more:

  • High likelihood of corruption, particularly when stored and used from network locations
  • Multiple ‘backup’ copies on all sorts of devices and removable media.
  • Difficult for end-users to find required emails.
  • High risk to businesses of PSTs on removable media being stolen or lost
  • Problematic for remote and hybrid workers
  • Not compatible with mobile (tablet or smartphone) versions of Microsoft Outlook.
  • Challenging for legal teams to perform effective eDiscovery

Since there are so many issues with PST files, most organizations are considering a PST migration.

What is PST Migration?

Essentially a PST migration means that the PST files that end-users have grown to love and hate over the years will be eliminated.  Some or all of the data is usually ingested into a target cloud platform like Microsoft Office 365.

Some organizations which have adopted the Google Platform ask the question:

Can you import PST files into Gmail?

Yes, you can, but by far the most common business platform and the chosen target for many PST migrations is Microsoft Office 365.

Following a PST migration, most organizations then disable the ability for the Microsoft Outlook desktop/laptop client to access and create new PST files. It’s an essential step which is sometimes missed, but without this step, the PST problem will only come back in a few years.

How do I do a PST Migration?

There are two ways to perform a PST migration:

  • Manually
    • Using the ‘Drag and Drop’ method
    • Using Microsoft’s PST Import Tool
  • Automated using a third-party solution

Let’s review each:

How do I do a Manual PST Migration?

A manual PST migration is a tricky undertaking for many enterprise-sized organizations. Effectively you’re asking end-users to locate and process every one of their PST files in an allocated time frame. Many end-users might know where some of their latest PST files reside, as they’re probably connected to their Microsoft Outlook profile. But older ones will be harder to find. They’re also probably going to have some live or backup copies on network shares that they might need access to from time to time.

It’s also a tricky undertaking for shared PST files. While sharing of PST files was never something that the original concept of PST files was used for, it often happens in many organizations.

Who is the ‘right’ person to do the migration of those PST files?

In some organizations, it’s difficult even to decide who should review the data in those types of PST files to see if it has an ongoing business value.

Manual migration might then involve users dragging and dropping their data into their main Outlook profile, i.e. their mailbox. Many organizations enable a personal archive mailbox for users to store, or rather for them to archive, older emails. Those are also regularly the target of manual PST migrations.

At least with this approach, users can flexibly move data to where they think they might make most use of it. However, it is not always that simple. Many users will try dragging and dropping huge amounts of data into their mailbox, bringing back those emails about the mailbox quota being reached.

Another option is to use the Microsoft Import tool and put the data into Azure storage, or ship data drives to Microsoft. Usually in the realm of an organization's IT team, this approach is also tricky to manage and leads to end-users getting interrupted access to their data.

Your IT team also needs to create a PST mapping file (to map the file name to a specific user), create a PST import job, and optionally filter some of the data and then perform the import.

This takes some time, and if you use the drive shipping method, it can take quite some time and adds the expense and difficulty of using removable media. In addition, at the time of writing, Microsoft charge around $2,000 USD per Terabyte of data.

All in all, doing a manual PST migration only works for the smallest of PST file migrations. Therefore, most enterprise-sized organizations need an automated approach.

How do I do an Automated PST Migration?

There are several solutions on the market, including our own PSTComplete product.  Some of these solutions allow the end-users to interact with the migration, indicating which PSTs should be migrated, and in some cases, pausing a migration for a period of time. Some of the solutions allow end-user interaction as well as the alternative: a fully IT policy-led approach of collecting and processing PSTs automatically.

In most cases doing an automated PST migration is a matter of purchasing the solution, deploying it, configuring it, running a pilot on some users and then going into full-scale production.

There is obviously a lot more to the whole process than those simple steps, and to help you take the right approach for your organization, in the next section we’ll go through some key considerations to help you and your organization choose the best PST migration tool for your situation.

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9 Key Considerations When Choosing the Best PST Migration Tool

Will End-users be in Control?

Typically, when it comes to a PST migration tool there are two approaches which can be taken:

  • Allow end-users an element of control and interaction
  • Fully automated discover and migration of PSTs

Before embarking on a PST migration consider which of these approaches is most suitable for your migration project.

How Will PSTs be Migrated?

There are normally two approaches to this task:

  • Centralize PST files, process them, and migrate them to the chosen target
  • Perform the migration directly from the end-user workstation

There are pros and cons of each approach (which we will discuss in a future blog).

Will End-users be Kept Informed?

End-users must be kept informed throughout the migration process. This starts long before any data is actually migrated to the chosen target containers. End-users need to know what is happening, and when it is happening; otherwise, it will likely interrupt their business day and lead to frustration for the overall process.

We recommend that your chosen PST migration tool allows you to configure multiple communication messages to end-users starting well before the migration and finishing once that users' PST data has been successfully migrated.

Does the Migration Impact End Users?

End-users may still be accessing PST data files daily, so blocking access or making it hard for end-users to access them is something to avoid. Your chosen software tool to perform your PST migration should have minimal or no impact to end-users.

What Project Governance and Reporting Features are Available?

End-users are, of course, most concerned with their individual PST data files. The IT team and any records management teams which are involved are also concerned about the overall progress of the project. It’s important to make sure that your chosen PST migration tool has adequate auditing, project governance and reporting features built in. This way, your teams can easily see how far the overall project has progressed and identify and resolve any issues.

Does the Solution Scale to my Needs?

Migrating a few PST files, even sizeable ones, from end-users shouldn’t be something that takes days to complete. You should ensure that your chosen PST migration tool scales simply and easily to meet the demands of the project when you’re in full-scale production migration. Our cloud native platform, ReMAD, is based on Kubernetes and allows us to scale up and scale down, on-demand, almost instantly and dynamically, as required by an individual project.

Can I Try Out the Product?

At Cloudficient, we are a firm believer in always doing a proof of concept of your chosen solution. We offer a no-cost, no-commitment proof of concept in your environment, with your users and your data. This way, you get to see the product in the real world, rather than in a lab environment, and can easily configure it to suit your individual project requirements.

Will End-user Outlook Profiles Be Updated?

As we mentioned before, end-users often have one or more PST files connected to their Outlook profile. They may have been connected for some time, and end-users might have even forgotten about how they should manage those connections. We recommend that your chosen PST migration tool handles the removal of those PST entries automatically, after communicating with end-users, at the end of the migration.

How Do I Pay for the Product?

Something that Cloudficient has enabled customers to do is to change the way that they pay for our products and solutions. There is the traditional approach of paying via an upfront payment (Capex), but we also offer a more flexible way of using operational expenditure (Opex). We’ve written more about that in this blog.

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In this blog, we’ve shared with you some key considerations if your organization is considering a PST migration using an industry-leading tool such as PST Complete. However, if your organization decides to perform a migration, it’s absolutely a task that a large business has to undertake to protect the business from data loss and to improve the end-user experience.

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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