Office 365

Are PST Files Exposing You To Risk?

When it comes to PST technology, almost every IT manager has a nightmare story of stolen documents and corrupted files. ...

When it comes to PST technology, almost every IT manager has a nightmare story of stolen documents and corrupted files. These losses can cost companies thousands or even millions of dollars. Imagine, for instance, losing files that could prove legal allegations are false. What about losing emailed receipts needed to justify accounting expenses?  What if disgruntled terminated employees remove data from your environment that represents intellectual property?

These are problematic incidents for small businesses, and larger enterprises alike. Proactive managers have long deserted PST files for cloud management. The good news is it’s still not too late for everyone else to make the change.

Key Takeaways 

  1. PST files can be a major problem for IT managers, as they can lead to stolen documents, corrupted files, and significant financial losses.
  2. PST files were created in the 1990s when mailbox sizes were limited, but they are now incompatible with progress, agility, and efficiency.
  3. PST files can be difficult to track and identify, making it challenging to collect data during eDiscovery.
  4. PST files can be vulnerable to corruption and unauthorized access, which can compromise the integrity of the data.
  5. PST files are particularly problematic for remote work and eDiscovery, as they do not provide the necessary infrastructure and are not easily accessible or searchable.

The Challenges of using PSTs as a filing system

When Microsoft created the personal storage table (PST file), it was appropriate for its time. It met the needs of organizations in the 1990s,

Are PST Files Exposing You To Risk

 when mailbox sizes were limited due to the need for expensive on-premise Exchange storage. Since then, a lot has changed in the world of mailbox management. 

This has made PST files incompatible with progress, agility and efficiency. In fact, even Microsoft has stated that PST files are not meant to serve as long-term and continual solutions to filing needs in enterprise environments.  PST files hinder the capabilities of the remote workforce and any legal discovery that is needed against this historical data.

PST Bloat and identification issues

Because there is no syncing feature for PST, people often store multiple versions of the same files, which can make it difficult to track down the most current version.  A user may have 5 or 6 PST files on their local workstation – each containing mostly the same data.  How do you know which to use?  This becomes a challenge when PST files need to be collected from a custodian involved in an eDiscovery case.

Data Integrity

When this data is used for day to day operations or even compliance/eDiscovery, you need to trust that the data is accurate.  With PST files, this data becomes too easily accessible by unauthorized persons and PST files are extremely vulnerable to corruption.

Data Integrity

The security of the files also come into question, as Sony learned the hard way during its PST-related data breach.  In February 2015, at least 170,000 hacked individual Sony emails were subsequently published by Wikileaks and Sony reputedly had to set aside $15m to deal with the fallout. The hacked emails were sourced from standalone files that included at least 179 PSTs including those of an executive at Sony Pictures Canada and one of its IT audit supervisors, as well as many archive and backup PST files.

Remote Work

Fast forward to the year 2020. It will always be remembered as the time when remote work finally took off. What started as a perk reserved for highly paid workers and creatives became a norm for roughly 42% of the general working population in the US. Larger tech companies have been especially supportive of allowing employees to continue to work remotely.

Remote work requires the right infrastructure, which does not include rogue PST files. Instead, remote companies rely on cloud services for everything from email to workflow management. The right infrastructure also reduces the likelihood of people storing sensitive information on personal hard drives exposing them to loss, theft and corruption.

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During the normal course of business, data is generated which needs to be re-used, retained  and discovered. Some data owners have an impeccable filing system that makes finding documents a breeze if you know how to use it. However, this is still the equivalent of knowing which library shelf to check without asking the librarian as opposed to pulling up a quick and accurate search. 

Ring Binder with inscription Investigations on Background of Working Table with Office Supplies, Glasses, Reports. Toned Illustration. Business Concept on Blurred Background.

By their very nature, corporate emails contain a wealth of sensitive data. They’re often the database of record, which is why regulators insist they are auditable and retrievable. Any organization having PST files is at risk.

PST files allow users to circumvent corporate record retention policies – allowing them to keep data longer then is necessary for compliance and/or legitimate business practice.

Consider the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Rule 37E change from “good faith effort to protect information” to“taking reasonable action to prevent deletion”. As a result, the potential for organizations to receive significant fines for failing to act to preserve materials is a real risk.

Instant and easy access to data is unlikely to be facilitated by PST-based filing systems. This can create problems for legal teams, accountants and human resource workers. Why continue to use a system that will cause employees to spend a lot of time and money for inconsistent results?


Chances are that you already migrated other parts of your business to the cloud. Maybe you have already started using Microsoft Teams, OneDrive and other collaborative software.  PST files, whether they are just storing legacy data or are still actively in use – should be transitioned to an always-available online mailbox. 

Another example is that users cannot attach a PST file via mobile versions of Microsoft Outlook, nor can they use them with Outlook Web Access. Even with desktop or laptop based Microsoft Outlook, users cannot get to these PST files unless they have access to the storage where it resides (laptop, network home drive, or USB Drive).  An agile organization should not be hindered by technology from 30 years ago!

The Benefits of Migrating to the Cloud

So, is it time to get rid of the PST files and make your life easier? What about reducing exposure and corporate risk? Here are a few reasons you should consider migrating PST data to Office 365:

Eliminate the need to backup laptops/workstations

it business man in network server room have problems and looking for  disaster situation  solution

Our customers tell us that the remaining reason they are still backing up end-user devices is to protect PST files from loss or corruption – all other corporate data already exists in the cloud.

Better Compliance and Faster eDiscovery

Moving PST data to an online mailbox allows for proper retention policies to be applied as per corporate data governance policies (just like the rest of the data in your organization). 

This PST data will then be available to your legal teams via the Security and Compliance Center for ease of discovery.

Mitigate risks of Data Breach and Data Loss

With your PST content in an online mailbox, you can be sure that it will be protected by Office 365 security controls and Microsoft’s SLAs for data protection.  Any attempts made to bring this data offsite can be audited to ensure it is used for legitimate purposes.

Access from anywhere

Once migrated, end users will be able to access their PST content from any device or application which has access to their Office 365 mailbox.

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The Bottom Line

Cloudficient has established itself as a leader in the cloud migration space. Over the years we have revolutionized the way companies across all industries do business. We also remain committed to finding improved ways to better secure your data and speed up the migration process. 

If you are interested in all the benefits that can be achieved by migrating your PST content to Office 365, we would love to assist with your transition. If you’re still not 100% sold on why you should give up PST files for the cloud, contact our team. We might just change your mind!

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