Should you use Email Archiving Instead of PST Files?
I had a meeting recently with a potential new client. The agenda of the meeting was for a full overview of the project they had planned and how our software could possibly help and integrate into their overall project now and in the future.
It was a very typical meeting around time frames, projections, VMs, end-user interaction etc. So far so normal. It was then that one of the team asked about PST files on their system and how we could remove these and incorporate them into the main archive.
As I started to explain that this wasn’t an issue it started off a discussion by the clients team around PSTs: how many, why not leave them on the system, should end user’s manage their own, compliance, investigations, storage, back-ups, data loss, retention policies etc.
It was strange but also interesting as to how a relatively small issue which usually covers 5 minutes in a meeting had now managed to encapsulate the entire project and the types of issues that all organisations face today. Below are some of the areas we discussed.
What is a Personal Storage Table (PST)?
Seems like a simple question but you would be surprised how often I am asked. Microsoft Personal Storage Table (PST) are a file format used to store email messages and other items such as calendar events. The problem with these files is that they multiply and grow rapidly as end-users add more and more sent and received e-mails.
The main area of issue here is that the folders are kept or stored on the end-users workstation as opposed to the main centralized server. This in turn just replicates the issues that the organisation were trying to address in the first place by taking a growth and user quota issue and moving it elsewhere without overall management or without knowledge of business critical information.
Business Intelligence or Critical Information
An organisation or company needs to be able to search, retrieve and set retention and compliance policies across their entire e-mail infrastructure. With PST files held locally on the end-user’s workstation, a company cannot be sure of the type of information held within these i.e. financial information, product and marketing strategies, personnel data, client information, PCI/DSS etc.
When this type of information is held locally it is almost impossible for a company to accurately manage storage or retrieve this type of critical business intelligence. This can also pose an issue when all information relevant to a particular case must be retrieved for an audit, internal investigation or lawsuit.
PST files can fall outside of internal retention policies or go undetected. This particular company used a document management system (DMS) where emails that we deemed relevant or business critical were moved. This creates 2 other issues completely as it depends upon the user to determine what is and isn’t relevant, business critical or within retention policies.
It also relies upon the end-user manually moving the information into the DMS! Again this overflow that is being pushed to PST is not best practice as it creates a 2 tier selection system and allows users to decide, whilst also not adhering to internal retention policies creating the question if one user has this issue, how many others do.
Data Loss or Corruption
PST file are known to suffer data corruption when reaching a 2GB limit. This, coupled with the difficulty of recovery can lead to total data loss. PST files are also prone to corruption which can occur due to a large number of software or hardware issues such as a faulty networking device or even a power cut.
The portable nature of PST files and the fact that they are stored locally also creates a risk of data loss. As more and more users now use laptops or even BYOD there is an increased potential for data to become lost or even stolen creating a threat to organisational security.
Backups and Storage
A typical PST file will have multiple duplicates of the same file. Multiply this by 100s of messages and the 1000s of users in your organization and you begin to get a picture of the amount of storage being used. This, coupled with the added backup time required for each view or opened PST, can increase the overall backup time hugely.
eDiscovery and Compliance
PST files can be an eDiscovery nightmare, as this information is applicable to eDisovery requests. Because of the ad hoc storage and visibility this can create huge problems from a retention, Compliance and eDiscovery point of view, which in turn will just increase the cost and time of any investigation.
How Email Archiving Can Help
If you are currently relying on PST files and considering switching to an email archiving solution, MailMeter from Waterford Technologies can help you to eliminate the use of PSTs in your organization forever and make huge storage savings.