Tips on Living with and Managing Microsoft Outlook PST Files

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IT administrators know that mailbox quotas imposed on network users will encourage the use of Microsoft Oulook’s AutoArchive feature which creates personal storage (PST) files. Messages and attachments often contain sensitive company data that should be part of a central store. Difficult to locate and manage, PSTs clog up local drives and server space and are rarely included in normal security and backup processes. The need to use PST files can have a negative impact on business productivity.

On the other hand, managing and living with PSTs scattered around the network may not be a problem for some organizations. The following PST management tips from C2C, a leading provider of email, file and messaging management solutions, are intended to help IT managers determine whether action should be taken and how to live with PST files.

Discovering PSTs

The size and location of all PSTs needs to be found in order to understand the scale of the issue. Rooting out PSTs can be difficult with limited time and/or budget, but C2C management tools are available that can give visibility into the size and location of PST files. PSTs have known tendencies to corrupt when they near their maximum size, so recording the PST name, path and size will show the most potentially problematic files. Once PST files have been located and analyzed, it may be acceptable to take no further action other than living with them and managing their content.

Living with PSTs

PSTs contain a variety of content from personal data, items that might breach a company’s email policy, to items that pose a high risk of non-compliance with legal, corporate and regulatory procedures. Some PST data may need to be secured to meet regulatory compliance goals, and some may need to be deleted to reduce capacity usage, such as .avi attachments or PSTs of people who have left the organization. There are a few ways to gather PST data, such as scripts or installing client-based software. These approaches are often limited in scope or complex to use, and neither work well. Only a purpose-built PST management tool provides the ability to find, report, copy, move or delete data.

Managing PSTs

The typical solution to PST management is to remove them from their original locations, amass them into a single location, and then ingest them into an archive. As well as being resource-intensive, this process does not scale, impacts network users, and is not necessary. An option is to archive the PST file and leave a stub in its place. By doing so, users still believe that PSTs exist, can still access their data, and see no change to daily procedures. As a small PST, the risk of potential corruption is reduced, and company information is incorporated into a secure, visible store with information from the user’s mailbox. This approach provides the benefits of archiving with no user training and allows the administrator to scan for data as needed before, during or after the PST content is archived.

“Many vendors will advise ‘archiving’ as the only solution to PST management, which does not take into account the user’s needs and circumstances,” said Dave Hunt, CEO of C2C. “PST management is not a one-size-fits-all problem, and only C2C offers management tools to make the process headache-free.”

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