To PST Or Not To PST
by Jeff Laubhan – Waterford Technologies
In our business we make a lot of phone calls. On this particular day we seemed to be getting told the same thing. “Now really isn’t a good time. I’m rebuilding a PST file and don’t have the time to look for a solution to get rid of them.” I could just hear the exasperation in his voice.
If you search for PST corruption, rebuilding tools, and more there’s millions of pages out there. Hmm, this could be a problem. When PSTs were invented they were great because there were hard limits on how much you could keep on the Exchange server (was it 5.5 or earlier?), but really, today, still we are dealing with it.Here are the most recent stories that I’ve heard:
1.) Too many PSTs: Most IT folks tell people to create one for every year to keep them small. So, the end user says, do I search here or here, which one was it? I NEED that email now and still can’t find it.
2.) Corruption: Seriously, raise your hands how many times you have heard the “well, it won’t open” or might have gotten corrupted? Good luck. End users are livid. They need their data now.
3.) Access via OWA: Sorry, no can do. You can get to it on your hard drive when at work, but work on the weekends or night? Sorry. Not gonna happen. This is why one of my colleagues cc’s himself on messages, just so he has it handy.
4.) Old PSTs: formatting, changes…how to open that darn PST file from 5 years ago… convert? whaaat?!?! Utter confusion for the end user.
5.) PSTs on personal laptops: Laptop just died, PST died with it because most people don’t back up their personal computers. IT tries, they really do but when your PST file is always open, they can’t back it up.
6.) PST on the Network: Ah ha…put the PST file on the network so IT can back it up. Sure, even Microsoft says that this is a viable option albeit one that could be challenging, lots of traffic.
7.) Legal Discovery: The security officer gets called into court and is asked about their control of data. Archive, check, Exchange, check…then the opposing counsel says, “What about PST individual archive files from current and previous employees?” Hmm, I believe we don’t have any users that have them currently but we don’t turn off the ability for users to create them so …I am not sure. WRONG answer. OK, what about previous employees? Again, not sure, I would need to search the network, but potentially. “Potentially” and “I’m not sure” is a yes in my book. OK, when you do find them how do you know the integrity of the emails, people change stuff all the time!!!
“PST files are not disallowed but they are not part of FOIA / Open records requests… Huh?”
Here in southern California there is a local city government that dumbfounded me recently. I honestly tried to keep a straight face when they told me that PST files are not disallowed but they are not part of FOIA / Open records requests. Huh? I asked why not? IT doesn’t support them so they aren’t considered evidence. OK, what does that mean? The IT manager said users might have them on the network or their local PCs but they are not part of the standard back-up process? Again, huh? So, are they specifically excluded? No but they aren’t specifically included and users know that if they get corrupted or if something catastrophic happens that IT won’t try to restore them. So, if opposing counsel asks if you have PSTs on your network, what would you tell them? Not to the best of my knowledge is what he said. But have you ever searched for them? No, I’ve never been asked. Wow, the lawyers representing you are good. Someday hopefully there will be a lawsuit or public records request that asks the right questions. They are out there, lurking in the shadows, just waiting to be found. Just because IT doesn’t support them doesn’t mean they don’t have to find them…SNAP
So folks, keep using them at your risk or consider getting rid of them. Get a central archive that you can manage. Plus, when we analyze the top files on a network PSTs always show up on the top. Instead of a TB of PST files, de-dupe those bad boys and throw them into an archive. Think of that important football pool update, Sally’s vacation pictures or anything else that a good 20 people save the same copy over and over again in every PST bucket. Yes, they are little buckets that everyone has a copy of the same darn file…food for thought.
To read more about PSTs and Email Retention Management Click Here