Asia's Source for Enterprise Network Knowledge

Tuesday, March 26th, 2019

Cloud

6 steps to cut risky PSTs pre- and post-cloud migration

According to the Radicati Group, Microsoft Office 365 is expected to represent 43% of business mailboxes by 2018. For many organizations transitioning to cloud-based services such as Office 365, management of legacy Personal Storage Table (PST) files has become a major challenge.

The .pst file format is used to store copies of messages, attachments, calendar events, task lists and other items within Microsoft Exchange Client, Windows Messaging and Microsoft Outlook. These container files for tens or even hundreds of thousands of items present terabytes of backup, recovery, corruption and discovery woe.

A prestigious university in the US, for example, migrated its faculty, students and staff to Office 365. The director of IT at the university was confident that it had moved its abundant PST files to the cloud, with Microsoft’s help.

PST Capture, a free Microsoft tool, would migrate PST data to the cloud. However, the university was unaware that it still had to manually search for PST files on computers in the organization. Even then, the tool can only migrate PST files on a small scale, and it’s not robust or automated.

So, the director of IT realized he still had PST files all over the place. And even if he had assumed the files were no longer needed since nobody had asked about them, leaving the wealth of private and confidential information contained in the PST files unmanaged posed security and legal risks.

On a positive note, migration of emails to the cloud, or from local Office applications to Office 365 web applications offers organizations the chance to clean up and regain control of data.

But do not underestimate the scale or depth of problems that PST files can cause, especially during migration to the cloud. Here are six steps toward establishing control of a cloud-based email infrastructure and the data associated with it.

Step 1. Create a strategic plan for eliminating PST files

Determine where the data recovered from PSTs should be stored or if the data should be kept. Understand the upload and storage costs in advance if the data is to be stored in a cloud-based archive. Also consider the amount of data that the cloud service would ingest because it may not accommodate all the PST files that an organization generated.

This will provide a basis for PST elimination. Software solutions greatly accelerate the process, especially those that automate all aspects of PST elimination. The information gathered at this stage helps to set a realistic project budget.

Step 2. Establish the location, details and owners of PST files

Develop a report that identifies the number of PST files in the organization, and their size, location, message counts and ownership details. This vital information validates the strategy set in steps 1 and confirms the storage capacity and location required. Deploy a solution that can automatically pair orphaned PST files back with their respective owners. Knowing who owns the data will pave the way for informed decisions on PST file deletion.

Step 3. Re-evaluate the strategic plan

Based on the full assessment of the organization-wide PST file data, revisit the strategic plan to make adjustments where needed, and finalize the budget.

Step 4. Apply corporate retention policies and eliminate PST data

PST files commonly breach corporate retention policies already in place for automatically removing data of a specific age. So, identify the appropriate retention policies that can be applied consistently to PST files during the migration or elimination project.

Eliminating files already expired before the data is migrated can significantly reduce the scale of a project, mitigate risk, and make the transition more manageable.

Moving legacy email into an archive prior to migration also eases the transition. Setting up a centralized email archive allows users to access their legacy emails even after their primary mailboxes have been migrated to a cloud service such as Office 365.

Step 5. Migrate PST content to chosen location

Migration can be done in phases for quality control and monitoring. Organizations can evaluate the results and make adjustments for the subsequent phase. This approach also allows migrations to be scheduled during non-peak network hours. Advanced automated solutions allow PST migration to be scheduled and automated with very little IT staff intervention.

Step 6. Remove the need to create PST files

After PST data are migrated and restored, policies can be implemented to prevent users from creating new PST files. Newer versions of Exchange enable this but solutions are needed for users who come up against mailbox limits.

All these steps can be accomplished through the use of highly automated PST management software. Barracuda PST Enterprise, for example, is a solution for managing, migrating and eliminating PST files.

It discovers PST files on network servers and user systems with both known and unknown owners. Organizations can then decide what to do with the information before migrating and restoring the data to a secure location such as Exchange Online or Barracuda Message Archiver.

The Barracuda ArchiveOne information management solution, on the other hand, provides archiving, retention management, PST management and advanced discovery functions.

Eliminating PST files removes an entire layer of complexity from enterprise information management. Doing so also eliminates much of the legal risk and uncertainty with unmanaged containers of growing email data.

This is a QuestexAsia feature commissioned by Barracuda Networks.