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See why PST Flight Deck should be your #1 choice for migrating PST Files to Office 365

6 Jan 2015 by Orlaith Palmer

fd PSTFlightDeck™

PSTFlightDeck is an enterprise grade tool to migrate PST to Office 365 / multiple targets – with all the robustness, scalability and features needed for managing large PST elimination or migration projects. As well as being suitable for larger organizations it is designed and standardized so that smaller customers can also be productive and benefit quickly from the structure approach – with a minimal learning curve.

We are often asked “Why PST FlightDeck?”. A little more than a hundred years ago, the Wright brothers solved the technical problem of flying. The plane they constructed was only designed to carry a very small load over a very short distance – the reliability was terrible.  A modern aircraft hardly reminds its pilots of the early days of air traffic. It is designed to enable flying as a business process for airline companies around the world. It takes complexity out of the process, provides safety warnings and allows the pilots to concentrate on what really matters.

Now you can imagine why we called our PST Migration System “PST FlightDeck”. PST elimination and migration in the 21st century made easy. Targets for PST migration include Exchange 2013, Office 365 and Enterprise Vault email archives.

At a Glance

As much as a modern pilot needs to focus on the relevant issues, an administrator in a large enterprise must be able to complete various tasks in a limited time frame. PST FlightDeck gives you complete control over the PST’s in your environment.

Just like a pilot you can control all relevant functions from a sophisticated dashboard.

Key Features

Locate

  • Identify all PST files
  • Scan local drives and attached USB devices
  • Scan network shares
  • Detailed reporting of location and sizeCentralize
  • Notify user of policies
  • Request user authorization
  • User include/exclude options
  • Automated move to central location
  • Uninterrupted user access even after centralization
  • Advanced bandwidth control
  • Secure transfer

Process

  • Full backup before processing
  • Instant Password removal
  • Corruption verification and repair
  • Filtering
  • Deduplication

Ingest

  • Wide choice of target systems including Microsoft Exchange Primary Mailbox or Personal Archives, Symantec’s Enterprise Vault on-premise or in the cloud, Microsoft Office 365 and other cloud email or archive providers
  • Immediate or scheduled PST cleanup

Reporting and Control

  • Detailed planning
  • Full visibility of migration process
  • Complete Audit Trail
  • Central “FlightDeck” control console

Architecture Overview

PST FlightDeck is centered on its CORE which controls the master schedule as well as containing the business logic. The product has additional modules which will be used depending on the migration scenario.

FlightDeck Architecture

Elimination of PST made easy by using PST FlightDeck.

PST File Migration

PSTs were originally intended to help users access their emails locally when connection to the server was unavailable. However, as connectivity increases to the extent that people are rarely offline as well as the potential risks of PSTs corrupting due to overload or network disruption, many businesses are looking to either migrate them or avoid their use entirely.

PST FlightDeck can scan for and locate PST files wherever they are (including local disks, home network shares or removable media), transfer them to a central location and ingest them straight into Office365. Centralizing these files helps avoid the potential security risks involved in them potentially being lost on removable media or extracted without permission.

Why an Intelligent Agent?

A key factor in any PST migration project is how to manage the files in their current location. While it is possible to carry out PST migration without any sort of client agent the task will be difficult, disruptive and prone to failure.

This is particularly so when users have multiple PST files, and with large amounts of content. If 100 users, each with multi-GB files, were to detach files manual and initiate their own upload simultaneously the impact would be felt across all network users. If users disconnect from the corporate network and move to local ADSL access while in mid-copy the impact of a restart could severely restrict the productivity of an individual.

By employing an Intelligent Agent PST FlightDeck can easily:

  • Detach and re-attach files transparently from the user
  • Comply with data-protection requirements for user approval
  • Control the centralization process according to network load
  • Resume copying after interruption
  • Throttle transfer rates according to local workstation bandwidth
  • Allow remote operator intervention if required
  • Access files under local user credentials

Microsoft BITS technology is used to upload PST files using trusted, bandwidth-aware technologies which also allow resume and suspend when network states change on end-user workstations.

The Intelligent Agent can be installed with ease as an MSI file and will ensure the maximum amount of control over the process.

Scalable Architecture and Workflow

PST FlightDeck is engineered from the ground up to be massively scalable. That means having the potential to migrate hundreds of thousands of files and users spread across multiple geographies. This can only be achieved with a workflow and architecture that is designed to scale.

pst-flightdeck-workflow

PST FlightDeck Workflow

At each stage in the workflow the resources dedicated to migration can be varied across multiple data centers.

Scalability starts with location of PST files. By using an Intelligent Agent the responsibility for location of the files is delegated to the user’s workstation, but under the control of one or more servers to make sure that centralization of the files does not overload available resources. Advanced Centralizing Technology balances workloads across servers and makes use of compression during the network transfer process.

If large amounts of data have to be centralized and bandwidth constraints mean this cannot be achieved in the right timescale disk shipping is available as an option.

After centralization PST files are prepared for ingestion. Multiple servers can be employed to remove passwords, verify against corruption, de-duplicate items and convert from ANSI to Unicode if required.

During the ingestion process again multiple servers can be used, ensuring maximum throughput.

Scalability from an operational management perspective is also covered. Exceptions are managed through an operator interface and there is even a help desk mode to assist users identify the state of a specific PST file, or support specific users during the process, for example the C-Suite.

Item Level De-duplication

The nature of PST files means that users create many of them as backups, and even forget that they have created them. The result is that items can exist in multiple PST files. If PST files were migrated “as is” to an email archive system, or to Exchange or Office 365.

While the single-instancing functionality of the underlying platform might limit the consumption of excess storage by duplicates the ingestion process itself would still require each duplicate to be processed into the target platform.

More importantly users would be confused to see many copies of the same item. Alienating users after a PST migration is not good and excess calls to the help-desk would ensue.

PST FlightDeck avoids all these issues by automatically de-duplicating all the PST files to ensure that backup and duplicate content does not end up in the target system.

Exception Handling and Retry

When dealing with potentially hundreds of thousands of PST files it is critical that exceptions are well handled. While 99.99% of the files will process without incident any exceptions should notified pro-actively to the operator to take action.

PST FlightDeck has an event driven approach to exception handling meaning that an operator will only be notified if specific action is required. If an issue can be resolved automatically, perhaps through an automatic re-try, the PST FlightDeck will do so.

It is not always possible to resolve exceptions automatically. Typical situations that require operator input include:

  • A user has not been enabled in the target system
  • A user no longer exists in Active Directory
  • A file failed a post-processing task, for example ANSI to Unicode conversion
  • A file is reported as owned by more than one user

These and others are reported through the PST FlightDeck dashboard where they can be acknowledged and resolved, or have comments added if resolution cannot be achieved immediately.

Automatic retries are an important aspect as well. PST FlightDeck will try several times to process a file that has failed. Failure reasons may include unavailability of files, users or target resources.

Use Case – Mobile and Tablet Rollout

The concept of PST files goes back more than a decade. They were designed for desktop and laptop users as a way to store email outside of the Microsoft Exchange environment.

Today’s users require access to email wherever they are, yet PST files cannot be accessed from within email clients on iPhones, iPads, Android devices and other tablets. The result is a lack of productivity and the risk of lost business where essential information cannot be accessed.

Migrating PST file content back into Exchange , or into Office 365 eliminates the issue of access.

PST FlightDeck is the tool of choice to migrate PST files to enable mobile access to all email content.

Use Case – Legal Discovery

Email continues to be a target for discovery requests as part of legal and regulatory investigations. Of course email archives and live email platforms are primary targets for discovery and as such they can be searched extensively.

But email also exists in PST Files, which are unregulated, uncontrolled and spread around the organization.

When an eDiscovery project is undertaken the hardest part is often locating, centralizing and processing hundreds of thousands of PST files. As a result many organizations are choosing to pro-actively eliminate PST files from their email infrastructure and migrate the content back into the live or archived email platform.

PST FlightDeck is the ideal solution for PST file elimination in light of the costs and risks associated with eDiscovery projects.

Use Case – Desktop and Laptop Refresh

Whether upgrading to the latest version of windows, or rolling out new hardware, Desktop and Laptop refresh projects are complex, costly and present serious risks to end-user productivity.

One challenge is the sheer volume of data and the number of PST files. Users keep multiple copies of PST files as backup, some may be corrupted. It is not uncommon for users to have hundreds of PST files consuming many tens of GB storage. A refresh project is an ideal time to eliminate PST files.

Using PST FlightDeck will streamline the location of all PST files including those stored locally or on network drives. Having this information at the planning stage allows the scale of the challenge to be evaluated.

PST FlightDeck will then centralize, verify, repair and de-duplicate at an item level prior to ingestion back into Exchange. As a result less storage is consumed and users are not confused by having multiple copies of emails.

PST File Preparation

Before PST files can be ingested into the target platform they must be prepared to ensure the ingestion will be successful.

It makes no difference whether the platform is Symantec Enterprise Vault, Microsoft Exchange, Office 365 or a cloud archiving system, unless files are prepared there will be a large number of failures.

PST FlightDeck performs “Pre-flight checks” against PST files in order to identify PST files that can not be migrated without user or administrator intervention.

This includes:

  • Password protected PSTs
  • Corrupt PSTs
  • Empty PSTs
  • “Orphaned PSTs” that cannot be matched against a mailbox or user

By knowing the files which can be safely migrated and which ones need additional treatment, the migration queue can be optimized and the number of errors reduced during the migration.

A typical approach can be found below:

 

flightdeck-pst-preparation

During this workflow the following actions take place:

  • Passwords are normally removed before the backup to ensure PST FlightDeck can operate on the files.
  • Backups are taken of PST files before they are actually processed – this makes it possible to go back and reprocess or deliver the original file back to the end user in support cases.
  • The ANSI-to-Unicode Conversion Module is there to ensure that all files are converted to Unicode format for a smooth ingestion. Typically ANSI PST files cause ingestion problems, especially for Enterprise Vault.
  • Remove any unwanted content via the Filter Module to ensure that old recurring calendar items do not pop up again – or even a filter that only allows data younger than X years to be migrated.
  • Item de-duplication

Once all stages of preparation have been passed will files be ready for ingestion

 

As PST Migrations involves important end-user data, many companies see a need to involve the end-user at some point during the process. Due to the strict privacy laws in some countries, the user’s buy-in I can be legally required. With PST FlightDeck, it is now possible to automate this process and make sure users are prepared for the upcoming PST migration.

This includes:

  • Sending email notifications with links to web-based training and policy management
  • Resending of mails until the user successfully logs-in and completes the workflow
  • Online training for end-users, explaining the changes in the Outlook client and the impacts of the corporate retention policies
  • Display a customizable “E-Mail archiving and retention policy” that the user has to accept or decline
  • Follow up “Declines” or Help requests

In many companies, PST files are the most important information repository for power users and knowledge workers. Often those employees manage their own PST environment by creating backup copies, moving private data to separate PSTs or sharing data with co-workers utilizing Outlook personal folders.

PST FlightDeck optionally adds an end-user work flow which enables the user to select the relevant PSTs, authorize the migration, and optionally delete backup-copies or PSTs that contain private information or data not suitable for corporate retention (eg jokes, newsletters).

It is possible with PST FlightDeck to perform one last backup of PST files which a user marks for deletion, before the files are actually deleted.