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On-Demand Webinar: Why Migrate PST Files to Office 365?

Apr 9, 2020 by Finn Searchfield

This post is a brief transcript of the popular webinar we hosted in January 2020. You can access the on-demand recording here.

Mike: I oversee our email migration and PST elimination products here at Quadrotech. Before joining, I came from industry as an Exchange subject matter expert. In these roles, I ran successful PST elimination projects and had to focus on mergers, acquisitions, and divestitures. Today I’m excited to be joined by the PST eliminator and also our CEO Thomas Madsen.

Thomas: Hello. So maybe a little bit of historic background why I’m here today. Before I became a CEO I’ve always been a project manager and consultant for a lot of PST projects — some very, very large and complex projects.

Lots of data, lots of involvement from legal, lots of nervous networking people and first-level support being on the sticks during the migration. This was two years ago, but my heart is still here. It is getting those PSTs out of the way, getting them killed. Hence my nickname, The PST Eliminator. I’m excited about being allowed back in here to talk about PST files, joined by Mike, our Product Owner and probably as passionate about killing PST files as I am. Back to you Mike.

Mike: I’m happy to take second place in that competition there. Thomas do you want to go over today’s agenda?

Thomas: So, we have an agenda here which is very aggressive, we do want to talk a little bit about Quadrotech. I’m always like, “that’s not what would really interest you,” so Mike has promised to keep it under three minutes.

We want to talk about what are your options to get rid of these, so there is a quick review of the problem and then we’ll talk about the options you have. What are the common problems, you know, what are the top issues? What are the things you need to be concerned about? And how can you prepare for that?

Then we want to cover what we have for solutions and then go over to a question and answer. Ask any questions, you have a lot of expertise here on this call that can help you. So back over to you and your three minutes.

Introduction to Quadrotech


Mike: Alright my 3 minutes, I must come out under the three minutes.

So here at Quadrotech, we have three major groups of products. The Modernize category, the Grow & Adapt, and Optimize. When we say ‘modernize’, this is moving Legacy Data Systems into Office 365 or on-prem Exchange. This is where we have some automation around the MRS service using our Mailbox Shuttle product, which drives directly into our Archive Migration product, Archive Shuttle.

Archive Shuttle helps move legacy archive systems like Veritas Enterprise Vault and EMC Source One. This is a category of moving legacy data into a modern platform.

Then ‘Grow & Adapt’: so this is customers that are probably going through a merger, acquisition or divestiture, or have multiple Office 365 tenants. That’s where Cloud Commander comes in to help handle Exchange, OneDrive for Business, Teams, and SharePoint.

The major areas of expertise for Quadrotech.

And finally, the ‘Optimize’ stage. This is for organizations that already on Office 365, either multiple tenants or one tenant. This is doing reporting, data analytics, also allowing you to do service monitoring, delegated administration, policy control, and even adoption programs.


And one last piece I’ll talk about is the Office 365 lifecycle and that’s really our focus here at Quadrotech. Whether you are starting to use Office 365, or you’re in there today dealing with merger, acquisition, divestiture challenges, or just trying to get better control over your investment that you made into the service.

So Thomas, hopefully, I did that in less than three minutes. I think I came in under and I’m going to turn it back over to you.

Thomas: You came in a lot under; he was one minute and 40 seconds, very good. Alright perfect. Very clear!

So, let’s talk about where did the PST files come from? Believe it or not, PST files are a 20+-year-old technology. It was first created in 1996, when a top notebook had 16 megabytes — not 16 gigabytes — and there was no SSD in it.

It was built because of the need to offload the Exchange servers and to reduce the network load. But we’re now 20 years later and even if Microsoft delivered a solution in the latter half of 2010 and a good one in 2013, they are still around even though they’re not really needed. They carry a lot of challenges and a lot of risk, so if we go to the next slide will talk about what it is.

Outlining where PST files came from.

So, what are they? They are database files stored on local computers, network drives and removable media. You will not believe what we have found in PST files. They hold email data and a lot of you think about mail, but a lot of people actually keep calendar, contacts and other content inside of the PST files. As we talked about, they are used to offload the email from the server and for the user to say, “I have my local copy, I can do whatever I want with.” it is out of control.


It is commonplace to recoup your email quota as well because a lot of companies have had email quotas on their systems which means you don’t want to delete it. So, we were holders that keep it. Where do you put it? You put it in PST files, you make a copy of it, but when you’re really clever you understand that you have a lot of corruption. So, before I get more into the problem, let me hand that one to Mike to cover? Why PST files are a problem.

What are PST files?

Mike: So, when we talk about the problems with PST files, it really falls into three major categories. Data loss/missing files, eDiscovery issues and that they’re not user-friendly. We talk about data loss and missing files; this is a large category. PSTs are rarely backed up, and what’s interesting is the opposite problem. There are organizations that are not dealing with the fact they’re only backing up workstations because of PST files. So, there are two pieces.

The first being that posts are normally and only supported by Microsoft on local workstations. We know this isn’t true in reality, but this is what is technically the situation. Traditionally, this is exactly what PST’s were designed for: take data off the server, which is really expensive, and put it on the local workstation. Thomas talked about that a few moments ago.

However, these are not typically backed up, and that can cause a large challenge when it comes to these files going missing, missing devices and so on. The other challenge is organizations have adopted Office 365 and adopted OneDrive for Business, Box, or some of these other end-user storage solutions. They have had to continue to backup workstations, that was their policy because of these PST files and the criticality they are to the organization. There are two pieces to that first part.

PST file corruption

The second piece is PSTs get corrupted. I said earlier that Microsoft only supports PSTs technically on local devices, we all know that isn’t reality, in a lot of cases they are on network locations. As these PSTs get bigger, they are more and more prone to corruption as they get on network drives. And as we’ve got into new versions of Outlook over the last several years, Outlook communicates with these PSTs a lot more. So, we’ve seen the corruption rate in our projects keep getting higher and higher and higher in these files that can cause a really large challenge. Suddenly, one day, you can’t get into that 20GB PST file that’s got data back to the 90s in it. It’s really important for the organization to protect that data.

PST files don’t provide any encryption. We know that we can put a password on PSTs, but PST files that are password protected are password protected because the file says they’re password protected. It’s very easy to crack the password or just tell the file ‘it’s not password protected’ and you can open it right up. So, there’s no protection for end-users or organizations with password protected files. If you lose a PST file, it has a password, it still is a lost file and should be handled as a data loss event.

The other challenge is these files are on local devices where laptops fail and hard drives fail. They go missing. They end up in rivers. They end up just everywhere. We’ve all dealt with that craziness of the endpoints going missing. Because of this, if you’re not backing up those devices, that is critical data that just walks out the door. We then have the nightmare of most organizations having encrypted laptops. But if you run into the situation where they’re not encrypted, now you have the problem of a data loss event on top of it.

We talk about eDiscovery challenges, these files are everywhere! Trying to collect them for an eDiscovery situation can be very difficult, especially if you’re distributed. In order to read the PST file, you have to get all of the PST files related to that litigation, which is anybody that’s part of that litigation. You have to get all these files, process them, then send them out to wherever they need to go, whether it’s the other set of attorneys, your internal attorneys or the courts.

This is really a challenge and it makes it very expensive and it also can make you miss deadlines. Because, if that critical knowledge worker/salesperson is out there traveling/selling business for you and you’re trying to collect their file, you may not make meet your deadline, which is part of a really expensive process for eDiscovery.

PSTs and retention policies

The next challenge is PST files can be used to circumvent the retention policies. If you have a retention policy, you’re enforcing retention on mailboxes, and you have PST files which still have them, you don’t have a retention policy that’s being followed. This allows users to side this situation and they’re probably not doing it to be bad employees. They just have found that they need to keep their data here and that’s what they do. Or, this is how they’ve been doing it since the 90s and they just keep doing it. You have to have all this data centralized in order to control it.

And finally, these aren’t user friendly. Nobody likes to see separate systems. We are an archive migration business, where we get rid of archive systems. At the end of the day, the users don’t like their data being in more than one place at once, and us, as technologists, don’t like that either.

You can’t see PSTs in Outlook Web Access or the Outlook app online. You can’t see them on your phone. You have to have the device or be on the network to access them and that’s not how we do business anymore. That’s not how users work, now users are either on Outlook Web Access, run Citrix or on multiple virtual machines every day. They come in and get a new virtual machine, whatever it may be, this isn’t how users operate anymore.

The other problem is shared PSTs, which is supposed to not be a thing, but very much it is. These are PST files that a small group of people are sharing. They’re calling around, ‘Who’s in the PST file?’. One person at a time goes in there, it doesn’t work and leaves it. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of powerful information in these and it just creates workflow problems. So again, this is a really large problem and one that we run into quite a bit.

Why are PST files a problem?

So we talk about where we want to go with PST files. Regardless of the option that you choose, it’s all about data centralization. Data centralization has all been part of these PST projects and initiatives. It’s about reducing risk, increasing the reach of your discovery tools, so again allowing for that central place to protect your environment. All the data falls under retention policies.

So if you have a retention policy, it’s all under that purview so if you wanted to set one up you can do the data analytics to see what that impact is, and you can have an effective strategy. Today, if you have PST files in your environment, that’s not a reality.

And finally, which you know as technologists again, what we always want is our users to be happy. We want a simple user experience. What’s nice is that these are all positives of data centralization, specifically when it comes to PST files.

Where are we going to migrate PST files

These all work together, we get happy users, happy administrators and reduced risk for the company. What we find is this falls into four strategies. Thomas is going to go over these four strategies that we see on how to handle PST files.

To discover these four practical strategies from the PST Eliminator himself, please access the full recording here.

To learn more about our PST migration services, please click here.