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Why Migrate PST Files to Office 365?

9 Dec 2019 by Bart Davidoff

An avalanche of PST files falling on IT admins. This is why you need to migrate PST files.

Quadrotech clients voice a consistent message regarding PST files: they want them eliminated from their ecosystem. The common themes are they represent compliance and discovery issues that can result in significant fines; they impose restrictions on how users can access their historical email; and they create drag on IT expense due to help desk calls, storage costs, and backup maintenance. 

Typically, clients want to migrate PST to Office 365 to take advantage of huge data storage and for enabling eDiscovery. Once in the cloud, users have instantaneous access to their messages via their device of choice, and storage costs are eliminated, while messages no longer required for eDiscovery can be removed from the environment via strict retention policies. 

While there are a few methods for deleting PSTs, the overwhelming preference relayed to us is a technology solution capable of discovering the files throughout the enterprise, determining ownership, repairing PST corruption, removing passwords, and quickly and efficiently migrating the files to Office 365 while being cognizant of network disconnects, bandwidth capacity, and business process. 

Risky Business: The Dangers of PST Files 

In February 2015, at least 170,000 hacked individual Sony emails were published by Wikileaks and Sony reputedly had to set aside $15m to deal with the fallout. The hacked emails were sourced from standalone files that included at least 179 PSTs including those of an executive at Sony Pictures Canada and one of its IT audit supervisors, as well as many archive and backup PST files. 

By their very nature, corporate emails contain a wealth of sensitive data. They’re often the book of record, which is why regulators insist they are auditable and retrievable. With their lack of options to protect and track, any organization using PSTs is at risk. 

Consider the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Rule 37E change from “good faith effort to protect information” to “taking reasonable action to prevent deletion”. As a result, the potential for companies to receive significant fines for failing to act to preserve materials is a real risk. 

In addition to the above-mentioned legal and financial risks, the following points should be considered when analyzing the negative impact on your organization: 

Top 10 issues with PSTs 

  1. PST files are rarely backed up: Most administrators do not backup workstation hard drives, which is where PSTs are likely to be stored. This can lead to costly data loss and can potentially violate Rule 37E.

  2. There may be compliance issues: Every organization has sensitive data they do not want leaked to the public and keeping PSTs on workstations and network shares makes it far too easy for sensitive data to leave the organization. PSTs are also invisible to Legal, causing data to be omitted from eDiscovery if needed for litigation.

  3. PST files are prone to corruption and are not secure: In some projects, up to 40% of the PSTs Quadrotech’s PST Flight Deck discovers are corrupt or password protected. This corruption further increases issues with eDiscovery and migration. (Note that PST Flight Deck automatically repairs PST corruption post-discovery.) Additionally, you should keep in mind that password protected PSTs are not encrypted. This means lost PSTs – regardless of whether they’re password protected or not – should be treated as a data loss event.

  4. They make e-discovery more difficult: PST files exist outside of the Exchange information store. As such, PST data is not analyzed when native Exchange Server eDiscovery tools are used increasing risk for non-compliance.

  5. Network-connected PSTs are not supported: Microsoft does not support storing active PST files on network shares. And according to Microsoft, placing them on network shares increases the odds that they’ll get corrupted.

  6. PST files are local to a device: Today, users expect emails to be available on any device – PC, tablet, phone – anywhere. Cloud-based email systems like Office 365 are there to provide easy accessibility, centralized control, and security. Having to use a specific device to access the PST is in direct conflict with the access anywhere/anytime paradigm.

  7. PST files only work with Outlook: As a result, mobile devices that attach to Exchange mailboxes using ActiveSync cannot open PST files. Similarly, Outlook Web App does not include any support for PST files. Further, an ‘orphaned’ PST (not connected to Outlook) is invisible to IT but can still contain valuable information that needs to be preserved or discovered.

  8. PST files can be used to circumvent message lifecycle management policies: Many organizations put retention policies into place to regulate message lifecycles. In addition to reducing storage costs, this practice reduces risk to the organization since once a message is old enough that the organization is no longer required by law to keep a copy, the outdated message can be purged, drastically simplifying document management lifecycle. If a user stores old messages in a PST file, they have effectively circumvented the retention policy. Doing so may eventually put the organization at risk if the messages are ever subpoenaed.

  9. Shared PSTs are problematic: The sharing of PSTs by multiple users greatly increases the likelihood they’ll get corrupted resulting in the above-mentioned issues with corrupt PSTs.Only one user can open a PST at a time, creating a difficult user experience and much wasted time.

  10. PST files increase the cost of doing business: PST files tend to increase administrative burden. Administrators might be asked to discover PST files across the organization, or a user might ask an administrator to try to recover data from a corrupt PST file. In either case, there is a cost associated with the extra administrative effort. Likewise, there might be costs associated with data loss, inappropriate data exposure, file storage, and backup maintenance. 

In Summary 

The Ponemon Institute/IBM Security analysis conducted in 2018 reveals the average cost of data breaches is $3.86M. The study also found that breaches are getting larger with the average size of breaches, based on the companies surveyed, increased by 2.2 percent year after year. When broken down by country, the US is leading in the most data breaches, equaling out to an average of $7.91M. 

To state the obvious, whatever costs you may absorb to eliminate PSTs could arguably be considered a rounding error as compared to the potentially catastrophic financial loss as a result of a PST-enabled security breach.  

We encourage enterprise organizations to look at technology solutions for eliminating PSTs in their ecosystem and removing this ticking financial time bomb. 

If you’d like to learn more, please register for our upcoming webinar: 

Ticking Time Bombs: Why You Need to Migrate PST Files
January 13, 2020
9AM PST / 11AM CST / 12PM EST / 5PM GMT
REGISTER HERE 

This lively session will be hosted by Thomas Madsen (aka the PST Eliminator) and Mike Weaver (Director of Enterprise Migrations). They’ll discuss the crucial issues revolving around PSTs and provide practical advice on how you can eliminate risk. 

If you can’t make the live webinar but are still keen to view the recording, be sure to sign up today and we’ll send you a link to the video when it’s ready.