email archiving risk pst files

Any organisation using PST files must address the significant challenges which accompany them – namely, a lack of access and control over email communications.

Here’s why PSTs are so risky for businesses, and how businesses who currently use PSTs can approach this issue:

Loss of control and access

PST files have the potential to be scattered anywhere in an organisation. This is because they are usually stored in an ad-hoc manner by the end-user, and as users typically opt to store PSTs locally, this impinges on the IT department’s ability to access or control the flow of email communications.

It then becomes a nightmare for anyone trying to manage knowledge and information in an organisation, because…

Redundant files are stored all over the place

Users will usually store them locally to free up mailbox space and so they can reference them when needed. In addition to this, they may archive their PSTs to a central location on the server. But having multiple copies of documents can clog up the server significantly (any opened PST file needs to be fully backed up, even if it’s only being viewed). Also, it makes locating data for inventory purposes – a task that is supposed to be simple – quite challenging.

Data can easily be lost, corrupted, or stolen

Corruption of PST files can result in permanent loss of data. Typically, they have a 2GB maximum size. When it’s stretched to its limit, the file is at risk of corruption. If you fail to achieve recovery, your data is gone forever. IT support costs may increase because of the amount of time employees spend on calling up support to recover their corrupted files.

There’s also a definite security risk when it comes to PSTs. Since PSTs allow offline access to email and are often stored locally on employee laptops, data can be taken and accessed outside of the organisation. This increases the chances of corruption for PSTs stored on laptops because they weren’t backed up.

It’s an eDiscovery nightmare

Perhaps the biggest risk of all is the hassle PSTs bring to the legal discovery process. As PSTs contain data related to business records, they are a part of an organisation’s electronically stored information (ESI), and therefore subject to litigation and discovery requirements.

The problem is it may prevent you from being able to comply with a discovery request, because…

  • You can’t get the data you need quick enough, because your internal team is scrambling to find scattered documents in personal folders. In this case, each user will have to find and put a hold on documents to support litigation, and provide the files needed. This is a flawed system – not only is time wasted sifting through irrelevant data, but it allows for human error as data may have slipped through the cracks.
  • You might be charged with data spoliaton (this is when you fail to preserve electronic evidence during litigation) because you’re not sure how your staff are deleting data from those PST files, removing them from your servers. Deleting emails that you’re sure won’t be needed for legal reasons in the future is essential, but you shouldn’t be leaving that up to individual staff members. It’s much safer to archive everything and keep control of deletion within the IT team. The penalties for failing to comply with regulatory email retention standards are extremely costly, and in Australia, board members and directors are personally liable.

In both of these scenarios, PST files will cost you a lot of time and money.

Solving the PST problem

So how do you get that control and access over corporate information back in your hands?

IT managers in PST-using organisations need to think about…

  1. How personal folders are being used, and what risks accompany them. If you can’t access them because they’re stored locally, or have no control over them because end users can do what they like with them, then you have a risky PST problem.
  • If eliminating PSTs entirely will help you to respond to a discovery request. There are workarounds which allow the IT team to wrestle back control of managing PSTs from end-users, but PST use places a continuous demand for more storage, and drains IT resources in managing ongoing usage and selective deletion of emails. The end result is still a legal discovery nightmare! Ultimately, alternatives to eliminating PST usage still lead to the use of PST files and therefore still lead to the same risks that we’ve covered at the top of the blog post. This is why we recommend that they be eliminated completely. New technology makes for a better way to archive email – especially in this era of big data.
  • The benefits of archiving solutions. Email archiving providers like SAVE IT who offer unlimited retention and storage will eliminate the need for PST file usage, as well as the massive security risk which accompanies it.

For more information on the email archiving options available to you, including cloud-based archiving, please download our complimentary whitepaper:

How does your organisation address PST usage? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.

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