The Need for Better .PST Management

Email contains a wealth of critical business information. The importance of email to the typical information worker and his or her resulting use of email to create and manage a large proportion of business content means that using and migrating email must be risk-free, and non-intrusive to users.

Osterman Research surveys of end users have repeatedly found that the typical corporate email user spends approximately 150 minutes per day working within their email client – sending or receiving email messages, searching for content, managing contacts, managing tasks, using email as the default information filing system, etc. Moreover, email remains the primary file transport system in most organizations, used to convey important business documents like purchase orders, contracts, proposals and the like – as such, it often becomes a key repository of this content, as well.

As a result, email is the most important single source of business content in most organizations.

In Exchange environments, .PST files are commonly employed by end users for a variety of reasons: to store email locally so that mailbox-size quotas are not exceeded, to allow messages to be easily transportable between mail systems, for purposes of email backup, or because users want to maintain a personal archive of corporate information. Microsoft effectively encouraged the use of .PST files by increasing the maximum size of these files tenfold to 20 gigabytes beginning with Outlook 2003.

Because .PST files are used extensively in Exchange environments, they are a significant repository of corporate content and house much of the critical business information to which organizations must have access.

A recent survey we conducted found that 36% of users in the organizations surveyed store email locally in .PST files. Further, we found that the median size of a .PST file in these organizations is 1.3 gigabytes, the equivalent of more than 100,000 email messages. However, some users maintain much larger .PST files – one large professional services firm, for example, maintains more than 4.5Gb of .PST content per user.

Although good .PST management is essential, many organizations are not following best practices in two key areas.

  • First, our research found that users store .PST files in a number of disparate locations, including their desktop machines, laptops, local file servers and cloud-based storage systems, among other locations.
  • Second, our research found that only 29% of organizations back up local .PST files to a central location, despite 65% or more storing .PST files on laptops or desktops.

The immediate consequence of this highly distributed storage of .PST files is that the business content contained in these files is not accessible to those that need it, such as legal counsel, senior managers, compliance officers or information auditors – or, in many cases, to the individuals who created this information.

For more information on our .PST research, please feel free to download a just published white paper on the topic here.

You Should Monitor and Archive Social Media

Some gems of less-than-thoughtful expression gathered from Twitter this morning:

  • “Women lie so effortlessly…. My secretary just lied to a client about my availability so convincingly haha ah ya”.
  • “I am going to kill the next person I see.”
  • “My boss is stupid haha”.
  • “I want to kill my client.: I just want to strangle him.”
  • “I would love to be raped by a woman.”
  • “a little reminder as to why we steal microsofts software…”.
  • “I came to subtle realization that white people are crazy and black people are stupid lol”
  • “It’s time to pass ENDA. I want to be fired because I insulted my boss on Facebook and stole from the company, not because I’m gay.”
  • “My boss is so stupid sometimes.  But I suppose if he was any smarter, I wouldn’t have a job.”

And another post from a now former “friend” on Facebook last night: “Is Justin Bieber the reason God still allows abortion? As a parent, I suggest they melt him and use the oil to grease the wheels of 100 coal cars in a Chicago train station!”

If you’re a decision maker for your company, ask yourself four questions:

  1. Is this the kind of material you would like your employees to be posting on social media, particularly when their social media presence is linked to your company in the minds of clients, prospects and others familiar with your business or brand?
  2. Are you absolutely certain that this kind of stuff is not being posted on social media via your company’s network?
  3. Do you have a formalized method for monitoring the content that your employees post to social media using your company’s network?
  4. Do you have an archive of every social media post that has traversed your corporate network over the past several years, as well as its context?

If you answered “No” to each question, you have a serious liability that you must address. A client could see an offensive post and cancel an order or simply not do business with your company in the future. An employee being sexually or racially harassed via Twitter could sue your company for millions of dollars. A single tweet could prompt an investigation from The Software Alliance or some other organization that investigates illegal use of software.

I strongly recommend implementing a social media monitoring solution that will actively monitor any social media content for offensive content, as well as an archiving solution that will capture social media posts sent via the corporate network. The monitoring solution is essential in order to make management aware of what is being sent on social media so that they can take corrective action and prevent this content from being sent, or at least discipline employees to ensure that it does not continue. The archiving solution is essential in order to preserve this content – and its context – in the event it is required for legal or regulatory reasons.

While these solutions won’t prevent employees from posting offensive content using non-company networks, you must do what you can to protect content that is sent over the facilities you control.

The bottom line: failure to manage social media content can be deadly to your business.