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.

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