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7 Things to be Aware of in a DIY Migration

We live in a DIY world where Google, YouTube and their cohorts turn us into authorities.  We can now perform tasks we would previously have paid an expert to handle. How often have you tried this DIY approach and then had to call in the expert? Ever tried it with an Email Archive Migration? There are indeed some use cases where this approach is OK although they are very few and far between.

You might think that doing an archive migration yourself will save your company time and money. Install the third party tool and away you go.

Consider this:

  1. Knowledge: Organisations seldom have archive migration specialists as a part of their everyday IT team – there are probably less than 100 people on the planet with these specialist skills. Not having the right knowledge to deliver the right outcome is detrimental.
  1. Not understanding where you’re coming from or where you’re going to: Like most things, the devil is in the detail.  A transformation project like an archive migration is more difficult because inexperience has it that people don’t know what they need to do in order to successfully shift the data in the right way.
  1. Data loss: If you don’t have a well-defined methodology and processes there is no way to guarantee that you’ve migrated all data. Worse… you won’t know until it’s too late.
  1. Time: Inexperience leads to lengthy project times while your team learn to do something that you are likely to only every do once.
  1. Cost: Not knowing how long a migration will take means not knowing how many resources you will need. Five years later you could still be in the beginning stage of your migration and have spent tens of thousands (this is a true story).
  1. User experience and internal infrastructure: A piece of software to perform a migration does not tell you how have a fantastic user experience or how to ensure little impact to your environment.
  1. Compliance: If you need a compliant based migration of data, the legal ramifications of this being done incorrectly can have the potential to cripple your company. The smallest mistake could result in the largest problem trouble for your company.

Put away your migrations for dummies books (yes this really happened) and come and talk to Insentra today. We can help you avoid these pitfalls and give you the guidance you need to get the best outcome – a well-managed migration of your critical data.

Simon Alit > Data Migrations specialist

Simon Altit

Director – EMEA

 

AU

UK

E

+61 433 232 349

+44 7403 599 817

simon.altit@insentra.co.uk

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Are PST Files Still Relevant?

Outlook Personal Storage Files (PST files) have been around since the mid 1990s. These files provide the ability to create local archives of server based email. They’re kind of like that bad 90s middle part bowl hair cut or the plaid short-sleeve shirts – great at the time but not something you want to keep wearing in 2016.

Email storage has never been as efficient as it is now. Historically Microsoft Exchange administrators were forced to reduce the amount of storage available to users on a server for improved performance, reduced back up times and overall smooth operations. As such, PST files became a way for users to expand their email storage by creating and maintaining one or more local archives.

But are PST files still relevant? As they were designed before archiving became a thing, PST files can be unstable especially in their compatibility with modern IT environments. The result of this instability is corrupt files and inaccessible emails that had your IT staff reaching for the Panadol. However, they can also have implications on businesses legal requirements – as PST files are often stored locally on end user’s computers, a simple system error or a crash in your system could wipe all the stored files and these are generally unrecoverable.

With more cons than pro’s, PST files don’t hold the same relevancy they did ten years ago. Still not convinced?

Here are 8 additional reasons why you should consider PST files to be irrelevant:

  • Compliance issues: Security is ever present in the mind of any CIO and as technology becomes more advanced, so too do security threats. As organisations have data that is confidential or is required to be kept, any potential breach could see terrible consequences. PST files unfortunately, are more susceptible to these attacks.
  • E-discovery: Because the data is stored outside of the mail server, it can be difficult to perform searches, complicating the e-discovery process.
  • Not supported: As mentioned earlier, files are usually kept locally and not backed up. As Microsoft doesn’t support accessing PSTs on network shares, if an active file is placed on a network share, the chances of corruption increase tenfold.
  • Device specific: PST files can only be accessed from a specific device and not accessible from any other mailbox.
  • PST files only work with Outlook: Mobile devices have no access PST files.
  • Policy circumvention: They can be used to circumvent message lifecycle management policies as they are difficult to police
  • Shared PSTs are problematic:  PST files are easily corruptible which prevents sharing amongst multiple users
  • Increased cost: PST files tend to result in more calls to service desks due to their need for constant administration. They can also end up being backed up multiple times when they are stored centrally.

If you’re looking to discuss your options or want to migrate your PST files to alternative solutions, get in touch with Insentra. If for some reason you have a requirement to keep PST files, we can help with strategies and toolsets to address e-discovery issues. We can help you with cost effective solutions that helps to make your data accessible to your business at any level.

 

Simon Alit > Data Migrations specialist

Simon Altit

Director – EMEA

 

AU

UK

E

+61 433 232 349

+44 7403 599 817

simon.altit@insentra.co.uk

 

 

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Don’t get stuck in the manual migration abyss

Many archive platforms provide a set of native utilities that allow some form of export and import of messages via PST, EML or MSG files. These inbuilt toolsets have given even the most competent IT managers a feeling of empowerment which unfortunately is very short lived. We regularly get asked by our customers “why shouldn’t we use the native tools to complete our migration?”. Depending on the environment, the reasons are many and varied. From slow performance and the inherent stability issues with large PSTs, to poor user experience and the risks of human error. However the real problems stem from a few of the never ending processes that these customers will generally find themselves in. More on this later.

First let’s squash the idea that EML or MSG is viable way to migrate. Unless you are doing a migration of a journal mailbox, using either of these targets to complete your migration will likely cause your users a lot of issues. When these items are exported, folder structure will not be retained which means that once this mail is finally in your new system, users will not be able to find their emails in the location they would have expected. If in fact an export of the journal archive is being performed, fields like BCC and other memberships of distribution lists will be lost (also the case when exporting to PST).

The key issues you will face when trying to export and import PSTs using the native utilities are;

  • Large PST files are often required due to large source archives. Such files are prone to corruption
  • PSTs are space-inefficient
  • PST extraction with native tools is VERY slow
  • Needs constant monitoring
  • No error management
  • Loss of important compliance data (e.g. BCC fields)
  • No auditing or chain of custody
  • No ability to handle shortcuts

If none of the above points are a concern and you still wish to proceed then we should circle back to those never ending tasks.

Exporting the data to PST

I’m sure, like most businesses, your archive has probably been around for a few years, has had a couple of minor issues and gone through a upgrade or two.  Chances are that there will be corruptions in your archive (interesting blog about silent data corruption). This isn’t necessarily a big issue, except that your archive wasn’t designed to deal with data corruptions and, when it is trying to export the corrupted emails to PST with its native tools, it’s going to fail. Logic dictates that it will try and process the corrupted item and when it can’t it will move onto the next one. Invariably not. This logic seems to fall over with pretty much every archive platform we have worked with. What will happen is that you are going to find yourself tracking down this corrupt item and then trying to find a resolution. In all likelihood, the item is corrupt and there is nothing you can do. If you are lucky enough, you will be able to remove the corrupted item and get your archive platform to reindex the data you can start again. Just be aware you will have to start the export again from the beginning, and chances are this will not be the only corrupt item that you will face, at which point you will repeat the above process again and again and again……….

Importing the PST

Once you have managed to get through the export process and you are getting ready for the import, you should take a holiday so that you can come back prepared for the same perpetual issue. In some cases the export process doesn’t do any form of data integrity checking, so when it writes the email to the PST some of those corrupted emails do manage to sneak through. In others, your users archive was so big that when it was exported to a large PST which becomes unstable and subsequently corrupt. As with the export, the native tools for importing generally work on the assumption that the data is clean (not corrupted) and thus there is very little integrity checking, so when those pesky corrupted messages get imported, the process will hang. Not only are the reporting mechanisms poor at assisting you to find which message has caused the hang, they also are terrible at even letting you know that they have hung. Once you have worked out that the process has stopped you have two choices – try and find the message that is causing the problem or run the export and import again and again and again……….

Monitoring

Because of these two frustrating aspects of a manual migration, you will find yourself stuck in a third perpetual task, monitoring. The single biggest bane of any IT admin is manual monitoring, constantly having to log in and check that things are actually occurring as you expect and require. Like Homer Simpson, you are going to find yourself distracted by gadgets and gizmos and you will miss the failures around you.

Now my intention wasn’t to be doomsayer, but rather prepare you (or the poor individual you are going to instruct to do this work) for the constant head banging process that will be undertaken when using native tools for migrations.

Simon Alit > Data Migrations specialist

Simon Altit

Director – EMEA

 

AU

UK

E

+61 433 232 349

+44 7403 599 817

simon.altit@insentra.co.uk