PST Consolidation/Migration FAQ

What is involved in a PST Consolidation or migration project?

A PST consolidation/migration project can be very complex and requires careful preparation before commencing. A successful project involves:

a) Planning to ensure everything is located and accounted for

b) Discovery of all files across multiple locations including analysis and reconciliation of the data

c) User communication

d) Testing and pilot migration

e) Continuous migration and reporting

Successfully and simply performing all those tasks and consolidating PST files manually can be very time consuming,  resource intensive, and costly. In many cases it is nearly impossible, and require organisation to compromise on their effort to get all PST files across the network.  To achieve this in the most efficient way, and with greater level of confidence, requires the use of specialist migration toolset.

Can I perform a PST consolidation/migration myself?

PST files are problematic due to the nature of how they are created, how long an organisation has used them, and how strict the policy that the organisation has in managing their creation and storage.

Locating and capturing PST files manually is an option, however, observations show that almost anyone who has attempted it failed, and would rather not attempt it again. PST consolidations are complex projects requiring a very targeted workflow capability to minimise the impact on the end user and to ensure that all files are captured.

PST files are usually created by users and ‘owned’ by them. Accordingly, any PST consolidation will have a direct impact on nearly every user in your organisation.  PST files can be stored anywhere (local machines or network shares) and may not be backed up regularly, if at all, often multiplying uncontrollably. The IT department seldom know how pervasive PST files are within their organisation (commonly known as no ‘PeST’ control) and when they do, they have no easy way to locate and migrate them.

These facts create the reason why specifically designed tools should be used to perform a PST consolidation.

Can a PST file be accessible during the process, and does it have to be connected to Outlook?

Performing PST consolidation manually, usually involves  disconnecting the file from Outlook and taking it away from the users for the entire duration. This is, of course, not ideal, and greatly impacts user experience and/or participation.

When using a specialist toolset to automatically perform PST consolidation, there are various methods of ingesting the PSTs. In the automated process, the PST can be disconnected from Outlook if desired, but can equally remain connected and seamless to the user. The most commonly used approach is where a ‘snapshot’ of the PST is taken while putting the PST in a ‘Read Only’ mode during the migration phase, enabling the user to still use the PST and retrieve data.

Our PST service is flexible and provides multiple methods to migrate PSTs. Some options require the PST to be disconnected, and others require it to remain connected, and allow for better control of the consolidated data. It also depends on how the PST files have been collected and how much end user involvement is required.

Can PSTs be consolidated from all Network locations including laptop endpoints?

In order to consolidate PSTs across the network, a lot of effort is required to locate and filter the various locations. One of the most difficult and onerous tasks in a PST consolidation project, is the ability to find all files, transfer them across the network, and map them to the respective users. Most times, this is a very costly process that may jeopardise the entire project.

Using a variety of toolsets, the automated  PST migration process can be configured to scan and upload from local drives (desktop or laptops), from attached USB drives, and from network shares. These toolsets take the risk out of one of the most critical stages of any migration – planning and discovery. Once located, the record of all PST files across the network is analysed and organisations can perform a controlled, efficient consolidation.

PST files on laptops that are often connected via low bandwidth links are always problematic when considering a consolidation project. Laptop endpoints are a very good example why using the automated approach would benefit the organisation adopting it. Users with laptops as their primary tool of trade, connect and disconnect from the Organisation’s network on a frequent basis. Pinning them down to the network for a long period of time is virtually impossible. When manually trying to copy a PST file of a user’s laptop when the users disconnects the laptop, the entire process has to start again. Using a specialist toolset, allows organisations to resume from the time and place the users had disconnected, with close to no impact to the user.

Usage of third party tools can provide access to features designed specifically to address PST files that are on low-bandwidth connections, using the Microsoft BITS technology to facilitate, prioritise, throttle, and asynchronously transfer files between machines using idle network bandwidth. This, in turn, ensures that even if users disconnect network sessions or change network paths, the upload will continue from where it left off, upon a successful network reconnection.

What are “Orphaned” PST files and how can they be handled?

An “Orphaned” PST is a PST that seemingly does not belong to any specific user, i.e. it is not linked to a user’s profile or located in a user’s personal directory, and are typically up to 15% of PST files stored in the environment.

When a user indicates that a PST file does not belong to them, or a PST is found on the network with no direct link to a user, the file can be assigned to the account which has been designated as ‘capture all user’. Using an automated consolidation toolset, PSTs can be automatically assigned based on several ‘permission’ checks within the application to assist in determining the owner (such as “who are all the messages sent to”). In the unlikely event that either the application or user is unable to determine the ownership, the administrator can override and assign the PST ‘owner’ where appropriate, from the console.

Not all files with .PST extensions are actually Outlook files. How can we avoid migrating or deleting the wrong files?

When performing a manual consolidation, this issue is nearly impossible to detect, often only becoming apparent when the file is attempted to be ingested to a target platform.

When using an automated toolset, it is possible to customise the application to detect the files that have these extensions and look at various attributes of the file to determine if they are indeed Outlook PST files. This provides much greater control over the process, and enables administrators to identify the culprits and to have these files excluded from being uploaded and attempted for ingestion.

What happens if I have a user with multiple copies of the same PST or it’s content? Will it ingest multiple copies?

When performing a PST consolidation manually, PST files need to be discovered and then replicated to a location, so that they can be imported to the target. It is very common for a user to have multiple copies of their PST stored either locally on their machine or on the network.  Unless the messages are deduplicated across each of the PST files, additional data will be imported to the target platform, sometimes resulting in multiple copies of the same message in a user’s mailbox.

When using an automated tool, duplicate items can be identified within a user’s PST files and retain only unique items. This approach ensures that the destination platform will only receive one copy of each message, and will provide an enhanced user experience.

How are password protected PST files handled? what if the user has left the organisation? Will they not be migrated?

In a manual migration approach, administrators are forced to either try and crack the password or consider the files as unusable/corrupt, thus potentially losing valuable data and putting the organisation at risk.

With the automated approach, some of the toolsets can strip-out the password from the file and allow the ingestion of the content. Note that this is a different process than one which may be followed in a manual consolidation approach, it does NOT crack the password, but is a process that strips out the requirement of the password on the file.

Can we manage disparate locations from a central location or do we need to have multiple instances of the process?

With automated consolidation, the toolsets can be configured to work cohesively with various networking product for throttling uploads, the product uses BITS technology and works effectively with interrupted transmissions. This can potentially be controlled from a central location, and be used to gather PSTs from larger remote sites, to be transported back to the central processing location where available bandwidth does not meet the amount of data to be transferred.

Manual approach, on the other hand, requires a visit to each and every site, and is largely a separate process which can be time consuming and costly.

Does the user need to be involved or even be aware about the process?

The nature of PST files means that users usually keep a close eye on them and want to maintain total control. When attempting to manually migrate, PST files may delay or even halt the consolidation process entirely. Organisations usually face push-back from users or management, to allocate enough time for the users to manage their PST files in the process. Such approach may cost the business dearly as users may need to spend time dealing with issues and be much less productive with what they were hired to do.

The toolsets available today are flexible and can be delivered as a ‘silent’ (non-intrusive) service with no user interaction, or it can tailored to allow the users as much interaction with the PSTs and the decision process as required

How do I know my progress and if the consolidation was successful?

When migrating manually, knowing how far you are in the process – or even how successful it has been thus far – is nearly impossible. Maintaining a spreadsheet of all found PST files, their mapping to users, and their exact destination, is no longer an adequate and viable option.

In an automated consolidation, full visibility of the migration process can be provided with a complete Audit Trail. In most cases custom reports can be created to cater for an organisation specific needs and for different level of reports if required.

During the automated migration process, each item within the PST files is accounted for and logged, providing a complete picture of what was migrated, failed, or corrupt.