In a recent Sherpa survey, a surprising percentage of respondents indicated that they were planning a project to control or eliminate PST files in their organizations. It seems the popularity of archiving within Microsoft Exchange, either on-premises or in the Office365 cloud, has prompted a resurgence of interest in the topic of managing PST data. It’s easy to understand why PST files are consistently difficult to manage and prone to corruption, but the real driver behind this trend seems to be an increased focus on information governance.
PST files are notorious for being repositories of business-critical data. Outlook users routinely save information about projects, client emails or other communications that may pose a significant business risk in the event of litigation. Worse still, those same PST files may inadvertently expose proprietary customer information if the device that they reside on becomes lost or stolen.

If you are preparing for a PST migration, here are three important steps to include in your project plan:

  1. Inventory the data. Since PST files are easy to create on the desktop, companies will typically find many in existence. Be sure to include a strategy for locating all of the target files. Larger organizations typically rely on some type of network management software that allows them to scan user hard drives for particular file types. Another option is to install a software agent like Microsoft’s PST Capture or Sherpa’s Mail Attender desktop agent – both of these tools will scan the local hard drives and locate target PST files for you. Another important aspect of the inventory phase is to assess the data contained within the PST files. While it is important to know the amount of data that exists, this is also a great opportunity to exclude stale data that may have outlived its useful life or exceeded corporate retention limits.
  2. Select a destination for the PST information. Since PST data tends to be historical in nature, the Exchange Archive may be an ideal destination for the migrated data. Archives appear to your Outlook users as a separate folder area within their primary mailbox. This makes access to the PST data very easy for end users. In fact, new iOS and Android clients for Microsoft 365 even allow access to the imported PST messages from those mobile devices – a big upgrade from traditional PST access. When you use Mail Attender to import PST file information, you can specify the folder that each message will be placed in within the mailbox or archive; this can greatly reduce end-user training, since replicating the original folder structure makes it easy for end users to find the imported data.
  3. While importing the messages, consider de-duplicating that data. If your users routinely copy PST files, there may be a significant amount of duplicate data within their desktop PST files. Using a hashing process tool like Mail Attender can identify these duplicates and eliminate them during the migration process.

For more tips on planning a PST migration, download the archive of this free webinar event from November 14th, where author and Microsoft Exchange MVP J. Peter Bruzzese offered his tips on a successful PST migration project; in addition, Sherpa demonstrated how Mail Attender can aid you in the process. To download, visit this link: