Electronic document management needs to be a key part of your data security strategy. You probably know all about managing your physical records, and even your digital documents (whether saved to servers or to the cloud), but PST files (or email archives) can be a different beast. Here’s what you need to know about managing this unique file type.
A Different Document Management Strategy for a Different Document Archive
Email archives are great for individual users. The problems occur when they become inadvertent stashes of business information. Permitting the use of PST files in corporate settings is actually a bad idea, particularly in regulated industries. Here’s a look at why that is the case.
Many years ago, when email was just coming into its prime, bandwidth was scarce, and storage was expensive. It was clear that Microsoft faced a problem. How could they address the concerns of customers who needed to keep the email for archival reasons, but who couldn’t squeeze those records into the tiny 10- or 20-megabyte mailbox quotes that were typical at that time. Their solution was to create archive files, which hold email records but don’t take up mailbox space. Microsoft developed the Personal Storage Table (PST) format for these records. As a company rooted in personal productivity, it chose to give responsibility for creating and managing PST files to individual email users. To this day, any Outlook user can archive an email on a local hard drive with a simple drag and drop motion. But that’s quickly become a problem in light of modern-day technological vulnerabilities.
Risk and Compliance
Now the situation is such that many companies have a PST file on an individual’s hard drive. If it’s not on the network or it’s not backed up, it’s as bad as hiding something under your mattress. People can access it who should not. There’s very little protection. There is a clear risk of PST files to the safety and compliance of corporate record-keeping. In fact, the recommendation to fully eliminate PST files has become more widespread. That’s because managing PST files is a shared source of pain for email administrators, records and information managers, litigation teams, compliance professionals, and IT operations. It’s a multi-disciplinary challenge and widespread frustration.
Understanding the Vulnerabilities
PST files are prone to data loss or corruption, have a huge impact on storage and backup. Not to mention that they can be a nightmare to search such as in discovery scenarios. There are programs that allow you to easily back up PST files in a central archive, but in order to not waste time with a jumble of PST files and provide your company with lasting protection from data loss, working closely with a document management service who is familiar with managing digital files is the smart move to make. While PST files can be kept or deleted after archiving, in either case, with a knowledgeable document management strategist on your side, your company is no longer dependent on this unreliable file format.
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