Understanding Concerns About PST Files

Many Microsoft Outlook users prefer to store their email data in PST files since this gives them access to email data on their local computers. However, Exchange administrators do have some concerns about PST files that are stored on local workstations particularly when it comes to protection of PST data. Our article looks at some of these concerns and solutions to protect PST data.

In business environments, most employees have their email accounts on a Microsoft Exchange Server allowing them to communicate and collaborate more easily. Microsoft Outlook is a comprehensive personal management tool that makes this task even simpler. However, the ultimate responsibility of ensuring the security and integrity of the data stored on the server rests on the Exchange Server administrator. It is possible that some employees prefer to store the data such as mails, contacts, appointments, tasks, etc. in the form of Personal Folder files or PST files on their local workstations. This always causes some concern to Exchange administrators particularly when it comes to PST backups and PST recovery.

If you speak to Exchange administrators and ask them to list their biggest concerns, they might mention software and hardware failures as also spam, virus and malware attacks among them. In addition, the storage of PST files on local workstations can also pose a threat to the organization’s mailbox. For example, data that is stored in the mailbox located on an Exchange Server, can be monitored on a regular basis using built-in tools that both Exchange Server as well as Microsoft Outlook possess. On the other hand, neither of them have any built-in tools that can monitor PST files that are locally stored, manage them centrally or safeguard them against any damage. While PST recovery in such a case is a concern, more importantly, administrators prefer to manage data centrally rather than store it in a place where it can neither be monitored nor managed.

Further, PST files have to be stored on the local hard drive of a workstation. It is possible to store PST files on a network drive by configuring Outlook accordingly but administrators generally advise users against it since any problem in the network could result in corruption in the PST file. On the other hand, storing PST files on a local hard drive exposes them to the risk that if there are problems with the hard drive, the PST files could get damaged and data lost. This puts the onus of taking regular backups of the PST files on the user and if no back ups are available when PST files are found to be corrupt or damaged, it may be very difficult to carry out a PST recovery.

The best solution for a user who faces a damaged or corrupt PST file may be to immediately implement a specialized recovery solution such as DataNumen Outlook Repair from DataNumen. This tool can not only recover mail messages but also attachments such as documents or images that are attached to the messages.

Another concern about PST files being stored locally is the ease with which sensitive data can be passed on to persons outside the organization. For example, it is very easy to copy the data from a PST file onto external media or a USB flash drive and pass it out of the organization.

So, while PST files themselves do not pose any security threats, there are some aspects that Exchange administrators have to be aware about so that they can take the steps necessary to safeguard the organization’s mail data.

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