MS Outlook PST File Management - Top Concerns and Challenges

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Users in many organizations encounter PST files during their work, especially if they are using MS Outlook. Even though the emails being sent and received contain sensitive and business-critical information, the PST files are typically not managed well. It causes a significant risk to the business and presents ongoing issues for the IT administration. An overview of the main challenges and concerns of PST files:


PST Files – What are they?

PST or Personal Storage Table files are not something people not in IT know. MS Outlook, one of the most popular desktop email clients, creates these files when the “Auto Archive” function is on. The benefit of switching on the ‘auto-archive” function in Outlook is that users can bypass the limits of the mailbox typically imposed by the IT department to prevent overloading the central mail server. The PST files are usually stored on the device used by the Outlook user but may be stored in other places like the server and removable drives.


PST File Security

The extent of security of PST files depends on several factors, however, PST files do not rank very high on security since they are portable and can be easily copied and moved to Outlook clients on other devices. While you can password-protect these files, the protection is not very robust, and you can bypass them using simple programs available online.


PST File Reliability

As useful as PST files may be, they are infamously unreliable. It is because they were designed to hold small amounts of email data, but since then the volume of emails received and sent by users has grown exponentially, making them unstable. Most users are unaware of the hazards of overly large PST files in Outlook and continue accumulating thousands of emails. Large PST files are also susceptible to corruption when stored, shared, or accessed over a network because they are intended to be stored on local devices on which Outlook is installed and used. According to Tech Republic, PST file corruption is a big issue when multiple users share them.


PST File Availability 

Most users think PST files to be universally available; however, Outlook must be able to access their storage location. While it may be okay for users with access to local storage, they run into problems if they need to work from different devices or locations. They also cannot access their PST files if they use Outlook Web Access (OWA). Also, you must appreciate that you can lose access to PST files due to unexpected device shutdowns like desktop crashes, power failures, and fluctuations. Sometimes, users close PST files but cannot reopen them because they have forgotten where they are located and cannot find them again. Because these orphaned PST files contain valuable and business-critical information, you need to preserve them even though you cannot access them. If you cannot access a file due to corruption, you can try out a PST fix available online.


PST File Backup

The regularity of backing up PST files depends entirely on who is responsible for their maintenance. If they are located on central servers, the IT department would be backing them up as per a regular schedule, however, if the PST file resides on local machines, as they invariably do, it is probable individual users would be following any scheduled backup routine. The lack of regular backups of vital information presents a challenge to the company’s IT administration.


PST File - Extent of Use 

With Microsoft Outlook being among the most popular email desktop clients, you can be sure that millions of PST files exist, mainly on users’ desktops. While most companies don’t do much to manage and maintain these files while the users are operating the Outlook account, some copy the contents of the employee’s mailbox when he leaves the company. However, the practice may not be consistent, so there could be loads of critical information without any oversight. Some companies use the PST file format to transfer large amounts of information from one location to another and even to other entities. As far as employees are concerned, they are likely to be generating PST files without knowing if they use MS Outlook with the “Auto Archive” feature turned on. While it may help to bypass the corporate mailbox quotas, they may not understand the risk they are exposing to their email correspondence.



On average, there may be two to four PST files per active mailbox. The size of each file may be several GBs. A rough calculation says, around 10,000 emails will generally account for around one GB. While it may not seem a large number, you can appreciate the scale of the issue when you consider the total number of email accounts in the organization and multiply it by three, the average number of PST files per in-box. While the sheer size of disk space occupied by the PST files is not the main problem, the fact that these files contain important data about customers, finances, employees, vendors, research, etc. are largely unsupervised and unprotected is a matter of great concern.

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