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This guide is intended as a reference in the management, use, and understanding of PST Flight Deck. This document was written for a technical audience whom are anticipating a base deployment of a PST Flight Deck environment. It is intended to provide an overview and high-level understanding of the product. Large, complex, or constrained migrations should engage a PST Flight Deck Architect to take the circumstances of your project into consideration.
PST Flight Deck is a scalable enterprise capable solution designed to address the issue of decades of unmanaged PST file creation, utilization, and proliferation throughout an organization. The objective of this solution is to identify and migrate the content of Personal Storage Table (PST) files into a target environment in order to permit the content to be subject to regulatory, retention, and organizational requirements. Upon ingestion, it can also be used to eliminate PST files identified throughout the organization.
PST files were initially introduced to help Administrators manage data on Exchange 4.0 mail servers. Their availability was expanded to support the use by Outlook to archive or store mail items locally. Expensive and limited mailbox store data on early versions of Exchange made PST files popular with organizations. PST files permitted the expanded use of a mail system without dramatically increasing the perceived cost, downtime, or expense of an Exchange environment. Mailbox quotas began to shrink to ensure the stability and availability of mail servers and PST files were now the target of the exponential growth in data use to facilitate the increased use of email systems within an organization.
PST files are a problem within most organizations today. When introduced to users, there were few guidelines as to how or when to use them. Some users began to route all their Exchange mail directly to their local storage, removing the administration and defensible deletion of mail content. Other users took this as an opportunity to save and store everything; began abusing the intent of the system by using it more as a file server than a mail server. Departments began using the storage containers for projects or departmental data on network shares where they were unsupported and more prone to corruption. The data stored within the files frequently fell outside of organizational compliance, retention, and discovery requirements. Data began being lost to poor management practices from the users of these files, corruption, or hardware changes. This PST file life-cycle continued for over a decade in several organizations, resulting in an enormous body of data completely unmanaged, decentralized, and with limited accessibility to those needing it most.
As time progressed, Exchange was able to restructure its storage to accommodate less expensive disks and more redundancy. The server could now accommodate the level of storage being used at a reasonable price without the same concerns of older server versions. While in the wild, PST files had become a problem. A big problem. The longer the use of PST files was permitted, the harder the problem was to resolve. Until the recent versions of Outlook, users were still permitted to store all Exchange mailbox data directly to a PST file on their system and remove all their messages from the centrally managed Exchange servers.
Manual attempts to eliminate PST files by IT departments proved to require a high level of messaging expertise, be very costly, and have an ever-expanding project duration. When things went well, a migration project was time consuming, labor intensive, and was challenging to track the progress of. The limited visibility made it challenging to accurately communicate the expected experience to the users impacted and groups intended to support them. Help desks became flooded with frustrated users wanting access to their critical data and was unable to provide any insight or accurate time-lines as to when their data would become available to them again. Engineers had to request personal passwords, be challenged with old PST file formats, duplicate items within PST files, files that were erroneous duplicated, files that were made as a backup, and file corruption of the PST files. When things went poorly, the effort frequently just failed after much expense and little progress.