The long awaited PST Capture tool has arrived! Congratulations Microsoft. PSTs have long been a problem with organisations, and I think it's important to quickly reflect on why PST proliferation has occurred in the first place, and there exist many theories for this. My own theory sits in two distinct places:
1) PSTs exist because users were not allocated the storage to be able to do their jobs efficiently. For example, I look today at Universities - staff still only getting 100MB quotas (and students getting 20MB in some cases). Exchange 2010 on-premise and Exchange online (assuming you buy the right Plan), should fix this in theory.
2) PSTs exist because of "information ownership". What do I mean by this? Well let me take an example - a manager or colleague sends out some really useful "how-to" emails or informational emails. The recipient wants to keep them for future use. The problem is (and a great example of this exists in some European Government organisations), expiry happens at 1 year for users. So, how does the user keep that information that they now feel they "own" and need to do the job? Well, they copy them to a PST to keep them indefinitely. Oh, and they can share the PST with others too - by putting it on a USB stick and/or taking it home.
Get rid of PSTs, and you move the problem elsewhere potentially - users can drag messages to the desktop or a removable USB pen. Oh, and there is that nice open-source, non-MAPI using PST container tool - that you can drop messages into. Sorry, the PST GPO settings don't stop that. Think PSTs are gone? Perhaps time to think again.
So exactly what does the PST Capture tool seem to achieve? Well, for a small organisation, or an organisation of the belief they can turn on a few GPOs to totally disable PST usage, this might just seem like the magical solution for them - and it will seem, for all purposes, to hit the end goal. Until 2 years later that is, when suddenly the organisation realises those original problems I pointed out earlier – especially the information ownership one - still exist.
Anyway, here are some features that PST Capture seems to be missing that will be important to larger projects:
- Selective migration: say an organisation has 200TB of data in PSTs, but 80% of this is rubbish or is outside the organisation’s retention policy. With PST Capture you’ve got no choice, it’s the whole PST or nothing, there’s no granularity beyond that.
- Automatically checking for change - An interesting feature of the PST Capture tool is the use of an "Import List". The problem is how do you automatically keep track of any new PSTs created and dynamically add them to your schedule? Bear in mind the PST clean-up operation can take a very long time to complete.
- Multiple destinations – PST Capture just moves all content into one destination. The customers we encounter are more demanding than this and want to say, move < 6 months into the primary on-prem mailbox, > 6 months EOA and delete stuff older than say 7 years.
- Shortcuts – if there’s a 3rd-party archive involved, stray shortcuts in PSTs are common and believe me, you don’t want to move these into Exchange archives (getting them back out is a whole other story to be continued here at a future date).
- Reporting – There’s limited reporting in PST Capture. It would be nice to see a lot more detailed and ideally graphical reporting across all the stages of migration, before, during and after, certainly for organisations that have a compliance need to demonstrate chain-of-custody.
So let me summarise by again congratulating the great effort on PST Capture - a welcome, but limited, addition to the toolset.