PST Backup and email archivingMicrosoft does not want you to backup PST files

Email is the internet’s original killer app and if your work depends on email then you are most likely using Microsoft Outlook as your email client. Your emails, tasks, calendar items and contacts are stored in Personal Folders files (.pst). It is therefore very important to backup PST files as they contain such important information. But the truth is it’s not as simple as it sounds.

Microsoft itself provides a tool to backup PST files, called pfbackup. However this tool runs only on old versions of Outlook and Windows. There are other third-party tools to backup PST files but they all suffer from the same set of problems. Some of the tools can back up the PST files only when Outlook is closed. This alone makes it inconvenient for most people – people forget to switch off Outlook at the end of each day just before leaving the office and running the backup. This also has the downside of making only a daily backup, leaving users to face the potential loss of an entire day’s worth of email. Another major problem with tools which back up PST files locally is that email is not available online, or even accessible from another machine – a problem nowadays, as people need the ability to access their email from anywhere.

Online Email Backup

Some PST backup software fixes this issue by backing up email online. This makes the email available anywhere which is certainly convenient. The only problem is getting the PST file online in the first place. For small PST files, backing up online is not a problem but with the ever increasing volume of email, PST files grow to GBs in size. Thus, any time backup software tries to backup the file, they will have to upload the entire PST file. And because every time an email is sent or received the PST file is marked as changed, the entire PST will need to be uploaded again. Clearly, not a workable solution!

PST files are a convenient form of keeping emails for home users perhaps, but for organisations, where email is crucial to their running, PST files just won’t do. Small and medium businesses face ever increasing storage costs on their Exchange server, higher help desk costs to support end-users, as well as need to meet legal or regulatory obligations. Trying to tackle these three goals with PST files is an exercise in frustration – and increasing costs.

The PST Alternative

There is however an alternative to PST files that gives up none of the ease of use, without the downsides. An SME-focused archiving solution will remove the need for PST files by keeping a centralized repository of emails, thus ensuring that all emails are effectively backed up without needing any user intervention. Another benefit of an archiving solution confers is that storage is used much more efficiently through the use of compression and single-instancing of email. This also has the additional benefit of allowing Exchange admins to offload Exchange by letting them set tighter quotas on mailboxes. Of course, for an archiving solution to work, it must offer seamless Outlook integration with the email archiving solution that requires minimal to no end-user training.

Managing PST and making a PST backup, is fraught with costs and hidden productivity losses. An email archiving solution that’s focused on the needs of SMBs will truly keep email secure, but also bring additional benefits to the organisation.