Why are network stored PST files a bad idea?

Published Apr 03 2007 02:55 PM 8,628 Views

Windows Server Performance Team started a blog not so long ago... and one of subjects they talked about is issues that they are seeing when customers start keeping PST files on network shares. While this is not supported since Exchange 4.0 times, it seems like it is still done.

To read more about why this is a bad idea and how this problem surfaces, read their post on the subject:

Network Stored PST files... don't do it!

- Nino Bilic

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It's done because Microsoft has not provided a way to manage archived e-mail in a central location, or easily accessible location for users who roam.

If it's stored locally then roaming profiles by default won't pick it up (and it's impractical for them to do so, we have pst's in the 3G range easily for the majority of our employees.)

If it's stored on the network you might run into issues addressed in this article.

If you get a third party solution, your managers grumble that this should be included in the Outlook/Exchange package in the first place!  our solution?  Tech users how to RD back to their own home desktops.
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I regret that we've been using PST, but let's really look at why people opted to use PST in network drives.  Isn't a bad idea to store PST on a local hard drive as well?  It was either lose PST due to a bad hard drive or live with bad idea of storing PST in network drives.  I wish we had not used PST either, but I couldn't provide lots and lots of space for users to keep years of email.  

My two cents of living with PSTs.
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The reason why people in an Exchange environment archive to pst-files is;
1) it is being left on by the admin. The first time AutoArchive runs it prompts to enable (yes) or disable (no). In general people just click the yes button. Turn it off by using GPO

2) the mailboxes are scaled to small when compared with the mail retention policy of the company. True, Exchange DB size was a limitation (16GB) but that is no more (now 75GB). Give the user enough mailbox space to store the items in the company desires to keep. Diskspace certainly cannot be an issue as a pst-file is less efficient so it is better to store your mail in the Exchange database then anywhere else

3) why are pst-files ending up on the file server; because admins do set that by GPO (the disable policy is the one you should set; it's really close to the redirect policy!)

If you really don't want to go the route of server side archiving (in the Exchange database or by using a 3rd party application) and want to use pst-files keep them locally on the client. Sinds archives are semi-static data (only gets appended every now and then) you can use the pst-file backup add-in to remind you to make backup to the fileserver with a single click. Another way to go would be to actually treat the archive as an archive; close it after you have created it and make a backup and store that in a secure location. Since it is now fully static you can keep it locally. In case something goes wrong you still have the backup.

That's my 2 cents worth ;)
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What do you suggest we do in an environment like ours where we are all Citrix?  We have a farm of 7 citrix servers, and use folder redirection for My Documents and Desktop folders back to the file server.  We HAVE to store users' PSTs (luckily we only have about 5 users with them) on the file server - is there any other option?
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I say invest in more storage; disable archiving through GPO.  RAID arrays are cheap and it is generally worth it to most businesses to have old email readily available.  Keep all email on the Exchange Server going back 5-6 years.  Use retention policies set by Exchange.
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First ,it is kind of good timing to bring this point up with the release of Exchange 2007...  ;)
Second, Brian makes a good point is users store the pst on a local hard drive, they run the risk of losing that to hardware failure or in the case of a laptop, stolen.
With Exchange 2003 and earlier you really don't have much of a choice, if you are not using MB size limits, to use PSTs to accomodate all the users emails. That is if you aren't willing to pay $$$ for a third party app. Many companies aren't willing to do this.
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Simply not spending $$$ on a third party app doesn't mean that they are saving out this money. Dealing with pst-files is a costly business as well. To name a few;
-they take up more space and thus more backup and restore time and increases the $/MB ratio
-the restoring and troubleshooting process is much more labour intensive and most often requires support from your service desk. Dropping pst support will reduce the amount of calls and put the admin back in control
-the user doesn't always have access to his/her pst-file (like by using OWA or RPC over HTTP) and might not have access to information required to make certain decisions and therefore delaying business processes
-do you really want the users to spend x amount of time a week on archiving?

All those costs together can add up to a lot making a 3rd party app or even an additional Exchange server not that expensive after all.
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