PST Skeletons in the Closet.

Two recent posts, one by Nick Mehta at his Live Office blog, and one by Andrew Conry-Murray at his Information Week blog, suggest the widespread practice of using email PST files as personal file systems is interfering with organizations’ document retention policies and contributing to the steadily increasing costs associated with e-discovery.

Conry-Murray cites a survey in Information Week of 864 business technology professionals. While 34 percent of respondents expressly allow users to store PST files on their computers, sixty percent of respondents’ users actually do. Thirteen percent of respondents are developing a policy.

Mehta believes that sixty percent is too low. He points out that PST files increase backup storage requirements, because every time a PST file is opened, it appears as a changed file to incremental backup programs. He suggests that the availability of unlimited archival storage to users would remove the motivation for using PST files.

There is a clear movement toward email archiving on disc as a substitute for backup tape systems. While it does move responsibility for email files from the individual user to the IT group, limiting security risks to some extent, it does not reduce the volume of email that must be searched in the e-discovery context, unless accompanied by a well-designed and implemented retention program.