Microsoft releases PST importer for Exchange

Microsoft declares war on its own PST file format, urging users to upgrade to Exchange 2010 instead

In a move to help administrators rid their networks of disparate personal email archives, Microsoft has released a tool for finding and importing Outlook PST files into modern Exchange environments. The tool will also help Microsoft rid itself of the archiving format, which it no longer sees as necessary.

Microsoft Exchange users "made it clear that PST import is an important area for us to focus on moving forward," wrote Ankur Kothari, a Microsoft senior product manager for Microsoft Exchange, in a blog post, ".PST, Time to Walk the Plank," announcing the release.

The free tool, called PST Capture, can search a network, identify PST files and import them into their user email accounts hosted by Exchange Online or Exchange Server 2010. Microsoft partner Red Gate developed PST Capture, and Microsoft added features and tested the software for this release.

The Microsoft Outlook email client typically creates PST (Personal Storage Table) files as a way to store email on the local machine, instead of storing the email on Microsoft Exchange Servers.

Over the past decade or so, many enterprise employees have created their own PST files, either to enjoy off-line email access or to store mail after they have reached their quota on the organization's e-mail server.

Personal archives can be problematic for administrators, however, in that they can hold data that isn't covered by an organization's data retention policies. They can also complicate an administrator's task of backing up user email, given that PST files can be spread out on different computers, or in different folders on different computers. "PSTs are a bit of pain point," Kothari admitted, in a video accompanying the blog posting.

Plus, PSTs are no longer necessary, Microsoft has concluded.

Many organizations now have sufficient storage space to the extent that users no longer need to be worried about surpassing their quotas. Also, Microsoft Exchange 2010 introduced a feature called Personal Archive, which automated the process of determining which emails to keep according to organizational policies, eliminating much of the need for personal employee archives.

Of course, Microsoft Exchange already can import PST files, through the PowerShell New-MailboxImportRequest command. PST Capture, however, automates the search and discovery process, and offers a graphical user interface.

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com

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