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GDPR and Migrating PST Files to Office 365 in Azure

Jul 9, 2018 by Stewart Gibbons

Everybody has heard of GDPR and the implications it brings for organizations. Businesses are looking at their GDPR risk exposure, and the ramifications of what, how and where their data is stored. A big concern is when data is stored in unmanaged repositories and there is little or no control placed on them. This is regardless of whether or not it is legitimate business data.

Quadrotech Product Owners Catherine McArthur and Mike Weaver hosted a great webinar a few weeks ago titled, “Can you be GDPR compliant if you have PSTs? A Quadrotech debate.”

During the session, they covered a lot of topics around PST files and GDPR compliance. Here is a high-level overview of the data risk:

Managing PST files for GDPR

The ability to create a personal email archive in the form of a PST  file has been a feature of the Microsoft mail system since the late 90s. These files can be created and stored pretty much anywhere by users, creating a sizeable GDPR threat for businesses. One major problem is control: there’s no way of knowing or governing what users save in these files, which could contain sensitive information such as credit card details, medical records, and personal data.

So the questions to ask are:

  • What’s actually in these archives? To be able to answer this you need all PSTs in one place where the data can be analyzed. But you can’t do that unless you know where they are and how many there are… right?
  • How can I stop the creation of more PSTs? The next problem is to stop the proliferation of these files in the future; there is no point in addressing this if there is no control, and nothing to stop it happening again.

As an organization, can I reap other benefits?

  • Ideally, I would like to see some business benefit (other than GDPR compliance) and have the data so that it could be easily analyzed. For example, you could use the results of an analysis to undertake a file clean up, reducing storage quotas, and streamlining the data held by your organization.
  • I want to optimize the whole process to reduce cost and make it as painless as possible for end-users.

Well, this is where PST Flight Deck – our tool for migrating PST files to Office 365 – steps into the arena.

PST Flight Deck is a robust enterprise-grade tool that locates, ingests, analyses, and migrates PST files into the desired target environment. But most organizations find this is not just a migration tool, particularly with Office 365; it is an upgrade in one sense, and the elimination of PST’s in another.

An upgrade you say?

With a move to Office 365, the PST’s can be migrated to the user’s in-place archive, so not only can users still carry on archiving mail as they have before, but now we can place the data in a central location and make it easier to manage and analyze. With some policy settings, we can then enforce a rule to stop the creation of future PSTs. Tick, that’s my proliferation fixed, and my upgrade of PSTs as a tangible business benefit.

One of the big features of PST Flight Deck is that it looks for the PSTs and where they are stored.  It will search and report on all PSTs it can find on the user’s machine, network shares, USB storage devices, and even report if the user has the file open in Outlook. This enables you to see exactly how these files are distributed over your environment.

PST Migration Hardware

One major complaint for migration projects is migration hardware. By hosting the solution in Microsoft Azure, it reduces the technical and logistic challenges organizations face while attempting a PST upgrade. The below diagram shows a basic installation of PST Flight Deck using a single machine instance in a single Azure region. The installation may look straightforward, but PST Flight Deck can scale to meet the complex challenges of a global enterprise; this is where the combination of Azure and PST Flight Deck really pays dividends.

A flow chart showing GDPR and PST File considerations within Azure

PST Flight Deck can run in both a centralized or hub and spoke model.  The system can also grow horizontally to allow for increased throughput for larger environments. In fact, we have had projects reach up to 5TB of PST data migrated into Office 365 in one just one day with this model!

The hub and spoke model allows for us to run in multiple Azure regions.  This is especially helpful for global companies with users distributed across multiple offices, or continents.  Simply deploy a node in the region you have users, and after some simple configuration, users can begin migrating to this closer server.

By placing PST Flight Deck in multiple Azure regions, the proximity to the end clients is enhanced, improving overall speed and reducing network latency.

With Azure, you only pay for what you use – i.e. pay for the renting of the platform whilst performing the PST move – and not needing to purchase or find capacity for licenses (e.g. OS and SQL) and hardware, as you would in a traditional scenario. This prevents you from bloating your virtual machine infrastructure or purchasing hardware for temporary projects.

Quadrotech’s PST Flight Deck is a fantastic tool that can help organizations become, and stay, GDPR compliant. For further information, explore our PST migration service.