Microsoft Promises Revolutionary PST Capture Tool

Ankur Kothari, the Microsoft program manager responsible for Exchange’s compliance features, talked up the  PST capture tool that Microsoft announced last July at his session at the Exchange Connections conference in Las Vegas. Ankur said that the utility was “revolutionary” because it has the ability to scan repositories such as network file shares to discover PST files and then match them against user mailboxes to allow administrators to quickly discover and import data in the PSTs into the Exchange Store

The utility is free because it’s a way to encourage users to move away from PSTs and take advantage of the expanded storage and compliance capabilities that Microsoft has delivered in Exchange 2010. Apparently Microsoft will ship the PST Capture tool before the end of 2011. We shall see.

It’s great to hear that new ground-breaking features are coming in software, but it’s not so good that Microsoft hasn’t yet managed to deliver a beta version of the PST capture tool for use and analysis outside Microsoft. It’s also surprising that a public beta hasn’t yet appeared because there's no doubt that such a tool will have to function in wildly differing environments. With this in mind, it surely makes sense to have a public beta that allows customers to test the tool and provide feedback to Microsoft so that the final result is well-polished software.

I fully applaud Microsoft’s attempt to eradicate the scourge of PSTs, which I regard as the most insecure and least efficient storage available to Exchange. However, PSTs are a necessary evil for now until Exchange 2010 becomes more widely deployed and companies have a chance to figure out what their long-term user storage strategy will be. Will archive mailboxes be used? Will those mailboxes be in the cloud (on Microsoft Office 365) or on-premises? Or will users simply receive 25GB-plus mailboxes to encourage them to move all their current PSTs into the mailboxes?

Whatever strategy is adopted, there’s no doubt that an effective PST ingestion tool is an important part of getting data out of PSTs and into online mailboxes. Let’s hope that Microsoft really does ship their utility, revolutionary or not, as soon as possible. Apart from anything else, having a free utility coming out of Redmond will force software vendors such as Transvault and Sherpa Software that have PST ingestion utilities available now to up their game and create even better software.

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