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PST file management

Posted on 2011-02-21
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Last Modified: 2012-05-11
All, we have an Exchange server (2003) and many users with huge pst files. We have them stored on the network via a SAN and not stored locally. I know that storing pst files on a network/WAN is not recommended. However storing pst files locally presents backup challenges. We have been experiencing many issues that I believe are tied to pst files on our network.

What do recommend for managing pst files properly so that there is no impact on the network, and files can be backed up?

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Question by:whosbetterthanme
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Speedfox6 earned 250 total points
ID: 34944325
You can try running NT backup on the client PCs to backup just the PSTs from the clients PCs to the server, before the main server backup. The only issuse is that the PC will need to be left on overnight to backup as you'll need to do it when the user is not working at the PC.
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by:woolnoir
woolnoir earned 250 total points
ID: 34944332
We have used the network drive method for many years, infact it works perfectly when we provide outlook access over VPN as the citrix box can access the network drive and PST fine - this wouldnt be possible reliably with locally stored PST.

You only issue with PST files is when the file gets to large, anything above 2GIG will start causing issues, for this i would suggest that you either give the users multiple files or expand their server storage.

In terms of backup, you can get backup software which takes advantage of shadow copying or open file agents to ensure a consistent backup (backup exec, or netbackup to name too). Even windows shadow copying/previous versions will help as it will allow rollback in the event of corruption.

What issues are you having, as we have used this strategy for years without issues.
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by:whosbetterthanme
ID: 34944452
We have many users complaining of slow Outlook response. The blue circle of death when using Outlook. And it's usually users with huge PST files. Other times it's intermittent times when the "system" is slow. And we've seen evidence that it's when several users are opening Outlook around the same time.

It makes sense via the asrticle below:

http://blogs.technet.com/b/askperf/archive/2007/01/21/network-stored-pst-files-don-t-do-it.aspx

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by:woolnoir
ID: 34944481
Yeah - ive read that article before, we take the risk and havent had any issues, but again thats due to us keeping the file size under control.

What speed is your LAN, or WAN (depending on where your server and clients are). Obviously accessing a PST over a slower WAN link is asking for trouble.
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by:whosbetterthanme
ID: 34944795
Our setup is 10 Mbps between locations so I don't think that's the issue. I wonder if there are any 3rd party solutions?
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by:woolnoir
ID: 34944821
are your client and servers in the same location ?
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by:whosbetterthanme
ID: 34945101
Some are. The email server is here, and there are users here, but also at remote locations.
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by:woolnoir
ID: 34945113
What about the servers hosting the network pst files, is that on a file server and do they go over the WAN link too.. or is it local ?
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by:woolnoir
ID: 34945134
if you are accessing large PST files over a 10 meg link thats the cause for your speed issues, 100meg its less of a problem, 1 GB and the issues vanish almost entirely. You could either host a file serve mirror (maybe using windows DFS ) locally, or store the PST files locally. You could use backup software with Client agents such as backup exec, or netbackup to backup client machines (and thus PST's).

Or you could setup syncronisation to sync users home profile at login/logoff to your network share (allowing backup) but so outlook is accessing locally.
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by:whosbetterthanme
ID: 34946083
Woolnoir, maybe you misunderstand. We went from a T1 (1.5Mbps) to 10Mbps. Speed not an issue. It's something else. It's been happening more and more lately.

Either way, I was hoping that their may be a 3rd party solution, or a more reliable workaround. Storing the files locally and running backups on everyone's pc to backup the pc seems like such a hassle with many break points. We're pondering going to a cloud based email solution.

Thanks for all your help.
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Expert Comment

by:nappy_d
ID: 34950448
How many users do you have?  Is there any reason you haven't considered using an Exchange server?

With an Exchange server you sort of get the best of both worlds where mail can be cached locally but still remail on the server for backups etc.
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Expert Comment

by:tydfan4forty4
ID: 35040139
Another great solution for those wonderful PST's we love so much with Exchange 2003 0r newer is to use Enterprise vault from Symantec.  This will eliminate the need for pst files all together.  There is no magic fix for pst's which is why Microsoft says they are not supported on across a network.  
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