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Keep end-user storage in check

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Quota economics
"Disk is cheap," says Villars. But if you buy enough of them, cheap disks add up--especially when you factor in the time, effort and cost of the tools to manage end-user quotas. "From a storage provisioning standpoint, especially without virtualization, continually adding storage is onerous," says Villars. That's one of the main reasons why most companies limit end-user storage rather than continually add disk capacity.

"I have to manage user capacity because I can't keep buying more disk every month," says Raymond Acuna, IT manager and MIS administrator for the Division of Disease Control at the Florida Department of Health. Acuna has 300 users in his department. Clerical people get 1GB of personal storage, regular staff receive 4GB and power users can get more as necessary.

Timothy Wetzel, system security analyst, infrastructure systems at Dickinson College in Carlisle, PA, says the college uses RAID 0 and 1 "so our disk costs are doubly expensive." The school allocates 200MB to each of its 2,500 students, and 500MB to each of its 1,200 faculty members and staff.

Letting users have all the storage they want also drives up the cost of backups. Christian Raymond, systems administrator at Ex-Centris, a movie theater and cultural events producer in Montreal, limits his 500 users to 300MB of personal storage and 5GB for corporate folders. Meanwhile, The Golf Channel doesn't back up users' personal storage space, but it does make snapshot

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copies, which it keeps for a couple of months, reports the firm's Formet. If a user inadvertently deletes or corrupts a file, Formet will recover it from the snapshot.

If you figure in the cost of backing up data or otherwise protecting it, the decision to limit storage increasingly looks like the right choice. "Imagine finding that you can't complete your backup within the overnight window because you're backing up personal data that has no value to the company," says Karp. In that case, the disk storage given over to users suddenly looks quite expensive.

Storage management discipline
Many organizations see end-user storage quotas not so much as a way to save money but to impose better storage management discipline and best practices. "Storage quotas help us keep tabs on what students need," says Robert Lowe, network manager at Lawrence University, Appleton, WI. "It gives us a monitoring mechanism [to forecast demand]."

"We restrict users to a small amount of storage for personal data, 50MB. We want to enforce the discipline of centralized storage for all corporate work," says Gordon Butler, chief information technology officer at the Canadian Museum of Civilization, Gatineau, Quebec. Centralized data can be more easily protected, backed up and shared. All information related to a project can be organized in a logical place. Otherwise, "we get an awful duplication of data," says Butler, because users store data that should be centralized and shared in their personal folders.

Some managers resist what they consider pandering to end-user storage demands. "It's a ludicrous attitude of IT to give users more storage whenever they ask for it. Users are addicted to storage," says Colin Clark, business control executive at Somerfield Stores Ltd., Bristol, U.K. The real issue, as Clark sees it, is the ability to find information when it's needed. Giving users more storage doesn't make it easier for them to find data--it makes it worse.

This was first published in May 2006

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