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Keep end-user storage in check

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Quota management tools
Where Microsoft Windows is predominant, organizations can use Windows Server to enforce disk quotas. "If the environment is limited, it's smart to just do it in Windows," says IDC's Villars. For larger, more complicated environments or where compliance and governance issues are involved, IT will need more sophisticated tools (see "Types of disk quota management tools,").

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Types of disk quota management tools
Almost all NAS vendors and most storage array vendors offer disk quota management tools, typically included at no extra charge, reports Villars. Storage resource management (SRM) tools from Computer Associates (CA) International Inc., IBM Corp. and Symantec Corp., along with smaller players like Tools4ever Inc., also provide disk quota management of varying capabilities.

"We did not like Microsoft Disk Quota because it eats up server processing," says Acuna at the Florida Department of Health. After looking at the offerings from Microsoft Corp., Tivoli, Tools4ever and custom batch files, the organization settled on SpaceGuard SRM from Tools4ever. The custom batch files were easy to write, but an annoyance to maintain. Dickinson College also opted for SpaceGuard. "Windows is definitely cheaper, but SpaceGuard gives us more options," says the college's Wetzel. In particular, SpaceGuard lets the school send alerts to a wide range of targets, including e-mail addresses, mobile phones, pagers, event logs and more.

Knology upgraded from a BlueArc Corp. Si8000 SiliconServer to the vendor's Titan array in part for the built-in quota management capabilities. The quota management feature lets Knology set and enforce quotas on e-mail. When users hit the limit, the system rejects the e-mail and fires off an alert to the customer, who can then delete e-mail or upgrade to a higher service level.

The company, which runs an entirely open-source environment, looked at putting quota management into the application layer. "That would have taken more CPU cycles and we would have needed to upgrade our servers," says Knology's Frye. "It is easier, faster and cheaper to just do it at the storage array."

The Canadian Museum of Civilization opted for CA's quota management, part of CA's BrightStor suite. "We've been using BrightStor for three years," says the museum's Butler. He particularly likes the reporting and trending BrightStor allows. However, the organization also uses Windows tools in its Windows servers to set, monitor and enforce Windows share sizes.

It will be some time before most IT managers are as generous with end-user storage as Google or Yahoo!. Unfortunately, enforcing disk quotas is a fast way to engender resentment of IT. But no matter how low disk storage costs go, IT managers don't have much choice until the cost of provisioning, managing, backing up and protecting storage is free.

This was first published in May 2006

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