By Rick Cook
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Disk quotas are a sore point between storage managers and users. You can ease the strain by making sure your users know about quotas before they run out of disk space and by giving users help in staying under them.
The first thing to do is to publish an explanation of your quota policy. Explain how much storage space each user is allocated and what will happen if they go over that amount. For example, it isn't obvious to a lot of users that if the storage quota is exceeded, e-mail won't be delivered.
Secondly, make sure users know how to check how much storage they are using. On a Unix system where users have command-line access, it helps to show the sequence of commands and what the result means. On a Windows system you can tell (or show) the sequence of menu commands that will display file folders, their contents and details such as file size.
The third thing to do is to offer suggestions on how to reduce the amount of storage space being used. Many users aren't aware that they can have multiple, redundant, copies of documents in their directories, for example.
Finally (and note this is last), explain to the user how to get an increase in his or her disk quota.
- Cary Academy does an excellent job of explaining its policy and helping users check and reduce their use of storage space -- complete with Windows screen shots: http://web1.caryacademy.pvt.k12.nc.us/helpdesk/training/diskspace.htm.
- The University of Vermont quota policy dates back to 1997, but it includes instructions for checking quotas from the Unix shell. It also lists some useful commands for checking directories and removing files: http://www.uvm.edu/~uvmppg/ppg/cit/zooallo.htm.
- The UNCC approach is bureaucratic, but it does a good job of explaining how to apply for an increase in storage space: http://www.coe.uncc.edu/project_mosaic/policy/Additional_Quota_Policy.html.
- For more information on disk quotas and other Administrator tips recently published on SearchStorage.com, see http://www.searchstorage.com/searchStorage_Tips_Category_Page/0,1797,474,00.html.
About the author: Rick Cook has been writing about mass storage since the days when the term meant an 80K floppy disk. The computers he learned on used ferrite cores and magnetic drums. For the last twenty years he has been a freelance writer specializing in storage and other computer issues.