Storage resource management (SRM) software provides a powerful way to control runaway storage demands, but only if you can use it effectively.
SRM packages like SANPoint Control from Veritas, or Computer Associates BrightStor can track storage assets and enforce storage policies. But that's only the beginning.
The key to effectively managing storage use is a combination of knowledge, policies and buy-in. Know what you've got on your storage systems, set and enforce user policies on storage utilization and get buy-in from users and management on how to make those policies work.
The first step is knowing how your existing storage is being used. Ideally, you need to know how storage resources are being used at this instant, but usually a monthly or even a quarterly update is enough.
Running your first storage audit is often a depressing experience. By some estimates, about one-third of the storage space actually in use at the typical enterprise is wasted. Not only are there a lot of files that aren't being used, but often the files were created by people who aren't even on the network anymore. Some of the files may be several years old, some of them may be 'inappropriate' (porn, MP3 and such) and some of them are duplicates or orphans.
When confronted with such a mass of obvious junk, the first instinct is to delete everything. However, it is best to proceed cautiously. Some of those files may be important. While the obvious trash can be taken out, it's generally a good idea to ask users if they need that 3-year-old spreadsheet before deleting it.
The best way to deal with the problem of wasted space is to keep it from being wasted in the first place. That means setting user storage policies. Some of these policies are obvious, such as no MP3s. Others are less obvious to users, such as having them send links to large documents rather than copies of the documents themselves.
However policies have a political component. While SRM software makes it easy to enforce even fairly complex policies, you need to get users and management to at the very least understand what you're doing and ideally get them to help develop the policies to ensure buy-in.
Generally getting management buy-in for storage management policies is easy. A simple report demonstrating how much space is being wasted is usually all it takes. Getting users to go along with policies is somewhat more difficult. For one thing, some of that obvious junk is likely to turn out not to be junk at all. Often you can work with the users to suggest alternative and less resource-intensive ways of storing the information. In many other cases, the users simply don't understand the storage implications of, say, saving every copy of every draft of every document and keeping them on file forever.
For more information:Tip: Five questions for your SRM vendor
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Tip: Set strategic storage management policies
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.