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IT reigns over storage hungry employees

Storage management software rescues an IT department from employees storing all kinds of things on the corporate network.

Although most companies now have policies that govern the type of files employees may store on the company's network, it is usually impractical to verify that employees adhere to the guidelines. That's where storage resource management software, or SRM, comes into play.

"We were blind when it came to looking at our storage usage," said Michael Snow, information technology manager at Asymtek. The Carlsbad, Calif.-based company builds systems to dispense glues, pastes and other fluids used in manufacturing assemblies.

Asymtek's employees were storing whatever they wanted, wherever they wanted on the network, according to Snow. Demand for storage space spiraled out of control, growing from 60 GBs to 200 GBs in one year.

"The more space we gave them, the more they used it to store gigabytes of files, including personal MP3s," Snow explained. "We didn't have the time to manually go through all the drives, locate files, remove them, and do the other things that one person would have to do. We cannot afford the manpower to have someone spend three or four hours a day just looking at files."

The storage space crunch became so severe that employees began having difficulty accessing the company network. "Worse still, our data swelled beyond what our tape devices could handle and we couldn't do our backups in the time allotted," Snow said.

In 2000, the IT department "decided to become intelligent" rather than continue buying disks to meet demand, said Snow. After comparing the offerings from a variety of vendors, Asymtek purchased and installed StorageCentral SRM, software developed by WQuinn, A Precise Software Solutions Company. The SRM solution monitors, controls and screens disk use and enables IT administrators to produce reports on storage content, use and trends.

Asymtek runs two Compaq file servers each attached to a Compaq StorageWorks 4100 Fibre Channel disk array. One subsystem has 400 gigabytes of available space, and the other has 200 gigabytes of space. About 400 employees use these systems.

"We first ran a variety of StorageCentral SRM's HTML-based reports across our servers to see exactly what we had," Snow said. What they found were gigabytes of duplicate files that spanned multiple drives and shares; files that hadn't been accessed in years; files such as .mp3s and .avis that were copyrighted; and files that were sensitive or proprietary and were stored insecurely in public areas.

The SRM reports convinced the IT team that it would have an easier time managing individual files if it changed the way it used its file system, Snow said. The team moved from group directories to publicly accessible user directories and consolidated many shared common group files.

"Since we began using StorageCentral SRM in early 2000, we've just about eliminated uncontrolled file growth caused by non-business files, and continue to keep our file volume consistent with our full backup window," Snow said.

Snow and his team also educated employees about file management practices and explained why storing certain material, such as copyrighted MP3s, on the network wasn't acceptable.

The employees have become very good about adhering to the file management policies. However, to be sure they do not lapse into old habits, the IT department has StorageCentral SRM automatically run a variety of reports on every disk use.

Manually compiling data about space usage and file characteristics would easily take the IT team an extra three hours a day, Snow estimated.

"I hear stories like Michael Snow's over and over," said Steven Toole, VP marketing for WQuinn. "We've had customers tell us they have freed up a week a month by using StorageCentral to automatically do what they used to do manually. Anything users can download off the Internet will wind up on a corporate server unless you have a way to control it."

For more information about Asymtek, visit its Web site.

For additional information about WQuinn (a Precise Software Solutions company), visit its Web site.

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