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Implementing a storage-management policy

Important considerations on implementing a storage-management policy.

Implementing a storage-management policy
Rick Cook

Selling a storage management policy is important, but implementing it successfully is even more important. The most inclusively planned policy with total buy-in from everyone can still falter if it is implemented ineffectively. At best, faulty implementation can produce a period of confusion for users and overwork for storage administrators. At worst, everyone in the enterprise will decide they hate the new policy.

Test it out
No matter how carefully you plan, there is a pretty good chance your storage-management policy will have some flaws. One way to test a new policy is to start with a single group in the enterprise and see how your vision of storage management flies. Then build on that success by adding additional groups as you and the users build confidence in the policy.

Not all parts of a storage management policy need to be phased in sequentially. For example, blocking inappropriate or legally questionable file types is probably best implemented enterprise-wide from the very beginning.

Phase in quotas
People hate surprises, especially when they prevent them from doing their work. Not being able to save a project because you've run up against a storage quota is sure to ruin even the brightest outlook. A little warning goes a long way towards preventing problems and ill will.

Your storage-management policy should give ample warning to users who are approaching their storage quotas. Northern Parklife, Inc. suggests setting at least two but not more than three thresholds with e-mail or pop-up warnings to the user and the storage administrator. Two common warning points are when the user has consumed 75 and 100 percent of his storage quota.

Another important technique is to start with 'soft' quotas. For example during the first 30 days the policy is in effect, users exceeding quotas could simply get a pop up warning telling them they're over their storage budget and by X date they won't be allowed to exceed it. Of course you should offer easily available information on how users can trim their files and control their storage use.

Some enterprises have found that they never need to go to hard quotas. Their employees buy into the program and trim their files when they are warned. Alternately, you may need to go to hard quotas on some storage systems that are reaching capacity and be able to stick with soft quotas on systems with more available space.

Prepare management for the inevitable complaints
Obviously not everyone is going to be happy with limits on how much and what they can store and some of the unhappy ones are going to complain to management. It's a good move politically to give management a heads-up on which groups are likely to complain and why the storage-management policy calls for doing things that way.

Look for opportunities to automate
Although most storage-management policies automate some processes (such as blocking inappropriate file types) storage administrators should look for ways to save space by automatically moving, deleting or archiving files. For example .tmp files could be automatically swept every 30 days when the policy is implemented. But a review of usage patterns might show a potential for significant savings if .tmp files were eliminated every 15 days. Automating storage management policies with scripts or other tools also reduces the workload on administrators.

Northern Parklife, Inc. offers a number of suggestions for implementing storage management policies in a document titled "Scenarios" on its web site. W. Quinn Associates, Inc. has white paper on storage management titled "Why Manage Your Storage" available on its web site.

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.

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