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User quotas: Getting a grip on storage growth

By Linda Gail Christie

Although the cost of physical media is declining at a phenomenal rate, storage management costs are soaring. As a result, many companies are holding the line on disk space usage by implementing storage quotas that: Designate what types of data can be placed on servers; allocate how much space employees and/or groups can use; and specify what procedures IT departments can use to administer and enforce these policies.

Storage resource management (SRM) tools are vital for implementing an effective quota strategy. "SRM tools perform central monitoring, alerting, reporting, and trending for specific storage resources," said Steven Toole, VP of Marketing for WQuinn, a provider of storage management tools for Windows NT/2000. "Without this information, it's almost impossible to intelligently plan for usage and growth."

Toole recommends implementing a solution that is not only cost-effective for network administrators, but also friendly to end users. "Without educating users and administrators about storage consumption habits, users are free to consume disk space recklessly," he said. "So it's important to involve them in the planning process. Talk with them about their current needs, as well as anticipated future requirements. Also explain that managing storage has little to do with the cost of the media, and everything to do with the cost of safeguarding data and guaranteeing availability."

Not all quota management software packages are equal in capabilities, however. For example, Toole says that rather than disrupt someone's ability to save a file with an abrupt "disk full" message, end users should be warned gently that they are approaching or have exceeded their storage allotment. "This is why we designed QuotaAdvisor to provide alerts to employees at staggered, preset capacity thresholds. And we tried to make freeing up disk space hassle-free by e-mailing a report identifying old and duplicate files."

Network storage policies and solutions should minimize employee anxiety, as well as solve the IT department's need to control storage.

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About the author: Storage management tips are written by Linda Gail Christie, a contributing editor based in Tulsa, Okla.

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