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Keystone nabs storage pack rats

There is a way to curb your users' nasty storage behavior! If they are clogging your server space, storage resource management software might save the day like it did at Keystone Health Plan Central.

Two years ago, Keystone Health Plan Central encountered a new kind of IT mongrel: the storage pack rat. Keystone's users were inconspicuously consuming all the disk resources they were allotted, clogging up file server storage. That is, until Keystone's IT staff found storage resource management (SRM) software.

Keystone's 600 users were storing everything from current files to files from several years past, said Mark Crawford, network design specialist at Keystone. All the data, 300 G bytes on four Windows NT 4.0 servers, was backed up each month and stored off site. Knowing that, users still continued to waste in-house disk space. Camp Hill, Penn.-based Keystone is a health care insurance provider.

Crawford knew constantly prodding space hogs to clean out files when more space was needed was not the most effective approach. "If we could target individual users for their abuse of the file resources, then we could prevent department wide e-mails asking users to clean out their disk space," he said.

To add to the mix, Crawford was also planning a storage area network (SAN) implementation at the same time. He knew getting the wasted space on the NT 4.0 servers under control would help pave the way for the SAN migration. "We wanted to get a jump on determining how much storage was used by what types of files and by whom. We also wanted to prevent users from getting access to disk space after implementing the SAN."

The new SAN would provide almost three times more overall storage space than the four NT servers, Crawford said. So, storage management was a key concern.

Crawford researched the best way to control Keystone's storage. After speaking with different IT contacts at various organizations, WQuinn Inc.'s StorageCentral SRM product clearly came out ahead, he said.

StorageCentral gives real-time control of storage space, according to Steven Toole, vice president of marketing at WQuinn's Reston, Va. headquarters. Administrators can track and control disk usage. Through an automatic discovery feature called Learn Mode, new users are automatically found. Storage policies are applied when the new users are first introduced to the system.

StorageCentral's Active Reports allow users to know how much space they are using via a Web-based report interface. They can see where outdated files or other wasted space are. "Rather than administrators having to make decisions on what files to groom, we're letting the end users decide what to get rid of," Toole said.

Disk Advisor, another feature of StorageCentral, is the reporting part that runs and sends out the Active Reports. Trend analysis is provided by Disk Advisor, which enables administrators to track storage usage over time to make intelligent capacity planning decisions, said Toole.

Keystone's four NT file servers were finally migrated to a one Terabyte SAN in December 2001, Crawford said. Two NT 4.0 servers running Microsoft Cluster Server are still on the front-end.

Disk Advisor and Quota Advisor, another component of StorageCentral 4.1, are two components Keystone has used since 1999. Disk Advisor's Active Reports have displayed thousands of unused files, files not accessed in more than a year and duplicate files. Active Reports showed that 30% of files on Keystone's network were wasting space, Crawford said. Quota Advisor tracks disk space usage, and Keystone uses it for user quota management.

Keystone will implement user policies and an e-mail retention policy within the next few months, Crawford said. The user policy will limit how much space individual users will be allotted. A customer service representative, for example, may only need 100 M bytes of space, while an application developer may need a gigabyte, he said.

With the e-mail retention policy, an archive file will be created that will remove files older than six months from users' Outlook mailboxes. Once both policies are implemented, Keystone will regain 20% more storage space overall. Another 20% of space will be reclaimed from expunging old, unused files, he predicted.

Already, though, Keystone's IT staff has saved four to six hours a week managing disk drive space. Normally, one member of the IT staff would spend time doing this.

Thanks to StorageCentral's reports, Crawford can now plan adequate SAN space for each of Keystone's different departments. That way, storage hogs can be stopped before they start.


What are your biggest storage management headaches? E-mail Assistant News Editor Meredith Derby

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