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Earthjustice defeats defrag nightmare

Nonprofit legal organization automates defragmentation of 200 Windows 2000 Professional PCs.

A host of office managers used to spend hours each month making sure the hard drives at Earthjustice were defragmented.

Earthjustice is an Oakland, Calif.-based nonprofit that provides free legal services for organizations working to protect the environment. At Earthjustice, as at most nonprofits, pressure to find cheaper and faster ways of doing things never goes away, no matter what the economy's health.

"Everyone's tight with money today, but as a nonprofit we have an obligation to be as cost-effective as possible," said Chris Wallace, systems administrator.

Office managers part of IT team

Earthjustice has a dozen regional offices across the country, in cities such as Denver, Honolulu and Juneau, Alaska. Each office has a staff of attorneys and an administrative team.

In addition to running busy legal offices, Earthjustice office managers recently were asked to defragment their offices' PCs. Altogether, they had to work on 200 Windows 2000 Professional systems.

It's important to defrag PC hard drives to erase corrupt files and keep them running fast. Without consistent defragging, Wallace noted, Earthjustice's four-person IT staff fielded many user complaints about slow PCs.

"Primarily, the issue is speed," Wallace said. "PC drives can become very heavily fragmented and really slow down."

Earthjustice defragged with Disk Defragmenter, a tool that comes with Windows 2000. After using the tool for months, the office managers found it lacking in both performance and flexibility. Performance-wise, defragging took nine office managers collectively 40 hours per month. Also, the tool was so inflexible that remote defragging would have required Wallace to change the schedule for each PC. He tried to write scripts to manipulate the scheduling program but was unsuccessful.

Wallace was charged with defragging the organization's 20 servers, but using Disk Defragmenter took so long that he usually didn't get around to doing this job. The result was slowed server performance and inefficient usage of drive space. He knew he had to find a better way to manage defragmentation.

After some research, Wallace chose Defrag Manager by Austin, Texas-based Winternals Software.

Defrag Manager passed the tests

Wallace went with Defrag Manager for three main reasons:

  • It's flexible. Wallace can schedule it for different times for different PCs and offices.
  • It runs smoothly over the Earthjustice WAN that connects all offices.
  • It integrates in drag-and-drop fashion with Windows 2000 Active Directory.
Oh, and there was a fourth reason. Defrag Manager wasn't so hard on the nonprofit's tight budget. The tool cost about $2,500 -- much less than the $9,500 it likely would have cost for Diskeeper 7.0, a defragmentation tool marketed by Burbank, Calif.-based Executive Software International Inc. An Executive Software spokesperson said that although Diskeeper costs more, its many features provide a superior return on investment.

While evaluating products, Wallace downloaded Diskeeper 7.0. It worked well, but when he came upon the price tag he balked.

Closer examination showed Wallace that Defrag Manager had all the features he needed. The software allows him to defrag his PCs and servers throughout large networks from a single Windows 2000 Server. Also, the tool issues reports on all completed tasks.

"Before Defrag Manager, I didn't have a way to verify what was being done," he said.

Now, Defrag Manager automatically defrags the organization's farm of PCs and servers during one evening per week, without human supervision.

"Anything you can do quickly and check off your list is good," he said.

Defragmentation isn't the most thrilling IT task, so eliminating it from the daily grind is a big plus for the staff. "Defragmentation is about as exciting as watching paint dry," Wallace said. "You want to find a solution and move on."

Defrag Manager let him move on to countless other IT tasks.

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