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How to keep your file server's storage pool from running dry

Users love to hold on to files. How can administrators keep their file server's storage pool from running dry? One way is to fool your users into thinking the drive is full.

Any systems administrator will tell you that it's nearly impossible to get their users to keep their file storage down to a minimum. Most corporate users are like packrats; they hold onto files for years on end.

There are valid business and legal reasons to keep files. However, there are also three reasons why most users do not have to do this:

  1. These files will never be referenced again.
  2. These files reside on one (if not several) backup tapes/volumes.
  3. They take up a lot of storage space.

If a file server's storage pool is full, other users may be prevented from creating new documents. Even worse, the situation may cause a system failure.

So how does an administrator keep their file server storage pool from running dry? There are several ways to do so:

  • Setting multiple file servers/storage pools, DFS or an equivalent;
  • Using disk quotas;
  • Installing third-party file monitoring utilities; and
  • Performing mass deletes based on file dates.

Some of these work better than others. One tip that has served me well is to set up a little wiggle room on my customers' file servers. When I create a file server, I copy at least five 1GB files (sometimes ten, depending on the size of the storage pool) onto the drive. In so doing, I reserve enough space that can be freed up in an emergency.

Eventually the drive will fill up. When the users come screaming to me about cannot save file because disk is full errors, I simply delete one of the 1GB files off the drive and give them some wiggle room. I then go about the unenviable task of getting the users to perform a little spring cleaning.

Granted, this reduces the amount of disk space my clients have access to, but with drives getting into the terabyte range, this practice can keep them from getting into a pickle later.

About the author: Tim Fenner(MCSE, MCSA: Messaging, Network+ and A+) is a senior systems administrator who oversees a Microsoft Windows, Exchange and Office environment. He is also an independent consultant who specializes in the design, implementation and management of Windows networks.

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