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StorageCentral teaches end users to share space

Allied Domecq Spirits & Wine needed an IT Policeman at each state office to uphold the laws of proper end user storage.

By law, Allied Domecq Spirits & Wine needs an office in every state where it intends to sell alcohol. Not long ago, the company needed something else: an IT Policeman at each office to uphold the laws of proper end user storage. Yes, Allied Domecq's users had developed some nasty storage habits.

Shortly after migrating from Windows NT to Windows 2000 last year, the 1,200 end users in Allied Domecq's 28 remote sites were saving more and more files and e-mails to local network servers, said John Marazita. "Employees were dragging and dropping just about every type of file onto the network, instead of their local drives," said Marazita, operations support consultant at Allied Domecq.

Allied Domecq has more than 50 remote servers, storing 100 G bytes of data at some sites and 18 G bytes at others. The company, a wine and spirit distiller headquartered in London, England, also has a 300 G byte corporate file server in Ontario, Canada. Marazita centrally manages the remote sites from the company's North American IT department in Ontario, Canada. So, there are no dedicated IT managers at each site to discipline greedy users.

Marazita thought each user had adequate desktop storage, and e-mail servers had built-in redundancy. Still, "we had some servers hitting 90% full," he said. Server performance slowdowns were plaguing almost every remote site.

Marazita knew an audit of all Allied Domecq's remote servers was in order. "I wanted to know exactly what users were storing." At the least adding more space on some users' desktops was needed. He also wanted to create rules about what employees were allowed to store on the network. Enterprise Management System, the reporting tool from Houston, Texas-based BindView, Corp. -- which Marazita had been using prior to the migration -- was not equipped to send users indications of their space usage, which was another function he wanted.

So, Marazita evaluated three storage resource management tools: Quota Manager from Manchester, N.H.-based NTP Software, Quota Server from Northern Parklife, Inc. of Tampa, Fla. and StorageCentral from Reston, Va.-based Precise-WQuinn, Inc. "Each product provided comprehensive reporting of file characteristics and automated features for allocating home directory space," Marazita said. With all features being relatively equal, he based his choice on the quality of technical support personnel and training offerings. The winner was StorageCentral.

Marazita attended Precise-WQuinn's JumpStart SRM training, which provides administrators a two-day workshop to familiarize them with StorageCentral. Administrators only needed to bring a laptop with StorageCentral installed on it, and they could learn the ropes to manage and administer StorageCentral effectively.

"The JumpStart training goes in depth on customizing the reports, which wasn't covered much in the training book," Marazita said. Instructors also present tips and tricks to managing the product. Best of all, Marazita said, he got to meet other administrators who were using StorageCentral. "You get to see why they chose it and how they use it. It puts it in perspective how we can use StorageCentral." Keeping in touch with those administrators now also gives Marazita an added level of support.

StorageCentral gives real-time control of storage space, according to Steven Toole, vice president of marketing at WQuinn. 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 is the reporting part of StorageCentral that runs and sends out the Active Reports. Active Reports display unused files, files not accessed in more than a year and duplicate files. Trend analysis is also provided by Disk Advisor, which enables administrators to track storage usage over time to make intelligent capacity planning decisions, said Toole.

Quota Advisor is another component of StorageCentral 4.1. Quota Advisor tracks disk space usage and can be used for quota management.

StorageCentral was rolled out in phases over the Allied Domecq network. First, 10 remote sites were audited. Five servers in Ontartio were audited next. The audits showed that the biggest user-related problem was storing .bak files, which are backup files. "We had some sales representatives backing up their 10 G byte laptop to a 40 G byte local file server," Marazita said. The sales reps found it easier to drop a copy of their desktop on the server, rather than follow a few procedures and save to pre-configured tape drives.

Now, Marazita gets warnings from StorageCentral when servers hit 80-90% full. He also uses Active Reports to identify duplicate files and to find when and where users are storing .zip, .mp3 and archive files. He used StorageCentral to set filters on those file types and block employees from storing them on the network. Users receive a message saying why they can't store them if they try.

Marazita also tailored a StorageCentral HTML report to provide a list of file types he deemed space hogs, naming the report "Hog Report." Marazita now finds out who owns what size backup files, and he has the helpdesk contact users to show them how to use local tape drives instead of network servers. The Hog Report is run regularly to find employees that consume space quickly.

Most users now have between 200 M bytes to 250 M bytes of storage space on the network. Messages are automatically sent once they reach the 70%, 80% and 90% limit.

Allied Domecq's overall storage is now 50-55% full, Marazita said. Further, "StorageCentral allows us to prolong the upgrade process of our hardware. Instead of getting six months, we can extend to a year and half."

Reclaiming 30% of disk space on every remote server has been well worth the cost of StorageCentral, Marazita concluded. But, not worrying about the company's remote sites' storage capacity has been priceless.

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