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Remote Servers Get New Lease on Life

  • June 01 2002, 1:00am EDT
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This product review was for Precise WQuinn StorageCentral SRM, which has been renamed to Precise Storage Resource Management.


REVIEWER: John Marazita, operations support consultant for Allied Domecq Spirits & Wine Limited.

BACKGROUND: Based in Windsor, Ontario, Canada, Allied Domecq Spirits & Wine Limited ranks as the second largest distiller in the world with brands such as Ballantine's scotch and Canadian Club whiskey. This company accounts for 90 percent of the sales incurred by the $5 billion parent, Allied Domecq PLC, based in London, England.

PLATFORMS: Windows NT/2000.

PROBLEM SOLVED: From our office in Ontario, we remotely manage approximately 68 file servers disbursed throughout 32 offices in the United States and Canada. Servers range anywhere from 36 gigabytes to 100 gigabytes. We had many servers hitting 90 percent full, and a barrage of employees calling the help desk complaining about disk-full messages. Using StorageCentral SRM from Precise WQuinn to audit the contents of each server, we were able initially to reclaim approximately 40 percent of the wasted file space across all servers. Establishing policies to allocate storage space and eliminate all sources of wasted space, such as .bak (desktop backups), has enabled us to postpone upgrading the storage on all sites for another year. Because StorageCentral SRM enables us to control who stores how much of what and where they store it, we don't have to worry about traveling to a remote office because a server is full.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: After we did the initial audit, we allocated a specific amount of space for each employee and set up a warning system to notify an employee as he or she reaches certain space-usage thresholds. In addition to space allocation, we've started a routine to run specific StorageCentral SRM reports on each server. These reports enable us to identify those employees who consume space rapidly. We provide employees with a report so they can identify the files they don't need. To make the cleanup process even easier, we plan to give employees HTML-based reports. Because each file listing is really a hyperlink, the employee could click on the link to view the file, and then delete the file or move it to the desktop. StorageCentral SRM will also play a key role in determining what files should be kept on the network and what files should be sent to secondary storage before being archived to tape.

STRENGTHS: The product has enabled us to automate all of our manual storage management functions, such as searching for specific types of files that waste space. In fact, we estimate that the product has reduced our workload by approximately 50 percent.

WEAKNESSES: The product runs solely on Windows NT/2000. A separate copy of the product needs to be installed on each server to be managed. One must log into each server separately to look at StorageCentral SRM. However, StorageCentral SRM 5.0, the newest release of the product, has a central console that enables one to view all storage across all managed servers. Also, this new release enables policies to be set in the Active Directory of Windows 2000.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Of the three products we evaluated, StorageCentral SRM offered the most comprehensive real-time reporting of file characteristics, as well as the ability to block unwanted file types. Also, the real-time scanning of events ensured that each employee's space allocation was always accurate.

DELIVERABLES: StorageCentral enables us to tailor reports and schedule when we want the reports to run and in what format, such as in Excel or as an HTML page. For example, our custom hog report provides an exhaustive list of all the files we identified as space hogs, such as media files. This report helped us to identify the employees who continued to back up their desktops and laptops to a server. We've established better procedures to protect these devices. Other useful reports include duplicate files, files older than specific periods and user space. Meanwhile, if employees try to store a blocked file type, they'll receive a message from StorageCentral indicating why they can't store the file.

VENDOR SUPPORT: The quality of the company's technical support personnel convinced us to go with this product. We still feel the same about the technical support.

DOCUMENTATION: The support manual is easy to understand. However, because the product is very intuitive, one doesn't need to depend on the manual.

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