REVIEWER: Graham Berry, administrator of the IT support department at ABB Automation.

BACKGROUND: ABB Automation LTD, based outside of London, manufactures and supplies fully integrated automation systems for chemical plants, offshore platforms, and paper and metals production plants. The company is part of the $25 billion ABB Group, which operates in 100 countries.

PLATFORMS: Windows NT servers, mostly Dell 4300s and Dell 6500s with storage from 10 to 180 gigabytes. Server applications include Microsoft Office, Lotus Notes and Oracle for Windows NT.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Two ongoing events caused our servers to repeatedly fill up and perform sluggishly. Employees would backup their entire desktops to the server and also download games onto the server, wasting network bandwidth to play them. Because of these problems, we decided to purchase a product which would enable us to allocate space to employees, cause them to become more proactive about limiting what they store and enable us to control the overall rate of storage growth and the price of managing it.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: We've incorporated StorageCeNTral into a comprehensive program for controlling employees' Windows NT network storage usage. StorageCeNTral enables us to set a disk space quota on each employee's home directory and monitor the growth of files, providing reports on characteristics of files such as duplicates. The reports pinpoint spikes in growth, enabling us to take immediate action and block employees from storing non-business file types such as MP3s.

STRENGTHS: It is easy to set up StorageCeNTral to automatically discover new employees on the network and assign a 50MB quota on the employee's home directory. The on-screen and e-mail alert messages motivate employees to clean their home directory in exchange for more space. To help employees make decisions about what files to keep, delete or store on CD-ROM, we e-mail them a StorageCeNTral report that lists all the files in their home directory. The current StorageCeNTral release provides HTML-based reports with hyperlinks to files. By clicking on a file link, an employee can view the file, delete it or move it.

WEAKNESSES: StorageCeNTral is actually a suite of three separate products. You have to install each product on each server in use. Also, the disk space quota management product has about six of the same reports included in the file reporting product.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Finding a product that wouldn't reduce the performance of any of our servers was important. StorageCeNTral's real-time scanning of events, such as the addition of new files to an employee's quota, has little effect on server performance. Similar products that routinely scan every few minutes can weaken a server's performance. StorageCeNTral's real-time scanning provides the most current quotas and reports.

DELIVERABLES: StorageCeNTral reports have enabled us to eliminate volumes of unnecessary files from our servers. Running a report by file type helped us to locate a home directory filled with gigabytes of MP3s. We also ran into a problem with employees downloading network games and wasting a lot of network bandwidth to play them. Based on the report, we found 12 employees with game files hidden on the servers using a half-gigabyte of space. StorageCeNTral also has other useful reports. For example, the ten top users report tells us who consumes the most space and can be run by employee or project. We have employees working on projects that generate a lot of files. If some of the files can be archived or deleted, we can gain up to a gigabyte of space at a time.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Because StorageCeNTral is relatively intuitive to set up and use, we didn't require much support from the vendor. However, the vendor's technical team promptly answered all of our questions.

DOCUMENTATION: The documentation is fairly complete, although the overall writing could be more clear and concise.

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