Space management

Space management

Until the release of Windows 2000, Microsoft's operating systems lacked even the most rudimentary disk space quota management. Because PowerQuest's PowerExpert SRM (Storage Resource Management) 5.0 addresses this need, it might seem as though this product is redundant to features in Windows 2000.

In fact, PowerExpert SRM is more than just a quota manager - it offers a central interface for disk space usage monitoring, report generation, and policy management, extending the built-in functionality of Windows 2000 and XP and adding disk quota capabilities to Windows NT.

We started our test with a Windows NT 4.0 Server system, but immediately ran into a problem: the WMI (Windows Management Interface) was not installed. PowerExpert SRM doesn't install WMI automatically, so we had to manually access the installer-provided URL and download and install WMI. This was only a minor irritant for a single system, but it could add substantial deployment time if numerous systems require upgrades.

In addition, we encountered show-stopping ODBC errors during installation on a couple of NT systems. The errors could be bypassed, but they prevented the product from functioning on those systems. PowerQuest's support Web site was not useful in resolving this; the product is not listed there, and the PowerQuest help desk was not able to assist us.

Fortunately, installations on Windows 2000 systems went much more quickly, requiring only the single de rigueur reboot. We were able to manage PowerExpert SRM functionality remotely from a Windows 2000 machine via the monitoring and control console, which uses the Microsoft Management Control interface, adding a familiar look and feel.

By default, the management interface comes with a plethora of customisable definitions for creating, enforcing, and monitoring disk space management. In fact, the policy settings are so customisable, we were hard-pressed to think of a scenario, realistic or otherwise, that they wouldn't cover.

Users can assign disk quotas by absolute space (from bytes to terabytes), by percentages based on current consumption, or by absolute disk space capacity. File types or actions can also be blocked or monitored by a policy; unfortunately, policies cannot be set to allow only a certain amount of disk space to be consumed by a given file type.

Disk usage limits can be passive or active, notifying a user that his or her quota has been consumed or simply denying the user the ability to write to the disk. Blocking policies are less flexible than allocation policies, mainly determining whether or not particular file types are allowed on a system. But you have the option of triggering scripts based on policies, which can extend the product's capabilities significantly.

PowerExpert SRM reports can be scheduled or run on demand, and data can be dumped out to an Access or SQL database. Report generation also includes built-in graphing functions, so an external application can automatically generate a graph based on the report data. It would be nice to have such graphs built into the user interface for at-a-glance views of users' space consumption.

PowerQuest's PowerExpert SRM 5.0 is a good tool for disk usage monitoring and control, scales well, and has impressive report-generating capabilities. Unfortunately, the software only works on a narrow range of server OSes, limiting its usefulness in a heterogeneous environment. However, PowerQuest seems to be on the verge of developing a truly enterprise-class product.

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