Windows Insider

Cut the Crap

Using Microsoft's new File Storage Resource Manager tool to stop users from filling up their hard drives with all sorts of useless stuff.

You've tried everything from subtle cajoling to aggressive user policies, yet it still manages to seep and creep into your network. You know the four-letter word I'm talking about: crap. Whether it's MP3s, .MOVs or boatloads of inappropriate pictures and videos, it is filling up your expensive hardware drives with useless information.

Let's face it; dealing with unwanted excrement is just a fact of life in IT. But if you're one of the lucky ones who have upgraded to Windows Server 2003 R2, you may have already played around with Microsoft's new tool designed to stop the inevitable pileup of digital dung, the File Storage Resource Manager (FSRM).

FSRM is actually a suite of three tools designed to give you more flexibility in identifying, monitoring and preventing useless and redundant data from getting onto your file servers. You should think of FSRM as your old friend the disk quota, but all grown up.

To install FSRM on a new R2 server, navigate to the "Manage Your Server" wizard and add the File Server role. If you've already created a file share, select the existing File Server role and choose "Upgrade This Role." In either case, you'll be given the choice of adding four optional services for DFS Replication, NFS, Macintosh Services or the Storage Manager for SANs. As an aside worth noting, though considered to be part of FSRM, the Storage Manager for SANs fulfills a much different function by providing management for iSCSI and Fibre Channel disk arrays.

To launch the FSRM's MMC console, click on the File Server Resource Manager link from Administrative Tools. The three tools that comprise FSRM are designed to address three critical data storage problems.

The first problem is limiting the quantity of crud. By using Quota Management, you can create quotas for any drive or folder on your network. Unlike disk quotas, which are only enabled at the volume level, FSRM's quota management can create multiple quotas at every level in your file structure.

When quotas are reached, the administrator can configure reports to be generated, scripts to be run, Event Log entries to be sent or e-mail messages to be delivered. The e-mail engine is robust enough to send pre-configured messages populated with selected variables to the offending users telling them exactly what they have done wrong. Event Log messages can be similarly customized.

One of the most useful features is the ability to generate and send detailed, customized reports on disk use directly to the offending user when they approach or hit their quota. The administrator's biggest disk management headache has always been sifting through the important data to find what's useless and redundant. Because you, the administrator, don't know what's bad, you probably choose to just enlarge the volume. The user, however, likely does know. By receiving a usage report, they can take matters of deletion into their own hands.

Second is generating administrative reports of online offal. The FSRM's storage reports management exposes eight canned reports that can be further configured to best suit your reporting needs. Although creation of additional reports is not an option in this version of the tool, the existing reports on duplicate files, file screening, files by file group or owner, large files, least and most recently accessed files, and quota usage should provide most of the necessary information.

Because a detailed scan of a folder structure's tree can consume system resources, FSRM configures and schedules reports to be run during off-hours. These reports, when complete, are stored in %SystemDrive%\StorageReports and can be sent via e-mail to a pre-configured account. Reports can be saved in DHTML, HTML, text or .CSV formats. But if you're integrating them with out-of-band databases or third-party applications that support it, an .XML document can be delivered.

FSRM
[Click on image for larger view.]
Figure 1. FSRM's robust e-mail engine can send detailed reports to offending users on their disk waste problems.

The third problem has to do with blocking certain types of junk. If setting quotas, monitoring reports and notifying users of their bad behavior does not satisfy you, then FSRM also has the ability to completely block storage of files. This capability is based on what are called "file screens," which is a configurable set of files specifically permitted to or restricted from being copied to the server.

File screens are broken up into three components. The first, called the file group, establishes the type of blocked file by its file name or extension. File groups are collected into file screen templates that tell the system what action to take when a user attempts to copy a restricted file. Actions here are similar to those for quota management in that scripts or reports can be run or e-mail or event log messages can be generated.

Although useful for preventing the worst kinds of data storage violations of things like MP3s or .MOVs, file screens have a major limitation in that they are currently name-based only. To get around the file screens, users only have to rename the file to something not scanned by the engine. According to Microsoft, file screens based on content are forthcoming, so this feature is worth keeping an eye on. Also, no capability for managing any of these settings via Group Policy is currently supported, although this capability is also being planned for a future release.

Lastly, like any new Microsoft tool, a command-line interface to the tool is available and fairly representative of the capabilities contained in the GUI. Three command-line utilities represent the three nodes in the FSRM tree: dirquota for Quota Management; filescrn for File Screening Management; and storrept for Storage Reports Management. Like the GUI, the command-line tools have the capability of managing remote FSRM instances, as well.

For many, the solution for growing storage needs has been to purchase increasingly larger disk arrays, moving from DAS to SAN or NAS storage, or the manual deletion of aged data. With tools like Microsoft's FSRM, even in its first release, systems administrators can now have the ability to add monitoring, file screening and hard-line blocking of inappropriate file types to their quiver of crap-deflecting tools.

About the Author

Greg Shields is Author / Evangelist with www.PluralSight.com, and is a globally-recognized expert on systems management, virtualization, and cloud technologies. A multiple-year recipient of the Microsoft MVP, VMware vExpert, and Citrix CTP awards, Greg is a contributing editor for Redmond Magazine and Virtualization Review Magazine, and is a frequent speaker at IT conferences worldwide. Reach him on Twitter at @ConcentratdGreg.

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