Protection from Hard Disk Disasters
Prepare for hard disk disasters before they happen.
If you knew that torrential floodwaters were headed right for your house,
threatening to rip it out from under you, what would you do? You’d probably
prepare for it by putting out sandbags to form a makeshift dam to protect
your house and then head for the hills where you’d be safe. If you live
in California, your house is probably reinforced to withstand an earthquake
if (or rather when) one hits. People who live in hurricane zones have
escape routes planned in case they need to evacuate. It just makes sense
to prepare in advance for an emergency. As a systems administrator, you
should look at another form of emergency preparation, Executive Software’s
DiskAlert may not be able to save you from a tornado or rampaging floodwaters,
but it certainly has its advantages in the server room. DiskAlert is designed
to detect hard disk problems before they become a disaster (i.e. the disk
fails) and warn you about the problem so you can prepare.
How does it do this? The first thing that comes to mind is the industry-standard
S.M.A.R.T. (Self Monitoring and Reporting Analysis Tool) technology, but
this is only a small part of it. S.M.A.R.T. is great, but it’s also proprietary;
each hard disk vendor has its own implementation, so it’s hard to write
a tool that works for all hard disks. DiskAlert uses proprietary algorithms
in combination with information retrieved from the hard disk to give you
a picture of the hard disk’s health.
One of the things DiskAlert tells you is how healthy your drive is, based
on throughput of the drive. It also monitors disk space and warns you
when the drive is getting too full (or close to it). When a problem is
detected, DiskAlert lets you know in a variety of ways. Of course, the
standard e-mail and send messages are available, but Executive Software
went out of its way and gave DiskAlert the ability to call your cell phone
and play a message that you record when it reaches an alert threshold.
There’s no doubt that there’s a problem when you hear your own voice on
the line telling you there’s an issue!
There are only two small drawbacks to this software. First, it runs as
a service. This isn’t a big issue but it means that DiskAlert will only
run on Windows NT/2000. The second issue is something more general to
keep in mind. I (like most) do way too much stuff with my server. I have
SQL Server, Crystal Enterprise, Visual Basic, and scores of other memory
or disk intensive applications. In my environment I had a performance
setback with DiskAlert, not a major one mind you, but it was noticeable.
The way around this is to set the polling interval to longer than one
minute (about 15 minutes is OK on my machine, which keeps the load on
the server to a minimum.
|DiskAlert provides continuous hard drive monitoring
with trouble thresholds that can be set interactively. (Click image
to view larger version.)
Overall, Executive Software set out to create a tool that would help
administrators keep their disks running at top efficiency and it definitely
delivered. If you want to prepare in advance for disaster, rather than
wait until it strikes, then you need this tool.
Joseph L. Jorden, MCSE, MCT, CCNA, CCDA is Chief Technical Officer for Dugger & Associates (www.Dugger-IT.com). He was one of the first 100
people to achieve the MCSE+I and one of the first 2,000 to become an MCSE under Windows 2000. Joseph frequently contributes to books from Sybex and various periodicals.