Storage Quota Management
Users can chew up disk space in seconds. Quota Server can deal with these space hungry people.
Quota Server Admin+ by Northern is a flexible quota utility for Windows
that has the ability to track disk space consumption on file servers throughout
your environment. It can send notifications of quota violations by popup
or e-mail to administrators and users, and can perform executable launches
at these events.
Quota Server Admin+ watches the quota characteristics closely of all
the managed agents on your enterprise domain and can tie the information
into a central consolevery handy. It can archive the metadata about
your quotas in a SQL database for long term trending and interface with
Microsoft Exchange for notification.
However, quota server agents can only run on Windows NT machines. This
means if you want to monitor non-Windows file systems, such as Linux or
Novell, you have to use the SMB protocol/service and connect to their
shares from a Windows-managed agent. This is also the case when using
Storage Area Networks and Network Attached Storage. It could become very
cumbersome for a machine to do all this.
Installation was sort of a sore spot with me. If you've ever read anything
from Web designer and consultant Vincent Flanders (check out Web Pages
That Suck), you know that he harps on the use of Flash and vague navigation.
When you put in the Quota Server Admin+ CD, you're greeted with a Flash
movie of a buck in silhouette surrounded by five color fields. That's
it. You have to mouse over each field in order to find what package to
install. Pretty lame. You then click a field and you get a flash movie
before the install. When I'm installing software, I want to get the software
installed, not watch little Flash movies. This is something that personally
I can live without.
When I initially set up the product on my machine, the computer was configured
as a Windows 2000 stand-alone server as part of a workgroup. After installation,
the client wouldn't talk to the service, so the product itself wouldn't
function properly. So, if your network is not an NT domain structure (NT4
or AD), for whatever reason, this product won't work for it.
After I set up the domain, QS performed a domain discovery and instantly
found the server running the QS service. Then I was able to add it to
the Quota Client for management. QS also has a remote install function
to push the server service to other servers.
I set up simple quotas and started doing the file shuffle. QS kept track
of these things real-timeas I copied and deleted files, the server
showed me up-to-date information. Quotas can be set on up to three adjustable
thresholds, providing e-mail, pop-up notification and executable launches
when specific thresholds are breached.
Quotas can be expanded to do file-blocks, quota checking at intervals,
user quotas, either manual or auto defined, and templates for creating
quotas quickly. All of these quotas can be watched and configured from
the central console.
The server service starts out moderately weighted at about 4 MB. As you
add quotas and reports for the service to work, the service expands. With
one quota and five reports going, the service expanded to 7.1 MB. If you
start pulling many reports from the server, it can really begin to affect
performance. It can also fill up the NT error log quickly, depending on
how much you configure.
Northern considers this product to be a storage resource management (SRM)
tool. QS has some rudimentary SRM functionality but doesn't really live
up to the definition of an ideal SRM. Table 1 shows some basic SRM requirements
and how QSA+ stacks up.
Table 1. SRM attributes and QS support
Server Admin+ Support
| Single Interface
|Yes, three choices, native,
|Detect new storage
|Yes, but only in the form of
computers with SMB
|Natively connects to any storage
|No. Only works with SMB. Agents
run on Windows only.
|Yes. Quotas can be done by user/share.
Access to administration can be granted.
|Not really. Reports give information
only, no projections
|Identify Redundant Data
|Identify Stale Data
|Somewhat. Only lists number
of stale files. Doesn't identify them.
|Event Logging to Network Management
|Yes. Events written to NT Event
Application Log. Using the SDK you can use SNMP Enterprise
|Media Performance Monitoring
|Generate Simple, Easy to Read
| Easy to use. Enterprise Storage
|No. SRM functionality is not
easy to use. You can configure reports, but it takes a
lot of time to arrive at what an SRM can do. You don't
get an accurate picture immediately.
QS has three different administration options, a native client, a snap-in
for the MMC and the newest interface, WebStation. WebStation installs
into the default IIS web directory as a subdirectory. It then instructs
the user to configure a Virtual Directory in IIS to link it to a Web site.
After some configuration, WebStation comes up, using the same interface
as the native client. This functionality can be pretty valuable if you
need to watch your enterprise storage from the Internet. Although the
native client and WebStation are functional and well laid out, I prefer
to use the MMC snap-in, as it's a lot more streamlined and gives me all
the functionality I need without the overhead.
| QSA+'s interface is well designed providing the user
with an informative console (Click image to view larger version.)
Quota Server Admin+ is priced at $1,295 per managed server, which includes
WebStation and the Northern Site Utilities, a handy toolbox of small management
tools. With just Quota Server, you're paying $895 for the product, which
could get pricey if you have multiple servers to manage. And with the
market advent of enterprise "manage-everything" ware, this could
end up being just additional functionality in another product.
All in all, Quota Server Admin+ is a good product for what it is, an
enterprise quota management product. There is a lot of power here for
those who like to configure their own functionality. But there's some
excessive marketing influence woven in and throughout this product, and
its SRM functionality is too rudimentary to make it a serious contender
in the SRM market.
Rick A. Butler, MCSE+I, is the Director of Information Services for the United States Hang Gliding Association.