A constant battle for the average systems administrator is managing the amount data stored on file servers. File servers are a bread and butter workload. That’s one of the reasons that they don’t get much attention.
The general problem is as follows:
- People create files every day and store them on the file server. This increases the amount of space needed on the file server.
- The majority of files have a use lifespan. That Word document or Excel spreadsheet that is frequently accessed in the days and weeks after creation, becomes less frequently accessed as time goes on. Most documents, after they are a few months old, are never accessed again.
“Hot data” is a term for data that is frequently accessed. “Warm data” for files that is less frequently accessed. “cold data” or “derelict data” for files that is no longer required. Data can be cold, but those files are probably still being stored on the file server. They are still consuming space, and you are likely to still be expending resources ensuring that they are backed up.
The challenge is to figure out which files are no longer needed. When you aren’t the one that created them, that task can be difficult. Especially if you have “data packrats” in your organization. A “data packrat” is a user (or even a server admin!) who insists that every file must be kept, even that spreadsheet from 6 years ago that kept track of the office footy tipping competition.
One of the hidden gems Windows Server is File Server Resource Manager (FSRM). FSRM is an add-on component to the File Server Role in most versions of Windows Server. It’s one of those features that many server admins don’t know about unless they’ve learned about it specifically or come across it in an exam.
FSRM has some cool features, such as the ability to run reports on volumes to determine the following:
- Duplicate Files
- File Screening Audit
- Files by File Group
- Files by Owner
- Files by Property
- Folders by Property
- Large Files
- Least Recently Accessed Files
- Most Recently Accessed Files
- Quota Usage
The report on Least Recently Accessed Files is useful because it allows server administrators to identify those files that are no longer frequently accessed. You can use this tool to determine which data is derelict by specifying the number of days since last access counts as derelict. Generally speaking, if a file hasn’t been opened for 180 days, it’s unlikely to be opened again.
You can configure FSRM to move files that haven’t been accessed for a certain amount of time to another location. For example, off the file server onto slower storage. This allows you to move this data somewhere where you can back it up to meet your organization’s retention requirements, but where it isn’t consuming critical space on those file servers that people need to access on a daily basis.