Administer disk space quotas with these tools

You are running Windows NT Server and some of your users insist on copying the contents of their notebook computer to your file server. Other users want to download everything they see on the Web. Unfortunately, you're running out of disk space and NT doesn't let you limit how much disk space each user can occupy.

Setting disk space quotas is an important management tool for systems administrators. Two vendors, Argent Software and New Technology Partners Software, provide disk quota management software to help you set end user disk space quotas.

Quota Server 4.0B
Argent wants its Quota Server disk quota software to be the choice for large, sophisticated enterprise computing systems. Quota Server comes in two parts, a service that runs on Intel or Alpha-based Windows NT 3.5x and 4.0 servers, and an End User Inquiry tool for client machines.

Argent has taken an approach that differs from its competition in two areas: the fundamental interaction with the operating system, and the administrative user interface. Each area brings advantages and disadvantages. Enhancements to the management side increase administrative power through reporting tools and integration with Windows NT Explorer, but the quota tracking method is CPU intensive and can affect the performance of servers that set large numbers of quotas.

Installation
Setup requires some preliminary preparation common to NT services. You must create a user account, which the service uses to log on to the managed box. Setup also calls for creating a group that specifies which users will be permitted to manage quotas.

The installer is InstallShield, and the actual installation process is smooth and easy. You do not need to reboot the server to use the product, although you must log off and back on to gain access.

Single-server licensing is fully automatic, but taking advantage of Quota Server's more sophisticated options requires exchanging faxes with Argent's tech support center. Argent makes this process easy by offering 24*7 free support--a strong draw for 24*7 shops and large multisite enterprises.

Configuring Quota ServerInstallation adds two options to NT Explorer's right-click menus (File Manager's menus in NT 3.5x): Quota Server and Add/Change Quota. Select an object you want to set a quota for in Explorer and right-click to view the options. Choosing the Quota Server option takes you to Quota Server's main window, which serves as a central monitoring point, as seen in Screen 1. Choosing the Add/Change Quota option in the right-click menu takes you directly to the Quota Properties dialog box for the selected object.

Quota Server is easy to configure initially, but it presents a steep learning curve to the systems administrator who wants to fully leverage all its capabilities. Quota Server offers three levels of response based on percentage of quota used, and it can notify users or administrators--or run executables--in response to any of the response levels.

Quota Server in Action
Quota Server can lock out users when an object grows too large. The product also offers "soft locks" that you can set at one of the three response levels in the configuration.

Quota Server provides four locking responses: pass--do nothing; lock directory--users cannot make new files, but existing files are unaffected; lock directory and close files--users cannot make new files or change unused files, but files in use are unaffected; and lock directory and files--place a hard lock on everything. You can combine pop-up messages, mail messages, and executables in almost any arrangement to notify users about their status.

Quota Server is a sophisticated product with an enterprise orientation and an impressive array of functions. The program runs with NT 3.5x or 4.0, and requires NTFS, FAT, or High-Performance File System (HPFS). Under FAT and HPFS, you can monitor but not lock objects because of the architecture of these file systems.

Licensing and Support
Argent licenses the product on a per-server basis. The first license starts at $2000, with additional licenses priced on a sliding scale. The purchase includes a one-year maintenance contract.

Quota Manager 2.6.1
New Technology Partners (NTP) Software's Quota Manager is a simple, cost-effective way to get disk quotas--an essential extension to Windows NT in an enterprise computing environment. Quota Manager was the first product to fill the NT disk quota gap. This latest version builds on the success of previous releases with improved functionality and performance.

Quota Manager consists of three components: the Quota Manager Service, which runs on an NT 4.0 or 3.5x server and manages the storage you want to regulate; the Administration Client, shown in Screen 2, which sets quotas and runs on the server or a workstation; and the Inquiry Tool, which lets any networked Windows machine inspect the quotas for a logged-on user.

Setting Up
Installation is straightforward and takes about 10 minutes. You load each component separately, using its own installer. (You can easily remove Quota Manager by rerunning the installer programs.)

The utilities come in versions for Win32 platforms (NT and Windows 95), Unicode systems, and older 16-bit Windows clients. My only disappointment during setup was that the 16-bit installer cannot use long filenames. NTP Software said it will correct this limitation in the next release of the product.

You must create a service account and a "lockout group" during installation. Quota Manager uses this lockout group in one of its two methods to enforce quotas. This method, which was a function of the original version of the product, locks out users via group membership. The second, newer method offers finer granularity than group membership because it actually affects the file system permissions on an object.

In Action
Quota Manager works by preventing managed users from increasing the size of an object when the object exceeds its set quota. Quota Manager notifies users and administrators by sending Windows networking messages or Messaging API (MAPI) email when the object exceeds 90 percent of the quota. You can change this default value.

The Administration Client has a simple directory-tree interface and supports right-click menus to make operations quick and easy. This component displays quotas and their status graphically (with an icon-sized pie chart) and numerically. The Inquiry Tool lets end users inspect their current quotas.

After you complete the configuration, operation is simple and trouble free. I found few surprises in the operating of Quota Manager--only a lack of reporting tools, which you might expect in this sort of product.

Licensing and Support
NTP Software licenses the product on a simple $495 per-server basis. The company offers free 30-day support counted from the first support incident. After this initial period, the company charges $150 per incident. From my experience, I doubt you will need tech support, and the 30-day limit will cover any initial installation or configuration difficulties.

Quota Server 4.0B
Argent * 860-489-5553
Web: http://www.argent-nt.com
Price: Starts at $2000 for one server
Quota Manager 2.6.1
New Technology Partners Software * 603-622-4400 or 800-226-2755
Web: http://www.ntpsoftware.com
Price: $495