Search and destroy wasted storage space

The adage The more you make, the more you spend also applies to hard disk storage: The more you have, the more you use. Despite the proliferation of bigger, cheaper, faster hard disks, gluttonous storage consumption can become a maintenance headache for both users and LAN administrators. W. Quinn Associates’ SpaceMaXX SRM 1.2 helps you monitor server and workstation hard disk space. The product’s reporting features and cleanup functionalities make a semiautomatic process out of the once tedious task of storage maintenance.

SpaceMaXX SRM comes in two flavors: server and professional. Both editions run on Windows 2000, Windows NT, Windows Me, and Windows 9x platforms. SpaceMaXX SRM’s core program is SpaceMaXX SRM Monitor, which monitors local and mapped disk consumption and also produces Best Practices reports. SpaceMaXX SRM Professional offers only SpaceMaXX SRM Monitor. SpaceMaXX SRM Server offers several additional features that enhance reporting and simplify networkwide management. Although both editions let you manage any local or shared hard disk to which you’ve mapped your machine, WQuinn designed the professional edition for simple self-monitoring and management and the server edition for organization-wide monitoring and management (which is why the vendor sells the server edition as individual licenses and the professional edition in a minimum group of 100 licenses).

Online documentation was adequate but failed to answer several of my questions about the variety of deployment layouts. A call to the vendor helped me sort out the editions’ unique roles and how they interact. You can purchase one or both editions and deploy the product in a variety of arrangements. You can deploy only SpaceMaXX SRM Server on one or more of your LAN’s file servers and easily monitor shared and local hard disk usage throughout your network. Alternatively, you can deploy only SpaceMaXX SRM Professional on your LAN’s workstations and permit each user to manage his or her local hard disk resources. The professional edition lets you monitor any disk to which you’ve mapped a drive letter, so administrators can also use SpaceMaXX SRM Professional for LAN-wide management. However, deploying both editions is the most beneficial arrangement. You can let users, on whose machines you’ve installed the professional edition, manage their local hard disk space, while you use the server edition to manage all shared hard disk space. You can also configure workstations on which you’ve deployed the professional edition to email an administrator when the user exceeds his or her hard disk threshold. The administrator can map a drive to the user’s system and delete superfluous files. The server edition’s advanced features let you manage users’ disk space more efficiently.

I first installed SpaceMaXX SRM Professional on my IBM ThinkPad laptop. The Windows Installer–format installation was straightforward and didn’t require a reboot. A SpaceMaXX SRM icon appeared in the system tray, and a pop-up message told me to double-click the icon. Doing so opened the Monitor window, which Figure 1 shows. This window displays current utilization of all local and mapped drives. My system had three mapped drives (i.e., D, E, and F) and one local drive (i.e., C). The window showed my local hard disk’s size as 1.97GB with 314.12MB of free space remaining.

The Space Used status bar showed my hard disk as 84 percent full, which I think is acceptable utilization. However, SpaceMaXX SRM defaults to 80 percent utilization as the point at which it enforces housecleaning. By default, at this threshold the product also performs three actions: deleting temporary Internet files, deleting the Temp directory’s contents, and emptying the Recycle Bin. I hate to admit my disorganization, but I often store files in the Temp folder because I incorrectly assume that I’ll eventually find them permanent homes. When I discovered that SpaceMaxx SRM planned to take the reins and remove these files, I was dismayed. Fortunately, the program also defaults to Interactive mode (in Noninteractive mode, the program would have deleted my Temp folder’s contents automatically): When the program discovered that my local hard disk was at 84 percent capacity, an interactive wizard appeared and listed options for the three actions it planned to take. Before the wizard executed these actions, I cleared the option for deleting the Temp folder’s contents.

After the wizard had finished cleaning up, I configured the program’s options to accommodate my preferences and bad habits. The program offers several configuration options, including the option to email an administrator or generate a Best Practices report when a hard disk reaches a threshold that you can also configure. SpaceMaXX SRM Professional offers no feature that keeps users from reconfiguring the program without an administrator’s knowledge. I configured SpaceMaXX SRM to show me an onscreen message when hard disk utilization reached 90 percent. I also configured the program to never delete the Temp folder contents.

SpaceMaXX SRM’s fast, Web-based Best Practices reports display information about potential wastes of storage space and let you perform some manual cleanup. The HTML report’s main page lists your selected hard disk’s duplicate files and large files (anything greater than 1MB). For example, I read the documentation and predicted that SpaceMaXX SRM might delete my Temp folder, so I backed up the folder to another location on my local hard disk. The Best Practices report listed these duplicate files. The main page also listed files by type (e.g., graphics, Microsoft Office). However, the list excluded dump (.dmp) files, which are typically very large.

The power of the Best Practices report is that you can simply highlight a file, then use an embedded control to delete that file. Red strikethrough text indicates deleted files, which Figure 2 shows—;a nice touch.

I then installed SpaceMaXX SRM Server on a different laptop (running Win2K Server) and tested the edition’s enhanced reporting features. The server edition’s Server Console program let me customize report definitions. For example, I configured reports to list .dmp files larger than 10MB. You can also create customized reports to run at times you schedule. SpaceMaXX SRM Server can report in Microsoft Excel, HTML, and text file formats (a feature that the old-school command-line side of me appreciated). Another advantage of SpaceMaXX SRM Server is its ability to create disk profiles. Administrators can use disk profiles to consolidate several disks into a monitoring and management group and simplify LAN-wide management. For example, I could create a profile for all local drives (i.e., C, D, and E) and a profile for network shares. I could then run reports on the profiles rather than individual disks.

Although SpaceMaXX SRM still requires interactive, manual deletion of files not in a Temp folder or the Recycle Bin, the program offers a more informative and powerful work environment than Windows Explorer. The only downside to SpaceMaXX SRM is that the professional edition requires a minimum purchase of 100 licenses. One hundred licenses is more than most small LAN administrators need and—at $29 for each of these licenses—more than most small LAN administrators can afford. Although the product might be helpful to administrators of LANs with fewer than 100 workstations, these administrators can probably manage storage resources manually, without the help of a third-party product. You can purchase only the server edition, but because you need to create drive shares on each of the machines to which the server edition connects, using this product, alone, to manage all network hard disks would be a time-consuming process. Therefore, I recommend purchasing the products in combination, if you can afford them.

SpaceMaXX SRM 1.2
Contact: W. Quinn Associates * 703-758-0707 or 800-829-3453
Web: http://www.wquinn.com
Price: $149 for SpaceMaXX SRM Server; SpaceMaXX SRM Professional starts at $2900 for a minimum of 100 licenses
Decision Summary:
Pros: Ability to delete files directly in the report; multiple deployment arrangements; multiformat, customizable reports in SpaceMaXX SRM Server
Cons: SpaceMaXX SRM Professional requires a minimum purchase of 100 licenses