Are You A Storage Pack Rat?

So you’ve just signed another check for a couple of million dollars of storage hardware. Just what is everyone keeping on there? If you’re anything like me, you’ve got a PC chock full of old email, digital photos, your mp3 collection, a bunch of old shell scripts, stock photos for presentations, document drafts, that file full of pithy quotes from that project 6 years ago… what a mess! Most people just let the mess pile up until they have to deal with it. If only people were more organised!

You’ve probably got email quotas turned on, right? Awesome. Now all your staff have a couple of dozen .pst files sitting somewhere on their PCs. A compliance nightmare, and another couple of million in email journaling and archiving solution. Tried importing .pst files from a thousand odd laptops lately? Imagine what else they’re storing on laptops because I: is full.

Storage needs are increasing near exponentially, which means it’s a great time to work for a storage vendor. At least in sales. For those on the other side of the infrastructure budget, it’s a difficult problem to tackle. So what’s to be done?

I say there are only 2 possible solutions: restrict storage use, or allow for a free-for-all and then manage the chaos. Which solution you choose will depend on a variety of factors, but the one you’ll pay the most attention to is cost. Even the most permissive storage manager will start getting positively fascist when it starts eating into their budget, unless they really understand their business.

Me, I lean towards managing the chaos. It’s cheaper. People will find a way to circumvent restrictive storage policies (see the .pst example above). You’ll end up in a never-ending arms race against users who just want to put their data somewhere. Imagine an Internet where you had to ask the UN if you could put a new website online. Or maybe ITU-T might be able to tell you if you should save your monthly dashboard to I:\Reporting\IT\Dashboards or I:\Departments\Storage\Quarterly\Reporting? Oh, and you’ll have to call the Helpdesk to get them to give you access. Again. Dammit, I’ll just upload the strategic marketing plan to Usenet and be done with it. At least it’ll get backed up.

Scared yet?

Just buy more storage. And then buy a decent search and reporting system that can tell you what’s on there. Then send a polite email to the guy with 78,000 .mp3s on I:\Project Files\Archival\_mp3s that maybe they should get moved somewhere else. Delete the spreadsheets from 1994 that no one’s touched in 8 years. Let technology help you find the things that will make a big impact, and ignore the minutiae. So what if someone has a picture of their cat on their home drive? Time is money, remember?

Make it easier for people to do the right thing. Don’t make it harder for people to store things in the right place, or you’ll end up spending your infrastructure budget on auditing 3586 laptops to find the one with the end of quarter reporting numbers. Because the CIO’s secretary ran out of space on H: at 9:45pm when all the support staff were at home. Hello? SEC? Yeah, sorry about that. Turns out /tmp gets deleted automatically every reboot. Bugger. At least her cat was safe, eh?

Sure, I’ve got 3 terabytes of storage at home, but I spend my weekends out taking more photos, not indoors trying to figure out what I can delete.

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