Setting and Maintaining Employee Storage Limits

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Since the first computers appeared, one of the biggest problems facing system administrators has been how to allocate storage space to users.



In the early days, this was especially difficult because of the limited amount of storage on the systems at the time. Fortunately, most of the files that users were saving were fairly small, so this was not as critical of an issue. As the size of storage has increased, however, so has the size and number of files that are saved. In addition, with the wide popularity of various music and movie formats, many users often have gigabytes of files they wish to save. Therefore, despite the increase in storage capacities, the same problem exists now as before.



Systems administrators need to deal with such needs while still keeping the systems functional and storage space available when necessary. By setting quotas, they can do just that. Most modern operating systems offer some way of setting storage limits. Generally, they are set with a warning level, whereby users are notified when they are nearing the maximum amount of space they are allowed to use.



A level is also set whereby the user is no longer able to save any files until disk usage drops below the set storage level, which can be set per group and per user. On most systems, the default administrator accounts are not restricted by any quotas.



For those working with Linux systems, setting storage limits requires a number of steps be completed. (Details on how to do this can be found at Essentially, quotas must be enabled in the kernel, the quota software installed and then changes are made to the file /etc/fstab to set the limits for each file system.



Once the server is rebooted, the quotas are in effect. These limits can be on the number of files a user can store in addition to the amount of space used. To check on the status of a user’s quota, the command “quota” can be used to check the quota status for a user or group.



Quotas on Windows systems work a lot like those on Linux systems. Starting with Windows 2000, administrators can restrict the amount of space users have available. On Windows, however, the limits are based strictly on storage space, not the number of files. In addition, enabling quotas on Windows is a much easier task.



To enable quotas on Windows, right-click on the drive on which you wish to set quotas and choose “Properties.” In the properties window, choose the “Quota” tab. This is where the quota settings can be configured. By checking the “Enable quota management” box, all the other options are available. An administrator can stop users who exceed their quota from saving any files to this drive by checking the “Deny disk space to users exceeding quota limit.”



Default quotas can be set by setting the appropriate options, along with specific settings for different users and groups by choosing the “Quota Entries” button. Events also can be sent to the event log for those users who exceed the warning level and the quota limit.



Unfortunately, in an enterprise environment, the built-in tools of managing quotas are extremely inadequate. Although quotas can be enabled through group policy, settings are limited, and reporting is almost nonexistent. For this reason, many different programs are available to provide more functionality when working with quotas on Windows systems.



Such programs include SpaceGuard SRM, WinQuota and Northern Quota Server. These programs improve upon the quota features included with Windows, including (in some cases) the ability to set quotas on Windows NT 4.0 systems, something not included with the operating system.



For system administrators, setting storage limits can be extremely important to making sure disk space is available when necessary. Fortunately, using tools available with modern operating systems, administrators can set such limits and manage the space used. For those who require additional features, third-party software can be purchased that will make this process even easier.


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