Easy ways to reclaim disk space

In the past, I've suggested that even though hardware expenditures are usually the smallest of the three areas in most budgets, hardware might be a good place to look for some near-term savings. Continuing that thread, here are details on two relatively easy ways to reclaim much-needed disk space, and to do it on the cheap.

Step 1: Defragment those disks.

This will not only improve performance and system stability (which will lead to big savings in other areas), but will also buy back a small bit of disk space as well. Most operating systems come with a built-in defragging tool, but these are often cumbersome, inefficient and don't lend themselves to centralized administration. What you need is something that works over your LAN.

For minimal investment you can add a great deal of improvement.

Look to products from such vendors as Executive Software, Raxco and Winternals. The prices for these products will vary according to the number of devices you need to manage. But remember: in many cases none of your disks may have ever been defragmented, so you will see an immediate return for the money you have spent.

Step 2: Eliminate files that shouldn't have been there in the first place.

Give your employees 24 hours' warning so they can take a last look at all their files of that attractive Vulcan lady, and then purge all sounds, pictures and games from the corporate storage resources.

Some companies have guessed that more than 50% of their disk space is taken up by nonbusiness-related file glut, but even if your situation is only half that bad (do you know?), think of how nice it would be to get back 25% of the disk you have already paid for (and continue to pay for every time you back up, restore or otherwise manage nonbusiness files).

What you need here is a reasonably priced package that will allow you work from your centralized console to discover, flag and remove all offending picture and sound files. A year or two ago this would not have been easy on Windows NT systems (the Unix people have had an answer to this sort of thing for a long time). Now, it almost is.

Later, you can implement corporate policies to exclude such files from your systems. For now, however, check for inexpensive storage resource management products that offer basic file blocking (Precise/WQuinn offers one, but probably there are others). Then, get out there and identify the most easily identified offenders that are cluttering up your storage servers: the JPG, WAV and GIF files. Doing a search and destroy by hand is not efficient if you have 500 systems to manage, but knocking off one or two a day can be useful and very therapeutic.

These are two easy and cheap steps toward reclaiming existing disk space that provide almost immediate payback - but of course we are just beginning to scratch the surface.

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