Lock IT Down: Control users disk space usage with Windows 2000's disk quotas

Make sure your users dont take up too much hard drive space

They’re alive and well on your network. You know the type. The marketing representative with 1 GB of MP3s sitting on your server’s G: drive, the legal intern who saves every document and every e-mail the department receives, or the help desk techie who’s loaded a bootleg copy of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace on your domain controller’s J: drive.

The only problem is that your accounting department must store the new month’s sales figures and you’re out of disk space. Windows 2000 can help. Disk quotas are here, and it’s in your best interest to be familiar with them before trying your hand at the Windows 2000 Server exam.
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Get started by enabling disk quotas
By default, disk quotas are not enabled. You trigger the storage policing utility by selecting the volume you want to manage from within the Disk Management Microsoft Management Console (MMC) snap-in. (Incidentally, Disk Management exists as a separate snap-in as well as within the Computer Management snap-in under Storage.) Right-click on the volume, select Properties, and then click on the Quota tab to enable and configure disk quotas.

You enable disk quotas from the Quota tab of a disk’s properties.

A green traffic light signifies that disk quotas are enabled. A yellow light, meanwhile, shows that Win2K is rebuilding its disk quota information. A red light indicates that disk quotas aren’t in use.

Don’t forget NTFS
You’ve probably already learned that most of Win2K’s new features require the use of NTFS. Just like Active Directory, disk quotas require volumes to be formatted with NTFS.

How’s it work?
Disk quotas offer considerable flexibility. They track storage usage by user upon each disk that has disk quotas enabled. It’s possible to use disk quotas on volume C, but not volume D, even if both volumes are on the same physical hard disk.

You can elect to restrict usage for some users, while exempting others. You can trigger warnings for users that breach a preset threshold. You can also specify whether events are logged when users exceed their threshold and warning levels, as well as whether users receive messages stating they’re out of disk space (even if additional disk space is present). Should you choose, you can simply let users exceed their storage limits, but log their excesses.
Users who are members of the Administrators group are exempted, by default, from disk quota restrictions. In addition, only members of the Administrators group can access and change disk quota settings.
Windows 2000 tracks a user’s disk storage usage by adding the amount of hard disk space the user is using. How? Win2K looks at who owns each file and folder on a volume. It then subtracts the total size of those files from the user's quota. What's left is the amount of disk space available to the user on that volume.

For example, say your H: drive is a 12 GB hard disk with 2 GB of free space. You hire a new employee and set that person’s disk quota at 400 MB. If that employee takes ownership of existing files and creates new documents that consume 350 MB of disk space, he or she would be able to save only 50 more MB of files before receiving a warning or a message stating the disk is full (even though 1.6 GB would still be free on the disk).

Quota entries
You customize user quotas using the Quota Entry button. When you click it, you’ll be presented with the Quota Entries For <Volume> dialog box.

The Quota Entries For <Volume> dialog box collects specific quota information by user.

In addition to displaying the user’s status (using a green arrow to indicate that a user is within their storage limits, a yellow triangle to denote that a user has exceeded his or her warning threshold, and a red circle to signify a user has exceeded the preset quota), you’ll see the following information:
  • User name
  • Logon name
  • Amount of disk space used
  • The user’s quota limit
  • The preset warning threshold
  • The percentage of the quota that’s used

Right-clicking on a user and selecting Properties from within the Quota Entries For <Volume> opens the Quota Settings For <User> dialog box. You can also display this dialog box by highlighting a user, selecting Quota, and clicking Properties.

The Quota Settings For <User> dialog box contains the specific quota settings for a user.

In addition to revealing the specific quota settings for a user, the Quota Settings For <User> dialog box includes:
  • The user’s status.
  • The percentage of the quota being used.
  • The amount of disk space available to the user.
  • An option permitting you to restrict the user’s storage limits.
  • Settings for the user’s storage limit and threshold warning levels.
Microsoft has outlined the steps you need to take to enable disk quotas on your network. You’ll find TechNet’s instructions here.
Best practices
Your best bet with disk quotas is to use them responsibly. If you set limits too low, you’ll only infuriate users. You may want to monitor users’ storage habits for a few months before implementing hard and fast limits.

Once you do implement lockouts for users exceeding their limits, be sure you’re warning them properly when they reach their preset thresholds. Otherwise, your beeper’s sure to go off at an inopportune time.

Erik Eckel MCP+I, MCSE is editor in chief of TechRepublic's IT communities. He's previously held positions as a high-speed IP access product manager and a communications representative for nationwide long-distance, data networking, and Internet services providers.

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