Keeping your disk space in order on NT servers and workstations can be a daunting challenge. The more a server or workstation is used, the more housekeeping you’ll need to do to keep everything running smoothly. Until now, your only choice was to visit each system and run the defrag utility local to that system. Norton Speed Disk 5.0 allows you to not only administer this process from a central console, but to prevent curious users from running the program unnecessarily.

Keeping your house in order
Windows NT achieves optimal performance when its drives are kept as clean as possible—in other words, defragmented. Deframentation is a process that keeps files in a contiguous order—files are kept in one location on the drive instead of being spread across it. Symantec’s Speed Disk takes this process one step further by optimizing the drive. Speed Disk combines defragmenting the drive with the process of placing files that are frequently accessed at the front of the drive, allowing them to be accessed quickly. Knowing when to defragment the drive is more of an art than a science. You need to understand the applications and services running on the server and how they handle their file accesses. To get a good feel for this, you may need to run the utility a few times, noting how fragmented the drive has become since the last time you ran the utility, and how long the utility runs.

Controlling things from a central location
When you install Speed Disk NT Server, you have the option of installing the Norton Systems Center. Systems Center installs a snap-in addition to Speed Disk that allows you to centrally administer copies of Speed Disk residing on workstations and servers on your network. By using a Windows Explorer-type interface, you can install, configure, and lock the settings for Speed Disk. You also have the option of distributing and installing any product released by Symantec without having to visit each workstation the product is installed on. Log events and alerts can be sent to the Norton System Center, advising you of situations requiring your attention before your users are aware a problem exists.

Keeping things in order
If you’re familiar with Speed Disk from Norton Utilities for NT, you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the updates Symantec includes in version 5. The portion of the screen showing the fragmentation is less cluttered and much easier to read than the prior version. One feature separating Speed Disk from its competition is the ability to defragment/optimize the drive in one pass and to defragment the page file and directories without taking the drive offline.

You can schedule the defragmentation process to occur when the machine is less likely to be in use, allowing the process to finish quickly. If you have servers running processes when users aren’t logged on (such as Exchange) and requiring a certain amount of available CPU cycles, it may be more challenging to determine when to optimize the drives. Speed Disk also allows you to only run the scheduled defragmenting job if the fragmentation exceeds a certain percentage.

Making the system work for you
All drives on a system with multiple drives can be optimized at the same time. However, depending on the number of drives and their size, it may be better to optimize them individually. Click the Analysis icon on the Speed Disk screen to receive a detailed, disk-by-disk report of how optimized the drive is, how fragmented the free space is, and how the disk is currently being utilized.

If there is no “good time” to optimize the drive, or if you must ensure that a sufficient amount of CPU power is available for a particular running process, you can control how important the optimizing job is to the system: low, medium, or high. This tells the job that the system must be idle before the job can run, that other running processes can take priority over Speed Disk, or that Speed Disk can share normal priority with other processes. The level of control is also available to memory usage so you can keep applications from running out of memory at critical times or otherwise adversely impacting system performance.

Have you ever encountered an application that needs to tell the whole world everything that’s happening to it? Are you tired of your event log filling up again and again? Using the Event Logging option, you can control what items are recorded in the NT Event Log and whether to log the event to the local machine, send it to the Norton System Console, or both. Each event type is customizable to be Information, Warning, or Critical.

Know how your systems are configured
Speed Disk can work with any cluster size on partitions. Due to differences between FAT and NTFS volume formats, you may find that the FAT volumes are not as efficiently optimized as their NTFS counterparts. Speed Disk can’t access a FAT32-formatted partition, nor can it optimize a drive in Windows 2000. A future release of Speed Disk will address these issues.

Overall, I believe that you’ll be pleased with Symantec Speed Disk 5.0. It’s an ideal product for administrators who don’t need the full-blown version of Norton Utilities for NT and would like a central console to administer all servers running Speed Disk. Speed Disk will begin shipping in the third quarter of 1999. It will cost $249 per server in 10-server license lots and $33 per node for workstations in 100-license bundles. For further information, check out Symantec’s Web site .

Ronald Nutter is a senior systems engineer in Lexington, KY. He’s an MCSE, Novell Master CNE, and Compaq ASE. Ron has worked with networks ranging in size from single servers to multiserver/multi-OS setups, including NetWare, Windows NT, AS/400, 3090, and UNIX. He’s also the help desk editor for Network World. If you’d like to contact Ron, send him an e-mail. (Because of the large volume of e-mail that he receives, it’s impossible for him to respond to every message. However, he does read them all.)

The authors and editors have taken care in preparation of the content contained herein, but make no expressed or implied warranty of any kind and assume no responsibility for errors or omissions. No liability is assumed for any damages. Always have a verified backup before making any changes.