SolutionBase: Implementing directory quotas in Windows Storage Server

Directory quotas will prevent users from monopolizing shared drive storage. Here's how you set up quotas on Windows Storage Server.

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You know the old saying about data expanding to take up all available storage space: The more room you give users, the more room they'll take up on your server. You probably don't want your brand-new terabyte drives taken up by useless information. Fortunately, you can apply limits to users on Windows Storage Server (WSS) by implementing quotas. This article will walk through the Directory Quotas tab of the WSS administration Web site and the few simple tools it provides to help IT provision a WSS server.

What are quotas, and why would I want them?

WSS can be configured to use quotas on a per-directory basis. Similar to disk quotas allowed by the NTFS file system, directory quotas limit the amount of space a particular directory is allowed to consume. This can be helpful if you are creating a WSS box to host department shares within your company and each department will have its own file share.

You can use directory quotas to ensure the size of each department's share is the same. That way no department monopolizes the drives, nor uses them at the expense of another. All departments will have a fair share and be assured of access to network resources.

Getting started

The first step in configuring quotas is to navigate to the Shares tab within the WSS admin site and select the Directory Quota link, shown in Figure A.

Figure A

The Shares page of the WSS administration site.

Once on the Directory Quota section of the site, you will see a listing of all currently configured directory quotas that are in place; the default is none. Figure B shows the listing of current quotas.

Figure B

Currently used directory quotas.

The list can also be searched using the directory name at the top of the window. This will look through the available shares and find any quotas that may be applied to them. WSS provides two wizards that deal with directory quotas: the Quota wizard and the Policy wizard. We will cover the Directory Quota wizard to setup new quotas, and also look at how existing quotas are managed. Quota policies will be covered in a future article.

A quick note about policies

Directory Quota policies are templates for any settings you have configured that you wish to save. When you create a policy, you are creating a template for repetitive use.

To create a directory quota, click the New button (shown under the Tasks header at the right of Figure B). This will take you into the Directory Quota wizard, which walks through the steps needed to establish a quota.

When the wizard is started, you are presented with a welcome page, Figure C, explaining briefly what the wizard will do, click Next to proceed.

Figure C

Welcome to the Quota wizard.

On the second screen of the wizard, you are asked to enter the name of the directory to which this quota will apply and choose the policy that will be enforced by the quota.

Figure D shows the first step in the wizard: To add a directory for the policy, type the name of the directory (i.e., D:\science) in the directory path box on the right, and click the Add button. This will add the directory to the list on the left. You can use the same quota on multiple directories, but if you plan to manage them separately, multiple quotas may be the better option.

Figure D

Selecting a directory for your quota.

After adding the directory or directories to the quota, you need to select the set of rules that will apply to this quota. The rules, which are defined as policies, will be listed in the Copy policy setting from the drop-down menu. Select a policy to use for this quota, and click the next button to proceed. The available list of policies is provided below in Figure E.

Figure E

The pre-created policy list that ships with WSS.

Selecting a custom policy from the list allows the settings for this quota to be configured on the fly. In a future article, I will look at the policy creation process, which allows the custom rules to be saved into templates like those shown.

The final screen in the wizard is the Finish screen; clicking Finish creates the quota for the chosen directory and saves it for use. Next time you view the directory quota screen, you will see any quotas you have created listed there, as shown below in Figure F.

Figure F

Another look at the available quotas.

Once you click Finish, the quota creation process is complete; however, you may want to use your own quota rules or quota policies more than one time, which I will cover in a later article.

Modifying settings

Now that a quota is in place, you may decide to later modify the settings you put on a specific directory: This can be done by checking the box next to the quota you want to work with, and clicking Properties.

The quota properties settings are as follows:

  • Disk Space Limit
  • Severe Alarm
  • Warning Alarm
  • Copy Policy Setting

These are the same screens you will see if you select the custom policy setting when creating the quota.

In the Disk Space Limit page, you define the amount of disk space you want to be allowed for this quota. The limit can be defined in Kilobytes, Megabytes, Gigabytes, and Terabytes, or can be set to fill available space. Disk Space Limit settings are shown in Figure G.

Figure G

Configuring custom or pre-existing quota options.

The Passive Limit check box will send alerts when the quota thresholds are met, but the limits will not be enforced. This may be useful if you want to know when a department reaches quota limits, but not prevent future use of the share.

The severe alarm property page allows you to create an e-mail message, and an action that is triggered when a quota hits a certain threshold. In Figure H, the threshold is 95%. When this is met, an e-mail message can be sent to the user or an administrator to alert them of the usage. You can also set up actions for WSS to take, such as running reports for distribution or running executable programs.

Figure H

Severe alarms can send e-mail and trigger events.

When configuring messages to be sent out, macros can be inserted for commonly used items. These macros serve as variables for elements related to this quota and WSS. The macro list is shown below in Figure I.

Figure I

Available macros for warning messages.

The warning alarm properties page has the same configurable parts as shown in Figure I; however, the threshold will be less as it is only sending a first warning. The default threshold for warnings is 80%, and for severe warnings is 90%.

The copy policy setting property allows the quota settings to be changed to match a pre-existing policy. This policy can be one that shipped with WSS, or one saved by an administrator. Creating your own custom policies will be covered in a later article.

When you select Copy Policy Settings From An Existing Policy and click OK, the quota inherits the settings defined by the policy; any custom settings you had previously applied are overwritten. Figure J shows the settings for copy policy settings again.

Figure J

Select an existing policy for this quota.

The last area of settings to consider is the Directory Quota Preferences page. These are preferences that can be set server-wide to speed up the configuration of directory quotas. Using preferences you can set WSS to automatically detect any disks in the Server and apply a policy to these disks. That way, when a new drive is added to the server, it will be configured to stay within a quota, allowing administrators a little extra time to configure more appropriate settings before the share use on that disk grows exponentially.

It's as easy as that

Overall, directory quotas are very simple to setup and maintain, requiring very little maintenance and activity to setup and configure. They should also help make managing the size of any WSS shares fairly simple.

About Derek Schauland

Derek Schauland has been tinkering with Windows systems since 1997. He has supported Windows NT 4, worked phone support for an ISP, and is currently the IT Manager for a manufacturing company in Wisconsin.

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