By Andy Carnahan

When my new workstation arrived the other day, its 40-GB drive seemed immense compared to the meager storage on our fileservers, which have 20-GB disks that are overloaded thanks to data-hungry users. The storage situation is even more dismal when you consider how expensive it is to manage the backup infrastructure.

The first step to solving our space-crunching dilemma was to look at my own network share. What I found was the ever bloated Outlook.pst and numerous outdated projects. If the IT manager’s network share was using up so much unnecessary space, everyone else’s share must be as bad or worse.

While your storage woes may seem terminal, take heart; there is an inexpensive, fast, and easy way to reclaim space on your server drives and make use of cavernous local drives.

The simple, space-saving plan
Use the spacious C: drive to keep old material so it is available for reference but not taking up server space. The trick is to copy your entire fileserver share to the workstation and then delete all current files from this copy. Then do the complementary task on the fileserver copy. Then old files will sit on the workstation in their same structure and only current files will be on the server. Do the same for the Outlook personal folder, back up the workstation files to CD, and you’re done.

Be warned: In order to do this task successfully, you need to be comfortable and confident using a file management tool (Windows Explorer) and working with Outlook personal folders (.pst files). If you have these skills, you’re home free, as there’s no software to buy or information architects to hire.

Move old files to the local drive

  1. Make sure your server was backed up the previous night.
  2. Copy your entire network share to a folder on your workstation.
  3. Find and delete Outlook.pst from your workstation copy so that you can deal with the .pst separately.
  4. Find all files on your workstation folder created after the desired date of archive.
  5. Delete all these files.
  6. Find on your network share all files created on or before the desired date of your archive.
  7. Delete all these files.
  8. Copy the files from your workstation folder to a CD.

Move old mail items to the local drive

  1. Make sure your server was backed up the previous night (and close Outlook if it is open).
  2. Copy Outlook.pst to a folder on your workstation.
  3. Rename the workstation copy (e.g., Mailarchive.pst).
  4. Open Outlook and open the workstation copy of the personal folder.
  5. Find all mail items on your workstation folder created after the desired date.
  6. Delete all of these items.
  7. Compact the mail folder (this will take a while on a large folder).
  8. Find all mail items on your network personal folder created on or before the desired date.
  9. Delete all of these items.
  10. Compact the mail folder (again, this could take a while).
  11. Close Outlook and back up the workstation personal folder to CD.

The result
You will have moved a huge amount of archive material to noncritical storage. Ensure this data is copied to CDs so a permanent record is available in case the workstation needs to be rebuilt.

If you choose your busiest users first, you will have moved a considerable amount of data from your server to workstations.

The strategy
Disk usage follows the well-known 80-20 rule. If you target the people with the largest data holdings on your network shares, you can make a quick and very significant difference to the storage demands on your server.

Some staffers with large data holdings may be capable of undertaking these tasks themselves. Let them see this strategy, and then ask them if they are able to do it. Explain that the strategy uses existing tools and costs them nothing. If they can understand and follow the steps to this strategy, they can probably do it.

If the workstation is shared, or you are very concerned about security, copy the files to the profiles of the users so that only they or administrators can access the files.

And, finally
Encourage all staff to use their workstation drives for storing all noncorporate items. All those mp3 and mpegs that are of no value to the company should be placed (and hidden) on the workstation.

Do you already use this strategy or have other methods to manage storage? Please post your comments and suggestions below so TechRepublic can compile a list of your best low-cost information-management techniques.