With all the fuss surrounding enterprises and their associated storage crisis you would have thought these companies were the only ones suffering from this perennial problem. Small to medium businesses have just as hard a time coping with storage demands but few can afford storage resource management (SRM) software as these overpriced products have always been aimed at enterprises with deep pockets.

Written and distributed by UK based Otium, UtiliStor could come to the rescue as this home grown SRM solution specifically targets the smaller business. The suite revolves around a single system running the server component which looks after the database, reporting, storage thresholds, email notification and reporting. The server is accessed via a dashboard utility and each managed system requires a server or desktop client installed.

Installing UtiliStor won’t take long as the server component takes only seconds to load and also copies down the client and dashboard install modules ready to be placed in a network share for deployment. The dashboard can be run on the UtiliStor server or from a remote client and must be loaded first as licenses need to be configured before server and desktop clients can be installed. This last phase isn’t as well streamlined as each client must be added to the dashboard interface manually whereupon it creates a unique XML configuration file for each system. Watch out for Windows XP SP2 clients as the firewall must be either switched off or have a couple of ports enabled. There are also significant differences between the server and desktop clients as the latter only provides a snapshot of the current status of the host system in response to reports.

The UtiliStor dashboard is a simple affair with a tree structure to one side for access to the server and desktop clients and three colour codes are used to show the status of each one. Only available for the server client the DSM (disk space monitor) brings up a complete readout on all active volumes with graphics showing used and free disk space and graphs of I/O activity. Warning and critical thresholds can be applied to each of the two values and these determine the colour of the volume icons and I/O graphs. Thresholds can’t be applied at the group level so you’ll have to set them manually for each individual system. They can be set on all volumes or only selected ones with disk space declared as a percentage. The native Disk/Transfers/Sec performance counter is used to determine I/O throughput so you’ll have to enter an appropriate value here for disk utilization thresholds.

The real time statistics will prove useful but UtiliStor’s key feature is its reporting tools which are provided for both server and desktop clients. You get twenty-five predefined reports grouped into five categories covering the most popular areas of storage interrogation. Reports can be run on selected groups or individual systems and UtiliStor generates the results as a smartly designed PDF file which can viewed on the dashboard system or emailed to one address. You can run reports on demand but a scheduler tool is provided allowing them to be fired up at regular intervals. All results are stored in the UtiliStor database and can be pulled up for viewing as and when required.

The reports cover a wide range of topics with three summary reports providing a storage snapshot, a volume overview or a list of all directories. There’s much more as you can drill down and check on files types and see what users are up to. The most valuable will be the trend and prediction reports which generally require a couple of weeks to gather information to produce anything worthwhile. You can look at file, system and volume growth, see old files that may be wasting space and view UtiliStor’s predictions for the future usage in the file type, server, volume and user categories.

UtiliStor scores well with its ease of use and the high levels of storage related information on offer. Few small businesses either need or can afford complex SRM products so UtiliStor fits the bill nicely as it provides in depth information about the state of storage on the network and gives you the tools to keep ahead of the game.

OUR VERDICT

SRM is now an essential part of network administration and it pays to have all the assistance you can get. If you only want passive reporting and basic disk performance monitoring then UtiliStor is a very good, cost-effective choice for smaller businesses.