EMC VisualSRM SMB Edition 1.7 review

Price when reviewed

Long gone are the days when administrators could simply throw more storage at the network every time space ran out. Enterprises learnt that they needed to manage their existing resources far more efficiently to avoid wastage. With network storage growing exponentially across the board, this ethos now applies equally to the SMB.

EMC VisualSRM SMB Edition 1.7 review

Insignia is EMC’s small business wing, and its latest VisualSRM SMB Edition (VSE) software aims to provide these very same people with the tools to monitor and manage storage usage across the network. This is a scaled-down version of its VisualSRM mid-sized business storage management software. Client support is restricted to Windows platforms and the initial amount of storage that can be managed is limited to 2TB. Note this limit includes unused storage, but upgrade packs can increase this in increments of 1TB, up to a maximum of 6TB. Exchange servers can’t be declared as managed resources and database servers get the elbow as well.

Installation is simple and VSE can load the bundled copy of SQL Server 2005 Express. The VSE web interface is well designed and kicks off with an army of wizards to get you up and running. Agents come next and VSE makes light work of deployment. You can search the network, select multiple systems and push the software to them in one go. The main console is well designed and opens with a general storage overview. Usefully, the left and centre columns can be customised to show details such as task schedules, running jobs and graphs of free and used space on managed volumes. All managed systems are listed in the resource window along with their installed OS. Selecting one allows you to drill down to see the status of its volumes and graphs, showing usage history over 30 and 90 days.

The fun starts at the Policies tab, as these are used to scan resources, monitor thresholds and initiate actions when alerts have been issued. Users need to be notified, and event-alert policies contain users who are to receive pop-up and email alerts that are then applied to specific storage policies. Threshold policies keep an eye on resources of selected systems and are used to fire up an action when, for example, available space on a volume has dropped below a certain amount or percentage. Within the policy, you select an alert group to be notified and a task list to be started, which can contain intelligent actions. These are used to manipulate the storage resource, where you can remove selected files, move or copy them and compress them. Staging allows them to be copied to a temporary location and then deleted later on.

Storage resource management products tend to be on the pricey side, as they’re aimed at enterprises with deep pockets. But VSE bucks the trend, as it offers a wide range of tools at a sensible price. The complex relationships within its policies do make the learning curve a little steeper. However, it’s worth the effort, as they’re powerful tools that can help keep a network storage crisis at bay.

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