Review: Corner Bowl Disk Monitor 2010

Mounting piles of data—common in the corporate environment—can easily bury an organization’s servers. Storage is inexpensive, but data management, data tiering, and backup can be costly. Server space hogs such as image-based backup files and videoconferencing data can quickly overtake network drive space. Cornerbowl Disk Monitor helps keep tabs on data by monitoring drive-space usage, directories and files, and SMART drive health. In addition to monitoring and reporting, an easy-to-configure and schedule feature is also included for deleting profile or Windows temp files.

The program's opening view features four tabs for configuration in a Microsoft Outlook–style user environment: Disk Explorer, Disk Monitors, Directory Monitors, and Reports and Views. Machines chosen for monitoring can be either mapped manually or added via Active Directory integration. Within a few minutes of opening the program, you can analyze a problematic server for disk-space concerns by, for example, reviewing the 25 largest files and directories taking up most of the storage space. Doing so lets you quickly reduce the space used on the server. The system is fast: Scanning a 40GB partition took less than a minute over a 100Base-T network.

The program's Disk Monitors are very useful, letting you monitor space used by the administration shares and the Windows shares. A wizard-based approach makes it easy to add new monitors. The alerting capabilities are flexible, and they're separately configurable for warning and critical alert thresholds. Alerts for disks/shares or directories can be logged to email, event logs, files, message boxes, SNMP traps, sounds, or Syslog. Additional historical data can be stored as text files or logged to a Microsoft SQL Server or MySQL database. In addition to logging, a process can also be launched to fix the condition.

The numerous alerts include default options for when storage grows by more than a preset size, percentage, or when the free space drops below a certain percentage. These options are helpful since IIS log files, SQL Server backups, and disk-to-disk backups can sometimes routinely fill up local disks. There are several practical uses for this alert, such as monitoring FTP folders for when a large file is added or tracking server disk space before it reaches critically low levels. The email alerts are the most useful. The graphical HTML email messages were easy to read and decipher, and featured graphs as well as a text breakdown of the state of the share or drive, as you can see in Figure 1. You can use a custom HTML template, as well.


Figure 1: Graphical HTML email message
Figure 1: Graphical HTML email message


Further digging into the product reveals a feature for viewing access permissions by any of the NTFS permission levels. This feature is handy not only for compliance purposes but also for configuration purposes. The access permission is selectable based on all NTFS permissions. A few quick clicks, and you can ensure that sensitive data has the correct permissions applied.

The Directory Monitors functionality is broken down into two components—the Directory Size Monitor and the Directory Watcher—that detect when certain types of files are added to a directory. You can define a Directory Size Monitor to check for increases in directory size when the size exceeds a certain amount, when it changes in size, or even when the directory changes. The functionality is granular and can be set on a per-directory basis for monitoring, even when you’ve configured the wizard to monitor only a parent directory.

The Directory Watcher lets you break down your analysis to changed, created, deleted, and renamed files by file masks. This capability is useful for compliance purposes because it logs or alerts you to changes in directories.

The Reports and Views module is less polished than the rest of the program. Reports come in four different templates: Disk Summary, Directory Summary, File Access, and Duplicate Files. For reporting, a server must be part of a disk monitor or directory monitor. This approach is less than ideal if you simply want to analyze network space on the fly for a particular server.

As you become accustomed to the product, you'll find more uses for it. However, defining too many alerts will quickly overwhelm your email. Also, I found it difficult to view all the different disk and directory monitors on a per-server basis. But after using Corner Bowl Disk Monitor for several weeks, I saved numerous hours of research time by quickly developing an alert or cleanup job using the disk monitor.


PROS: Easy to install and configure; wide range of monitoring features; flexible alerting options; customizable

CONS: Unintuitive report development; difficult to track multiple configurations of disk monitors and disk alerts per server

RATING: 4 diamonds out of 5

PRICE: Starts at $99 to monitor 20 computers from desktop; monitor 50 disks with one server license for $269 

RECOMMENDATION: Corner Bowl Disk Monitor 2010 automates routine scans of drives and directories and is extremely configurable at the most granular storage levels. Setup simplicity and excellent support makes this an easy recommendation, despite some caveats.

CONTACT: Corner Bowl Software · 866-501-8670 ·

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