The National Software Testing Laboratory Inc. in Conshohocken, Pa., has found that defragmented server disks and PC disks can perform between 20% and 80% faster than systems with fragmented disks. But did you know that by not defragmenting these systems, U.S. corporations stand to lose as much as $50 billion per year, according to Steve Widen, research director for International Data Corp., in Framingham, Mass.?
IDC arrived at that figure as follows: Assuming an average employee makes $40 per hour and a fragmented disk slows down one-half of an employee hour per day, the company loses $20 per day. This comes to $5,000 per year. Multiply $5,000 per year by the 20 million corporate licenses Microsoft issued for 1999, and you get $50 billion.
Immediate Performance Benefits
Conducted by Widen, IDC's disk defragmentation study recommends using defragging software on Windows servers and Windows PCs to avoid lengthy waits for file access, reboots lasting an eternity, hours added to backup, and data corruption.
Of course, fragmented disk drives don't always provide the reason for a system slowdown. The causes can range from slow processors to not enough memory. On the other hand, if the backup speed has become sluggish, then disk fragmentation is the probable culprit.
IT professionals in some organizations say they've gotten tremendous performance benefits by routinely defragging their servers. For example, David Zhao, a systems administrator at United Parcel Service Inc., in Atlanta, says he uses Executive Software's Diskeeper across a network with hundreds of servers. He says that routine defragging makes data access much faster and prevents degradation of systems performance.
Likewise, Bob Lofaso, an IT manager at Lucent Technologies Inc., in Murray Hill, N.J., says he has gotten more than a 20% gain in performance on both servers and desktops as a result of defragging these systems daily.
To date, defragging software has made it into only 15% of the U.S. corporations that use Windows NT, according to IDC. But the continued brisk sales could drive such software into 50% of U.S. corporations, according to PC Data Inc., in Reston, Va., a marketing research firm.
Widen says that having a systems administrator defragment each server individually may prove to be more of a hassle than it's worth. IDC's study put a $1 million yearly price tag on the cost for an IT department to manually defragment a network with 25 servers and 5,000 workstations. In contrast, remote, network-wide defragging could cost less than $1,000 per year.
IDC says the real benefits of a defragmented network come from the difficult-to-measure items, such as increased user productivity and postponed or eliminated unnecessary hardware upgrades.
Of course, many organizations will continue to need new and upgraded servers and PCs. The wild adoption of network defragging won't make a dent in the $312 billion spent annually on computer hardware. However, as IT departments become more aware of just how much of their performance and their budget can be recovered by keeping consolidated files, many more will put routine networkwide defragging procedures in place.
Windows NT defrag tools include the following: Executive Software's Diskeeper 5.0 for Windows 95, 98, NT, and 2000 (http://www.execsoft.com), Symantec's Norton SpeedDisk 5.0 for NT (http://www.symantec.com), and Raxco's PerfectDisk 2000 (http://www.raxco.com). //
Elizabeth M. Ferrarini is a freelance author based in Arlington, Mass.