CharlesCharles Copland, Quality Assurance Analyst | Safe Systems

Temperatures are rising, birds are chirping, lawnmowers are emerging from their winter slumber and the air is a 50-50 mix of oxygen and pollen.  Spring is officially upon us.  And in the tradition of spring cleaning, the season brings an almost innate desire to de-clutter our home and work lives. Could your servers use a little spring cleaning too?

Removing unnecessary files from your server frees up valuable resources and can shrink your backup footprint.  Both of these benefits translate directly to cost savings.  Below are some common file extensions that might be bloating your servers’ hard drives.

  1. .bak files: These files are backups of SQL databases.  A .bak file encapsulates the contents of a database, so its size is directly proportional to that database; often, this is a very large file.  These files are created through the SQL software itself either as a one-time task, or scheduled for creation at regular intervals in a database maintenance plan.  If designed poorly, database maintenance plans can cause significant data growth.  If the plan backs up the database too frequently or never overwrites old .bak files, then the accumulated .bak files can add up extremely quickly.  Depending upon the specifics of your backup processes or recovery plans, these files may not be necessary at all.  Consider searching your database servers for .bak files and be sure to evaluate any database maintenance plans when backup needs change.
  2. .dmp files: Have you seen a blue screen of death on a server?  If so, then that server probably has a .dmp file somewhere in the file structure.  Referred to as “dump” files, these files are essentially a diagnostic tool created when the computer’s operating system experiences a critical failure.  These files are typically not huge, but accumulated files can add up over time.  By default these files will be generated in the Windows directory, but this location and a few additional settings can be changed through the Control Panel.  Clearing servers of any dump files occasionally should be considered a best practice.
  3. .tmp files: Windows and many applications can create temporary files with the .tmp extension.  These files are essentially disposable, one-time use files for any number of functions.  A well-crafted application will clean up after itself by deleting any .tmp files that it creates, but if an application is untidy or terminates unexpectedly, then you may be left with some extraneous temporary files.  These files can generally be deleted on sight, but there are a few exceptions – namely if a file is actively being used by Windows or an application.  It is a pretty safe assumption that if a temporary file is more than a few days old, then it can be deleted without worry.  The same principles apply to any file type in the Windows temporary directory.  By default this folder is named “Temp” and in located in the Windows folder.
  4. .log files: Log files are almost ubiquitous in computing, and can be attributed to many different applications or internal Windows functions.  Searching a server’s file structure for *.log will likely yield an avalanche of results.  The issue with log files is that some never truncate.  As a log file populates more and more data over time, its size naturally grows to accommodate the data.  The key here is to look for log files with large data sizes.  Some logs can be deleted to free up space, but this should be done with caution.
  5. .MP3, .MP4, .AVI, . MOV, etc.: Media files such as images, music and videos are notorious space hogs.  These file types become an issue only when they are not work-related.  These files can most often be found in employee home or personal folders.  While there are definitely exceptions based on the nature of an employee’s work, typically media files are not critical enough to reside on network storage.  Instead, train employees to save such files that are not required for business purposes to their local disk or a directory that is specifically excluded from backups.

Hopefully this list can help you free up some disk space, but it is by no means exhaustive, and may not take into account the specifics of your institution’s network.  In order to sustain that clean server feeling over the long term, consider build a data management plan tailored to your bank or credit union’s particular data needs. A management plan is unique for each institutions, and may encompass file maintenance, data retention, data backup, data archival or file destruction policies for your servers.  Having a solid plan to tackle your data might just mean less spring cleaning next year.