File fragmentation has been a plague on modern computers since their inception. In one form or another—from backup-and-restore to various levels of defragmenters—fragmentation has always been fought.
Today, however, with computers at the very center of business operations, and with technology having risen to such amazing heights as Network Attached Storage and virtual servers, it really does matter what fragmentation technology is applied to deal with the problem. It truly does take enterprise-level solutions to deal with enterprise-level issues.
There are three primary factors that should be evaluated when assessing the effectiveness of a defragmentation solution.
The first of these would be, how robust is the solution in dealing with your particular levels of fragmentation? Today’s fragmentation levels are higher than ever, and additionally file and drive sizes are many times that of yesterday. Some fragmentation solutions have limits as to the amount of fragmentation they can effectively handle; after a point, they simply grind on and on and the result of a defragmented drive is never actually achieved. It is therefore beneficial to seek out a solution that you know will be able to actually deal with and eliminate the fragmentation on your systems.
Second would be the toll the solution takes on system resources. Many fragmentation solutions require that no users be on the system while the solution is running, because user processes are severely interfered with while the solution is operating. The best solutions available today operate invisibly in the background, with otherwise-idle resources, while users are active on the system. This type of operation eliminates the need for maintenance “time windows” which have virtually disappeared in today’s environments.
Third would be the impact the solution has upon the resources of your organization. That is, how much human interference does it take for the solution to run? Especially today, IT resources come at a premium. If an IT person must take the time to run the fragmentation solution, or even to find the time to schedule it, it can take a serious toll on an already overburdened staff. A fully automatic solution that requires no manual running or scheduling leaves the IT personnel free to attend to their actual jobs.
One other factor to examine would also be resource-related. Today, there are solutions available that actually prevent a majority of fragmentation from occurring in the first place. In addition to the elimination of the need to defragment after files have been written, write performance is also substantially improved.
To sum up, an enterprise solution would be one which effectively eliminated fragmentation as a problem for the organization, that never negatively impacted system resources, and also that required no human intervention after the fact of installation. Organizations would do well to expect at least these benefits from any fragmentation solution.