Law Firm Centralizes Storage Management

Law Firm Centralizes Storage Management

IS manager follows the trend toward centralized management of distributed storage resources.

Amy Freese

In today`s distributed work environments, with scattered regional, satellite, and home offices, centralized control and backup of storage resources has become crucial for IT departments striving to secure an organization`s primary asset--its data. Faced with the time restrictions of travel to regional offices and limited employee resources, IT managers must also control such distributed storage resources in a timely and cost-effective manner.

With traditional methods of storage backup, daily care, and localized administration is required, making it difficult for IT managers to monitor and manage data that is not located on identical servers in the same physical location.

In industries such as law, medicine, and government, where immediate and secure access to files located on large database servers in heterogeneous networks is critical, centralized control of storage management is an operational requirement.

With an expanding client base and 12 locations, the law offices of Cozen and O`Connor needed to secure and manage its enterprise-wide data from a central location. The firm had disparate servers at different physical locations and various backup and recovery systems.

With technical and office administration staff and resources located solely at the main office in Philadelphia, Cozen and O`Connor`s regional offices across the US relied on local staff for regular data maintenance and disaster recovery. The law firm wanted to be able to secure all of its business-critical data--its intellectual property--from its headquarters in Philadelphia under the guidance of the IT manager. But the firm could not afford to risk losing data or to sacrifice best-of-breed applications or servers to accommodate a storage backup system.

After reviewing various storage management products, Cozen and O`Connor implemented CommVault Systems` (Oceanport, NJ) ABARS (Automatic Backup and Recovery Software) storage management software as its enterprise-wide backup and restore solution. ABARS is one module in CommVault`s Vault98 architecture. The software allows the law firm to centrally manage, update, and restore all of its mission-critical files, applications, and varied servers from its Philadelphia headquarters, maximizing employee resources, supporting best-of-breed platforms and technology, and enhancing the firm`s client support and services.

On a recent Monday afternoon, the single Banyan server at Cozen and O`Connor`s New York office crashed, halting all office operations. The ABARS storage solution allowed system administrators to restore essential office applications and files. It brought the office to fully recovered status in less than 24 hours. When both of the firm`s mirrored RAID disks failed in New York, and tapes drives were only able to restore a third of the server`s data, system administrators turned to the CommVault server at headquarters in Philadelphia to restore the 1GB of information lost in the server crash.

All of our standard storage backup systems failed, including tape, RAID, and mirroring systems. Our CommVault server allowed us to restore essential files and to retrieve our chosen mission critical data first, quickly bringing our New York office back up to running speed. We were then able to restore all of the data up to the morning of the crash.

In the absence of regional technical support and using a WAN network as a transmission medium, Cozen and O`Connor restored files to the New York office from the company`s headquarters without disrupting any running applications or system users and without shutting down the entire network. The centralized administration of the server`s backup and restoration limited any workflow interruptions and ensured the correct and complete retrieval of vital data, securing the firm`s intellectual product and averting possible disaster.

The key benefits of the ABARS storage management solution are:

- Centralized management of company-wide data, including files, servers, and databases.

- Ability to backup and restore data on disparate servers from one location.

- Improved speed in file and directory restoration.

- Easy and remote administration.

Cozen and O`Connor`s backup and restore configuration at its Philadelphia headquarters is based on a Banyan/ VINES network, a switched Ethernet local area network, and a mixture of frame relay and X.25 wide area network.

The headquarter`s site includes five Banyan/VINES servers, four Windows NT servers, and one Unix (SCO) server running an Informix database. The firm is in the final steps of moving to a frame relay network to increase WAN bandwidth. Each regional office has a single Banyan/VINES server.

The backup platform is a CommVault 144-platter 4-drive optical (CD-RW) jukebox that provides 345GB of total capacity. (Cozen and O`Connor converted from tape-based backup to the optical jukebox because of its media durability and capacity advantages.) The firm performs nightly server backups, with full backups every 8 to 12 weeks.

In the future, Cozen and O`Connor is considering plans to install additional CommVault servers at designated regional offices to further safeguard and backup its data and intellectual property and to increase the speed of full backups as storage capacity and bandwidth requirements grow.

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Cozen & O`Connor uses Vault98 storage management software (Banyan Vines version) at its headquarters in Philadelphia, PA.

Amy Freese is director of information services at Cozen and O`Connor, in Philadelphia.

This article was originally published on November 01, 1998