Design Firm Deploys Business Continuity Solution
By Kenneth Mok
For our award-winning architectural and design firm Rockwell Group, IT downtime and data loss are not options. From our offices in New York, Madrid and Shanghai, our 190 employees work on projects for clients scattered around the world, and the data we hold for these projects is critical to our business. In fact, any disruption could easily cost millions of dollars in lost billable hours, depending on the project.
Our clients are high-profile companies, and the projects are demanding. For example, our design work includes the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles, several Academy Awards show sets, numerous W Hotels and a terminal for JetBlue Airways. So, any glitches with our operations could be damaging to our reputation.
Business continuity is an absolute must, regardless of what industry you’re in, and that’s something I’ve learned from experience. Before joining Rockwell Group, I was the IT director for a company located in the World Trade Center. After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, business executives began to ask themselves, “What is our business continuity plan?” This question was not something we had considered before 9/11.
Initially, Rockwell didn’t have a good answer to this question. Although we had a backup solution, it was not something that would effectively eliminate downtime. We had more than 10 terabytes (TBs) of client data that needed to remain secure and available, but our data was not constantly accessible with our tape-based data backup solution.
Each week, we used as many as 50 tapes for data backup, which cost us more than $1,500 per month for tapes and delivery. The tape company would deliver tapes only on Fridays, and if we needed additional tapes before that day, it would take up to four hours to get them and cost an additional $175 per trip. These fees were on top of the monthly subscription fee we paid to the vendor.
The tape-based solution was also time-consuming: A full weekly backup could take up to 48 hours to complete. If we had to access our backup data, it could take almost a full workday to retrieve the files we needed, when we factored in having the vendor deliver our tapes, going through them to find the right files and restoring the data. Plus, when the vendor updated its backup software, we encountered failures that required even more time in order to address unfinished backups and missing data.
A Cost-Effective Solution
We knew we needed to find a more efficient and cost-effective solution. In September 2012, we partnered with consulting firm Tukuru Technologies, which recommended Axcient. That solution was quick and easy for us to implement, and automatically takes our data off-site securely from our on-site appliances to the cloud.
Currently, we’re using two Axcient on-site appliances, one 10TB and one 4TB—both of which are at about 70 percent capacity. In addition, the scheduling and verification of backups are a breeze and significantly quicker than our previous solution.
Backups that used to take 12 to 18 hours now take only two to three hours. And if I schedule 15 jobs, I get 15 messages indicating that they have been completed successfully—something I couldn’t count on before.
With many other backup solutions, manual network setup is required before performing a failover. From our past experience, we know this can prolong downtime and decrease our productivity. Our new system allows us to simply plug in and begin failover immediately.
Even better, the on-site failover automatically inherits the settings of the original network, so we don’t have to reconfigure them ourselves. Axcient has had a dramatic impact on our file-restoration process: It now takes about 5 minutes to do what it would typically take hours to do with our tape-based solution.
Because the appliance offers 30-day on-site retention of data, we no longer have to send out for our backup tapes if we need to restore a file from the day or week before. In the past, we had numerous incidents where staff would overwrite a file, rather than saving as a new version.
With our previous solution, we’d have to call for the backup tape, wait for delivery, and then take more time to find and restore the original file. Rather than losing almost a full day of productivity, our new solution enables us to do the same restore in less than five minutes, which significantly cuts down on the potential for lost billable hours.
The cost savings have been a big benefit as well. We are paying about 70 percent less for our Axcient solution than we did for the previous tape-based system. And, we are now confident that our business can run smoothly, without IT glitches, because we have a reliable backup solution that helps our employees maximize their productivity, while helping us bring down our IT costs.
Kenneth Mok is director of IT for the Rockwell Group (www.rockwellgroup.com), an international architectural and design firm.