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Steel firm gets Panzura hybrid cloud storage for global ops

Dowco rejected pure cloud over latency concerns but opted for Panzura hybrid cloud storage for global collaboration between offices on different continents

Canada-based Dowco rejected the idea of pure cloud storage working for its global operations and opted for Panzura hybrid cloud storage in a move that helped it save more than $200,000 a year with more efficient working practices.

Dowco has three offices in Canada, and others in Calcutta and the Philippines. It supplies design services in structural steel. Most of its work is based around 3-D modelling of building steelwork using Tekla software.

Its 220 staff service high-value commercial customers, most based in north America. Its operations are global, with employees worldwide working on project models. It used to operate a follow-the-sun method of sequential working with work being done on a project in one document before that office closed and the next office's employees taking over the same piece of work.

But problems caused by a lack of reliable bandwidth for FTP transfers at overseas locations caused delays and corruption of files, and required a large volume of human intervention.

Ron Cuthbert, general manager with Dowco, said: “We limped along like this for about 10 years. The FTP model was challenged by difficulties with bandwidth. Sometimes an office couldn't receive the model in good time, uploads were slow and it was very labour-intensive, with staff babysitting it to make sure transfers took place.”

Eventually the company switched to Panzura's hybrid cloud storage appliance in a move which it estimated has saved more than $200,000 per year, chiefly from the ability to adopt a concurrent rather than sequential way of working.

“Now the model is always in the cloud and available to teams working from any office,” said Cuthbert. “There used to be one master copy but now it is available all the time. There is a locally cached copy and changes are synchronised to the cloud and to other offices' local caches.”

Pure cloud no option for Dowco

Panzura is deployed on a server at each location where a local copy is held, with Google Cloud Storage as the main data retention location.

Panzura's main focus is cross-office collaboration delivered via an on-premises gateway and a global file-locking system with cloud storage.

Cuthbert said only operating in the cloud was not an option for Dowco, due to access times and possible difficulties with the complexity of the files staff work on.

“Pure cloud was not an option,” said Cuthbert. “More than 90% of what we do is working in Tekla modelling, so wouldn't work in the cloud without local caching in Panzura. There are too many files and too much latency for that.”

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Dowco executive vice-president Bryan Pyper said the big change to the business is that it has allowed more efficient ways of working.

He said: “From the operational point of view it has enabled us to use our key business resource in a truly multinational fashion and allowed us to restructure the way our teams operate.

“Using Panzura, individuals can work on projects at any time and it has allowed us to build better teams. This is a business that's all about working to a schedule and no other company in the world can deploy the amount of staff we can onto projects.”

Other benefits for Dowco include one-hour snapshots to replace backups that were previously only carried out once a day. “We lose maximum one hour's worth of work,” said Cuthbert.

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