Law firm plans to ditch tape

Irwin Mitchell plans to do away with tape, implement information lifecycle management and achieve BS25999 business continuity certification this year.

Richard Hodkinson, group IT and operations director with Irwin Mitchell, says his storage spending priorities for 2008 will be aimed at implementing sound processes for information management.

Sheffield-based Irwin Mitchell is the UK's fourth largest law firm so the bulk of its data is comprised of case files – 150,000 to 200,000 per year – plus email, HR, financial and management applications.

The firm has seven UK sites plus one in Marbella, Spain. The Sheffield data centre runs Microsoft Office Sharepoint Server on HP servers and a number of law-specific case management and other applications. Dedicated professional services software – Thomson Elite 3e – is to be implemented in the first half of this year.

Each site has a Network Appliance filer which holds materials used locally while the bulk of its stored data is located at its Sheffield data centre from where 150 servers and 5 terabytes of NetApp SAN capacity serve the firm's 2,500 staff. Hourly snapshots are taken from the Sheffield site to a Sungard disaster recovery site at Heathrow. Local sites also snapshot between each other to provide further protection in case of outage. What portion of your overall IT budget is accounted for by storage?

Richard Hodkinson: We currently have about 5TB of capacity in our data centre but that is increasing by about 1TB every six months and our storage budget is about 10% to 15% of the total IT spend. Most of that is going on extra disk drives and support. What's driving storage spend is not just the growth in business but an ongoing drive to operate in a paperless fashion.

In terms of spending, what are your key storage priorities for the coming year?

Hodkinson: In April we will embark on an information lifecycle management project where we aim to assess how information flows into the firm and the processes it goes through as it is used and stored, with the aim of using and holding information as efficiently as possible. We will be looking at technologies that will enable us to manage documents as well as monitor their integrity and provenance throughout their lifecycle.

We're also aiming to get certification for the BS25999 business continuity standard this year. We already have ISO270001 security certification so this year we will do a gap analysis to see what we need to do to get from that to BS25999 and then initiate a campaign it.

Are there any prominent storage technologies which you will not invest in this year?

Hodkinson: We're not looking to implement any radically new technologies but we do plan to ditch tape. At the pace at which we accumulate new materials tape is too costly for backup and we're aiming for completely disk-to-disk-based restores based on adding capacity to our NetApp storage resources. The intention is that with process efficiencies, an aggressive data retention policy and technological solutions such as compression our information lifecycle management processes can ensure that we have less data each year rather than more.

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