Law firm set to climb email compliance mountain

Michelmores plans to implement email compliance, document management and inter-site replication following successful Hitachi SAN deployment.

Simon Clarke, ICT manager at law firm Michelmores, says now that storage is under control it is time to digitise a basement full of paper documents.

Michelmores is a law firm with 300 employees at its head office in Exeter and branch offices in London and Sidmouth, Devon. It runs Microsoft Sharepoint Server, SQL Server, Office applications, IBM databases and its own customised practice management software on HP servers. In 2006 it moved from direct-attached storage to a Hitachi AMS200 SAN with 3 terabytes of capacity, of which 1TB was Fibre Channel for the highest priority applications with the other 2TB as SATA for nearline services. The move was prompted by rapidly increasing data volumes, a need to move to more centralised storage to support the move to Sharepoint Server and a backup to tape window that was encroaching on the business day.

We have between 3km to 5km of paper documents under this building and we have to make them electronic
Simon Clarke
ICT managerMichelmores
Michelmores opted for the Hitachi SAN in a competition with products from HP and IBM and EMC.

Clarke says Hitachi won out on a number of criteria. He says, "HP would have been a natural choice for us as we're a HP shop, but they had been at the top of the market for too long and their prices were too high for us. EMC at the time was between products - the existing one didn't stack up and they couldn't give me details of the forthcoming one. IBM we liked - it had just started providing the ability to mix Fibre Channel and SATA in the same frame, but in the end Hitachi was more competitively priced and we couldn't get IBM within £8,000 of the cost of Hitachi."

That investment provided a return on investment of around 75% in the first year and has eased headaches of storage capacity management and backup, but what are the company's current storage project plans?

SearchStorageUK: What portion of your overall IT budget is accounted for by storage?

At current levels storage outlay is currently about 5% to 6% of our total IT budget.

SearchStorageUK: How has this changed over recent years, and why?

Our spending on storage has been decreasing because since we moved to the SAN from direct-attached storage two years ago we've not had to buy extra servers, just disk capacity. Having said that, the volume of data is constantly increasing – it's a constant pressure on us to change to meet compliance regulations and we have to keep documents and emails for much longer and be able to prove their integrity.

SearchStorageUK: What recent storage projects have you undertaken?

We recently implemented Commvault version 7 Galaxy backup with data-de-duplication which is allowing the London and Sidmouth offices to replicate to Exeter and has removed the need for tape back up at those sites.

We've also had to install move disk capacity on the SAN to increase capacity from 3 TB to 4 TB and will do so again shortly when we implement email compliance.

SearchStorageUK: In terms of projects, what are your key storage priorities for the coming year?

In the coming period we will purchase extra modules for Commvault to carry out email and file archiving – we only do back up and replication at present. We have between 3km to 5km of paper documents under this building and we have to make them electronic.

It's just a twinkle in my eye right now but over the next three years we will deploy a SAN at the Sidmouth office to enable full replication. That means upgrading the processor and memory on our existing SAN as it doesn't support replication at present. Because it'll be a disaster recovery system we can probably get away with all SATA disks.

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