Law firm's infrastructure overhaul lowers costs, improves productivity

A law firm upgrades its legacy systems and deployed a new data back up and disaster recovery strategy. Here’s how it lowered costs and improved IT efficiency.

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Budget-strapped IT shops often delay infrastructure and systems upgrades, but investments in more efficient data center hardware and software can result in significant cost savings and increased productivity.

Barlow Robbins LLP Solicitors, based in Surrey, England, faced data backup challenges amid tighter budgets, growing data volumes and new EU regulatory and compliance laws that require legal firms to retain all client data for seven years.

The IT team needed a robust archiving and backup tool to remain compliant and to reduce backup costs. Under its legacy IT infrastructure, backups took 36 hours and spanned across five tapes.

Due to budget limitations, the firm’s IT systems hadn’t been refreshed for six years and administrators had to manage many disparate systems -- each of which carried direct individual costs. Only a third of its servers were virtualised.

The IT team made its ageing systems more resourceful by putting “plaster fixes” across the infrastructure, but soon realized that such a stopgap strategy would not support growing volumes of data or expanding business.

The firm had to upgrade its IT infrastructure to support growth and improve efficiency, and extend Barlow Robbins’ disaster recovery capabilities to include all of its systems.

“The main objective was to extend our data centre over two sites so that it was no longer running in an active / passive state,” said Jon Williams, network manager at Barlow Robbins.

Overcoming performance and disaster recovery challenges
With a clear strategy and help of the cloud infrastructure consultancy MTI Technology, also based in Surrey, the IT team installed an EMC VNX 5300 SAN with local and remote protection.

To address the semi-virtualised infrastructure issues, it installed a Quantum i40 tape library and virtualised the remaining servers.

It then deployed Veeam Software backup and reporting tool - Veeam (12 socket) B&R Enterprise; Brocade DS300 switches; and 2 Hewlett-Packard DL380 G7 servers to de-duplicate all data.

All the tools are covered by MTI’s three-year 24x7 support, Williams said. The financial terms of the MTI contract were not revealed.

These upgrades offered efficiencies and more.

“We’re also seeing improved productivity as a result of the legacy systems upgrade and virtualisation,” Williams explained.

Backup and disaster recovery strategy yields more returns
Prior to the new disaster recovery project, Barlow Robbins used a host-based replication system for disaster recovery and business continuity.

If that system lost contact with its primary data centre, the failover to the backup would take around four hours, Williams said.

One of the key benefits of the new infrastructure is that IT can back up all of the firm’s data in 1.5 hours,  which shrank its backup window by almost 400%, he said.

The failover time in the new system is about half an hour -- one eighth of the previous system.

Another notable benefit is lower cost. The newly implemented data backup and disaster recovery strategy has already cut the company’s operating expenses  by 15% for financial year 2012-2013.

 “We also have access to certain services all of the time from each site,” Williams said. “Previously, our DR kit had just sat idle collecting dust.”

IT is also able to store unstructured and structured client information on a single tape, as against five tapes it used previously. This helps IT admins save time on management tasks.

“From a purely legal perspective, the benefit has been the resource application of our legal systems,” Williams said. “This time last year, I was probably spending up to 40% of my time gently massaging systems. This has now been reduced to as little as 5%.”

“It basically means that I can now sleep easier,” Williams added.

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