US buildings firm saves big on HDDs with Nasuni cloud NAS

APi Group dumps first-generation file sharing for Nasuni, which allowed it to save ‘hundreds of thousands of dollars’ with standard hardware deployments and cutting local storage

US-based building and industrial services firm APi Group has saved “hundreds of thousands of dollars” in on-site storage costs by switching to Nasuni cloud NAS gateways, which have allowed it to standardise group site hardware deployments with minimal on-site storage.

Previously, APi had faced a situation of heterogeneous local hardware deployments plus a shared file/file transfer product that had proved unsuited to rapid scaling.

APi Group is a holding company for 40 different businesses in construction, energy, safety and other areas with 200 sites and more than 15,000 employees.

APi has undergone a rapid and far-reaching period of growth since the 2000s when it comprised only a few sites with direct-attached storage to servers.

That phase came to an end after 1TB of data was lost from a server in New York state. Brian Erickson, now IT implementation and acquisitions manager, had to get on a plane with a USB stick to effect recovery.

“We didn’t want to be in that situation again,” he said. After that, the company moved to protecting data with Wide-Area File Services (WAFS) from Globalspace, which saw data replicated to a central location. That, however, ran into problems of scale as the company’s holdings increased.

“WAFS broke down when we went above 25 sites,” said Erickson. “Performance suffered and for every TB we backed up we had to store another two. We quickly ran out of physical space.”

He also said management was “very fiddly”, with numerous weekends and evenings spent making sure backups had happened.

After discovering Nasuni, APi deployed a proof-of-concept at a site that was a heavy user of Autodesk Revit building modelling software. They were won over when the time to stand up a Revit model was cut from 45 minutes to 10 minutes from Nasuni storage.

Nasuni virtual appliances have now been rolled out to 163 APi sites. The company has a standard set of hardware it rolls out to acquired companies that includes Nasuni software. A certain amount of storage of currently used data is held locally, but the vast bulk is offloaded to the Nasuni cloud.

“To users it looks like local storage, with their project files, PDFs, and so on. We call it the L: drive. Collaboration folders can also be set up between offices and external partners,” said Erickson.

Backup takes place every five minutes via snapshots that are copied to the cloud so there’s no separate data protection software. This has already allowed APi to dodge some ransomware attacks.

The Nasuni deployment – which now totals 227TB – has allowed APi to save “hundreds of thousands of dollars” and do away with countless numbers of hard drives, said Erickson.

“When we first deployed Nasuni, the cost versus WAFS was about equal,” said Erickson. “Where we really saw savings was in hardware costs. We can deploy a standard server. We don’t need 12TB for a 12TB company; only the 30% most used data or whatever is kept locally. It has standardised hardware spend.

“I guess we have saved hundreds of thousands of dollars altogether. The key benefit of Nasuni is that it just works. We can deploy it out to a site and as soon as we cut them over to it, it looks like it should.”

He also estimates that to continue with WAFS would have meant the need to recruit another 1.5 FTEs to handle management tasks.

Would Erickson improve anything in future versions of Nasuni?

“I’d like more alerting, such as letting you know if a filer is behind on syncing,” he said. “Also better file heuristics. For example, it shows us there’s a 10MB PDF there, but not where it is.”

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