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New case study: Sacker & Partners on storage infrastructure revamp

One law firm in central London that has recently evaluated its storage infrastructure to support its growing business is Sacker & Partners LLP, a firm specialising in pensions law. With over 50 lawyers advising on almost 600 pension schemes, Sackers had experienced a huge rise in the number of documents produced by its employees over the past two years, going from one million documents that needed to be stored and managed in January 2010 to two million by July 2012. As this data growth is expected to continue given the importance of electronic documents to the business, it was vital to have a robust and intelligent IT infrastructure in place. Sackers’ legacy storage system was struggling to meet employees’ demands and to add more storage capacity or advanced capabilities, the ageing system would have required a forklift upgrade, which would be very disruptive to the business.

When Sackers moved offices in 2010, it was the perfect opportunity to refresh its storage area network (SAN) environment and improve the way that it stored and managed critical data. Sackers’ three-strong IT team, led by Danny O’Connor, turned to technology partner Atlanta Technology, with whom it had worked for over a decade on projects including deploying a Dell client infrastructure based on OptiPlex desktops. Sackers relies on Atlanta to recommend smart technology investments, including which solutions will provide a compelling return on investment and minimal ongoing operational expenditure.

Sackers and Atlanta worked together to identify a storage solution that was cost-effective, intelligent and scalable to support future growth. Sackers decided to deploy a storage infrastructure – with over 15 TB usable capacity – based on Dell Compellent for simplified management, operational agility and overall cost-savings. Atlanta itself had migrated from a legacy system environment to a Dell Compellent infrastructure, and could show first-hand the benefits of Dell’s Fluid Data Architecture. Features such as automated tiering have allowed both Atlanta as well as Sackers to take a hands-off approach to managing data; Dell Compellent automatically analyses stored data and identifies the frequency with which data is accessed.

For documents which are rarely accessed, the array will automatically move the data to lower cost disk drives, saving space on the expensive, faster disks for frequently accessed, high priority information, such as contracts in play or executives’ email inboxes. This approach has saved Sackers money as well as valuable management time, as the IT team no longer has to manually manage the flow of data. In addition, as technology advances, Dell Compellent’s perpetual licencing model ensures that Sackers will affordably benefit from on-going support and technology innovation, without the need for rip and replace updates.

Since introducing Dell Compellent into its IT environment, Sackers has experienced zero infrastructure downtime. For a law firm, this is crucial, as lawyers need access to data at all times, including after normal business hours and during weekends. Even small amounts of downtime can be disruptive and cost the company revenue. In the past, Sackers has experienced an average of three weekends of planned downtime per year, which was detrimental to the business as well as the IT staff who were required to work out of normal office hours.

Sackers now has a full disaster recovery strategy, with data replicated to secondary sites managed by Atlanta. Dell Compellent delivers continuous data protection using snapshot technology, replicating data to arrays at a secondary site, which is instantly available in the event of a disaster at the primary site. In addition, Copilot Support continuously monitors system performance and alerts the IT team to potential problems so that they don’t need to worry about spending time monitoring the health of its systems; in fact, when power was recently cut off in Sackers’ building out of normal business hours, it was Copilot that alerted the team to the outage. The automated management and maintenance of the storage systems has freed up time for the team to spend on better supporting the business. The help desk call rate to Atlanta says it all – the rate of queries has been reduced by 75% since deploying Dell Compellent.

Sackers is currently working towards LEXCEL accreditation, which studies the whole firm’s operations, including IT, and ensures that certain standards are met. With Dell Compellent, Sackers will be able to demonstrate that it is committed to meeting the highest data management standards in the industry, as stipulated by Law Society regulation. Additionally, the team now has the time to focus on more innovative IT initiatives – including a BYOD strategy involving the potential use of tablets to help people work more efficiently.

Through Sackers’ work with Atlanta and Dell, the firm has considerably reduced the costs and management time needed to run its IT infrastructure and now has both the flexibility and scalability to meet whatever challenges are around the corner as the business grows.

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