Community group snaps up speedy solution for remote sites

Financially unable to upgrade its ageing NT servers, the Baptist Community Services (BCS) organization was in dire need of a data storage solution to manage 43 remote sites across NSW.

With a distributed team of 3000 full- and part-time staff the provider of community aged care services was struggling to maintain an efficient IT network within its allocated budget.

BCS infrastructure manager Don McCall said staff needed reliable network access to data but the existing NT servers were starting to prove unreliable and too costly to manage.

"No organization, regardless of its nature of operation, is able to run without supportive, well-oiled IT systems," he said.

McCall decided to go with a solution that was compliant with Active Directory and Windows 2000 but looked at Network Attached Storage (NAS) devices using other operating systems.

"We also considered full Wintel servers at each site; however, cost of purchase and ongoing management would prove too cost prohibitive," he said.

BCS went with 35 SNAP devices located on the local area network (LAN) at each remote site to secure file sharing; any changes locally are replicated back across the wide area network (WAN) to a storage array that is backed up to tape each day.

With an IT team of only four staff managing about 740 users at a time, McCall said there was some difficulty picking up redirected routes in the organization's network environment.

He said this was resolved by turning off all Routing Internet Protocol and Internet Protocol redirect settings.

"In the short term the SNAP appliance has allowed us to remove all active, under-performing servers; this saved the cost of replacing the ageing fleet of Wintel servers," McCall said.

"In the longer term, low cost maintenance is the primary benefit making every dollar work that bit harder to support our staff."

Brocade Communications Systems partner manager Graham Schultz said with reference data such as sent e-mails growing at a rate of 90 per cent per year many companies find themselves running multiple SANs supporting different applications, functions, projects and geographies. Schultz said these SAN islands are complex to manage and fail to efficiently utilize resources.

He said all vendors in the information lifecycle management (ILM) space agree the first challenge is to network these islands.

"Networked storage means a company isn't treating storage as landfill, filling the available capacity and buying more storage as capacity builds up," Schultz said.

"The sticking point for ILM remains how deeply companies buy into the overall strategy; there's some conjecture about whether customers are actually buying into ILM or just the concept.

"As with all new technologies, this will come down to separating the reality from the hype. But getting the right infrastructure in place will enable a healthy, long- term ILM strategy."

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