ENR100 environmental engineering firm Woodard and Curran’s local data was a serious impediment to their goal to work as one company, putting together the best project teams for each project, regardless of where team members were based.
With Panzura CloudFS, using Microsoft Azure cloud storage, people in multiple locations now work on complex CAD files together as quickly and easily as if they were sitting right next to each other.
Plus, the solution gives Woodard & Curran limitless capacity for ever-larger engineering drawings, enhanced data security, and a net savings of about $350,000 a year.
Struggling to Collaborate
Woodard & Curran was growing at double-digit rates, posting record annual profits and had made it into the coveted Engineering News-Record top 100 Design Firms list.
Despite this string of successes, Woodard & Curran executives identified a pair of issues they felt were threatening to derail their momentum: data storage and inability to collaborate effectively.
“We had an aging and ineffective data storage platform from NetApp that was ripe for replacement,” said Kenneth Danila, director of information systems at Woodard & Curran. “It was no longer functioning at the scale we need to function at. It wasn’t responsive enough to the needs of the company.”
Woodard & Curran focused on cross-geographic and cross-discipline projects. That meant project teams across the 900-employee company to collaborate.
But, the storage and networking systems used to support data between locations simply couldn’t cope.
Each location had its own pair of NetApp NAS appliances, NetApp SnapMirror software to replicate data to a third offsite NetApp, a private MPLS network linking the sites, and Riverbed WAN accelerators to speed up the replication between sites.
Each location was a storage island, requiring its own management, capacity planning and storage procurement.
Administrative rules said project folders must live in one location. So, if a project was started in Bangor, it stayed there. If a teammate in Atlanta needed to do work on the file, they would access it over the WAN, make edits and save.
That’s where it all fell down. An engineer would click “open,” and the file download would begin.
They would wait. Wait some more. Grab coffee. Send a few emails. Make some calls. Perhaps take a short nap… Still downloading. Files could take up to 20 minutes – sometimes more – to open.
Multiply this by 900 people and you have a phenomenal amount of wasted time every week, month and year.
That comes at enormous cost. Let’s say even 200 people are spending 30 minutes a day waiting on files to respond.
That’s 40,000 hours of lost time per year.
Consolidating Data into the Cloud
Woodard & Curran replaced every one of their on-premise primary, backup, DR and archiving systems and processes with Panzura CloudFS, choosing Microsoft Azure as their public cloud storage provider.
This eliminated the islands of storage by consolidating all tiers of local unstructured data into the cloud – and enabled local-feeling file performance for every user, in any location, without any changes to user workflows.
Saving $350,000 Per Year
The shift to Panzura and Azure also generated huge cost savings.
By removing its NetApp NAS systems, SnapMirror, and Riverbed WAN accelerators, Woodard & Curran eliminated the costs of refreshing each accelerator every three or four years per office. That saved about $120,000 a year. The shift from regular MPLS to faster and less expensive Internet connections saved another $225,000 a year.
“With the Panzura hybrid cloud solution, we’re saving about $350,000 a year. That’s huge,” says Danila.
“Engineering is a fairly low-margin business,” Danila says. “In IT, we’re constantly making choices about what to invest in. This savings allowed us to upgrade our videoconferencing technologies, Internet speed, information management systems, and other areas sorely in need of a refresh.”
Recovering From Ransomware Within the Hour
There was an additional benefit that wasn’t on the drawing board when Woodard & Curran embarked on its cloud initiative.
The company was hit with a ransomware attack that infected many of its files. Because Panzura makes data immutable the moment it’s in cloud storage, and further secures it with read-only snapshots at the file system level, as well as at every location, they were able to restore its files back within about an hour of the infection.
“We keep snapshots back two years, which is another huge advantage of being in the cloud,” Danila said. “We’re paying pennies for that storage, so we can go back as far as we want.”
Panzura also helps Woodard & Curran integrate acquisitions faster. It recently acquired a company in California and was able to integrate that firm’s seven offices into its information systems in just one week.
“Our hybrid cloud solution significantly decreases acquisition integration, because we no longer have to teach new employees all the file server names across our locations,” Danila says. “We give them one location for all project data, and they’re working within an hour.”
“When we acquire a company or open a new office, we no longer need to buy, rack, and configure hardware. The fact that we have access to immense amounts of compute power and pay for it only when we use it changes how we do business. In the past, to do large data modeling, we’d buy a huge server, and it would sit idle until someone wanted to process a model. Now we just spin Azure VMs up and down when we need them, which is amazing.”
“The cloud keeps us nimble.”