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Cloud NAS bails out design firm after hurricane

Sonia Lelii

A New York design firm that turned to the cloud for primary storage found it more valuable for disaster recovery when Hurricane Sandy flooded its building and wiped out its power.

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Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R), a design firm that integrates architecture, visual and performing arts, planned to use Panzura's Global Cloud Storage System and the Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3) for primary NAS storage, archiving and backup. DS+R's IT manager Chris Donnell said he intended to replace three products with Panzura's cloud computing NAS. The firm was using a Dell PowerEdge R710 server as its primary file server and a LaCie NAS system for archiving and tape for backups.

The idea was to remove the storage silos for files, archiving and backup, and put it all in the cloud. But that plan hit a snag after installation last year as Donnell found his cloud NAS setup wasn't quite ready for primetime as primary storage for his company's large design files. While copying files, he noticed performance was actually slower than with his previous file server.

"The performance was not up to par. The Panzura CIFS engine is not great but they are replacing it. I would upload 3 terabytes and notice a performance problem," Donnell said. "The file server is not on Panzura, and periodically I just offload inactive files to the Panzura to free up space on the file server for secondary storage."

While waiting for Panzura to upgrade its CIFS engine, Donnell's team was migrating data from Microsoft Exchange to Google Apps for Business when Sandy hit in late October. DS+R's office is near the Hudson River in Manhattan, and the building took up to four feet of water and lost electricity.

"There was no power, not heat and no subway," Donnell said. No employees could get up to their offices on the 17th and 18th floors of the building, so neither the 2U Dell file server or cloud gateway could be accessed. However, Donnell was prepared. He spent the Sunday before the storm hit copying as many files to the Panzura device as he could.

Panzura tech support set up another gateway in the vendor's location, and Donnell set up a server on Amazon EC2 and used that to shuttle backup files from Panzura to the DS+R FTP site hosted at Amazon. It took a few days, but the firm had its files.

"It showed what it could do during an emergency," Donnell said. "In the end, it did help a lot. Panzura was a help because its cache [12 TB] is large where we have our data locally. We didn't have power for a week, although we could get into the building and only had limited access."

Donnell said he's still waiting for Panzura to improve its performance for his large files.

"It works for lots of things, but we work with large design files," he said. "I'm worried about getting to the point of slowing people's work down. Panzura is working slower than our older file server."


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