All aspects of business require collaboration between colleagues—but, as most of us know, that is often easier said than done. As much of this collaboration now takes place asynchronously across a digital network, IT professions must often navigate a myriad of technical issues when it comes to facilitating real-time cooperation. Improving the efficiency with which documents are accessed, shared, saved and backed up in a secure environment will produce a marked increase in productivity for any organization. Making the switch to a Wide Area File Services (WAFS) solution can greatly enhance business continuity.
Challenge: Slow Replication Between Offices Caused Problems, Frustration
Our engineers collaborate on many types of files across its office locations, including AutoCAD Revit files (software used in BIM), digital photographs of sites and projects, Excel spreadsheets for proposals, and client contracts. Early in the company’s history, Paragon tried replicating files between two offices using Windows Distributed File System (DFS). After a failure resulting in costly lost data, we tried using a WAN optimization appliance. That more expensive solution was working well until the appliance provider was acquired and their appliance was no longer supported.
The replacement solution required two separate appliances at each location and a T1 connection between them. In addition to requiring a dedicated hardware investment, the solution wasn’t particularly easy to use. Worse, from our perspective, it didn’t provide the fast file access that Paragon’s engineers needed. The lag at remote offices was frustrating, and the latency affected productivity.
Solution: Software-based Replication with WAFS
When looking for better alternatives, we discovered WAFS. As a software based solution, WAFS was a better fit for Paragon, especially as the company continued to expand its offices. Using WAFS, we could use our own servers rather than buying dedicated appliances for each location.
WAFS offers real-time replication and file coherence, with automated file locking, release, and synchronization to ensure that people in different offices are always working with the most recent version of the file. File locking is critical; people shouldn’t have to worry about overwriting others’ work, and we never want to work from an out-of-date negotiation list on a proposal.
WAFS deployment was simple: our IT intern installed the product and we have been using it ever since, with no looking back.
Results: Faster File Access, Better Protection from Loss
Paragon runs WAFS on two servers in our corporate headquarters, with three servers at remote locations. WAFS provides continuous backup at the central server and replication between offices. For Paragon, it delivers both improved productivity and better protection from loss.
From a productivity standpoint, WAFS delivers “local disk” performance from any location. Nobody complains about the speed anymore. Even a savings of 15 minutes a day for my engineers translates into a savings of $75,000 in billable time per engineer every year, without accounting for the potential cost of missed deadlines if data is lost or corrupted.
We now run a separate WAFS instance to provide redundancy and backup for the accounting system. The data protection provided by replication and redundancy is invaluable for a business driven by its data. With file locking and versioning, no one has to worry about finding or using the most recent version of a file, or overwriting someone else’s work during concurrent access. The delete protection alone is worth the price.
WAFS gives Paragon a strong foundation for our growing business, fitting the overall design strategy of building for both strength and function. WAFS works over any wide area network, so when Paragon opened its new offices, we did not need to provision T1 lines between them. Using commercial, business-class broadband instead of T1 lines eliminates a significant ongoing expense for the company.
Moving forward, we hope to build on our technology leadership and expand services to include hosting AutoCAD Revit files for clients and other engineers. WAFS will be an essential part of that service. If you’re wondering what WAFS can do for your business, or have questions about our transition we would love to hear from you, visit us at (www.peservices.org).
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