Data Archiving Solution Puts Employees Back to Work

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Today more than ever, there’s an economic imperative for businesses to operate as efficiently as possible. Cheaper, faster, better is good. That’s what Penson Financial Services learned when it replaced older jukebox technology with a disk-based data archiving solution.

A securities services firm that offers processing solutions for securities transactions, Penson Financial Services, based in Dallas, Tex., isn’t a company that can cut corners on data storage and archiving. The company also offers a platform for registered investment advisors and provides prime brokerage services to hedge funds and other institutional investors.

Penson, a financial services firm, is required by regulatory and compliance requirements to archive records and e-mail to WORM (write once, read many) media.

Moving data to physical off-line media is exactly what the firm did for years. “We used jukeboxes, and about every three years when the technology changed we’d have to do a forklift upgrade to the latest technology,” said Matt Pittman, Penson’s vice president for MIS infrastructure.

That was the first problem. Over time, Penson accumulated vast stores of DVDs and WORM platters, which was problem number two, which led to problem number three, ongoing manual intervention.

Just before moving to a Permabit Enterprise Archive solution, Penson had 650 platters for customer reports and 700 DVDs of archived e-mails. The archived media was so cumbersome that there were more media than slots in the jukebox, which meant that a valuable IT employee had to shuffle media in and out of the jukeboxes.

E-Discovery Demands

The speed of data retrieval for regulatory, legal or standard business requirements was also painfully slow. e-discovery requests are very specific and demanding about how quickly companies must respond. In fact, the regulatory climate is getting more stringent and more apt to impose fines on organizations that don’t turn over documentation in a timely manner.

Some e-discovery requests that required searching historical data could mean the loss of one of his IT employees for two to three days at a time, said Pittman. In fact, Pittman’s IT department was the “go-to” place for all discovery requests, which average about 25 a month. “We basically lost a full-time IT person to discovery,” he said.

Penson was also hit with the cost of retaining a second copy of the offline media, which the firm did using storage facilities at Iron Mountain (NYSE: IRM) to the tune of about $25,000 a year.

EMC, NetApp Lose Out

Pittman began researching nearline or online archive solutions a couple of years ago. An EMC (NYSE: EMC) shop, Pittman looked at EMC archive products along with two other vendors’ solutions, NetApp (NASDAQ: NTAP) and Permabit.

Permabit rose to the top of the list by meeting the company’s requirements for simplicity, ease-of-use, scalability, data accessibility and built-in WORM functionality. “We’ve been willing to invest in unknown companies and there was no risk of customer exposure,” said Pittman.

The firm had a Permabit DC1600 installed to test the unit. The vendor’s Enterprise Archive Data Center Series is designed to scale from 16TB to 3PB. Penson purchased two units, one for replication off site, each with 16TB of data storage, for a total of 32TB.

There was, however, a delay from the time of purchase to the time of installation. The company used Legato EmailExtender to migrate data from 700 DVDs, a process that took several weeks. Before the migration got underway, however, there was a corruption in the database that had to be resolved, which took several months.

“It was smooth sailing after that,” said Pittman.

The company has benefited tremendously since moving to the enterprise disk-based archive. The first and most notable gain is that the IT department is out of the loop on discovery.

“The system is now self-service, which means that if compliance wants data, they can go online and retrieve the information without asking the IT department to do it,” said Pittman. It’s the same for other employees.

The only time the IT department gets involved in retrieving archival data is in a technical capacity. The new online system also boosts employee productivity.

The archival process at Penson is also more robust. Data is automatically replicated to a collocation facility, eliminating the need to manually copy platters. Without the need to store media at Iron Mountain, Pittman expects those costs to drop by more than half.

System scalability will also allow additional Penson departments to use the new archive capability. “The buzz is out about the Permabit solution. We’re working to get two more departments on the system,” said Pittman, adding that there’s a list of more company departments that want in too.

Companies have no choice but to keep the lights on. How efficiently they do it has to do with, to a large extent, the systems they deploy.

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Lynn Haber
Lynn Haber
Lynn works as an editor-at-large meeting with new and established channel partners in the IT and telecommunications ecosphere. She works to understand what motivates partners, vendors, and distributors as they navigate growth in a dynamic industry. Lynn has worked as a business and technology writer for magazines, journals, and online media, and has authored hundreds of articles on technology, communications, business management, employment and careers, industry, and products.

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