How a hybrid cloud enabled a location-agnostic workspace

Constant server trouble was the price paid by a boutique consultancy to have everything within arm's reach, but it was starting to cause more trouble than it was worth.
Written by Drew Turney, Contributor

Designvox was suffering from low productivity because of an increasingly complex server environment and frequent server failures. The 21-year-old, 25-staff strategy, design, and technology consultancy realised it needed centralised file management and access that made it easy to edit and share files faster and more securely from any workstation or device.

"We wanted a solution that got us away from relying on hardware we had to maintain and upgrade every time we ran out of space," said Designvox systems administrator Jeff Dickinson. "We wanted to avoid buying servers we knew would eventually fail."

The old environment was a 22TB file server on-site, with 16TB dedicated to storage and 6TB to backup storage. The workday was a constant barrage of server problems, stopping everyone in their tracks while it was restarted or files were restored from backups.

Staff from each department needed to access the same documents, and countless hours of downtime affected productivity. And that just goes for days when everyone was around; when Designvox staffers were at client meetings or trying to work from home on the infamous snowy days in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where the company is located, they spent more time troubleshooting VPN connections than working.

The problems were getting worse thanks to increasing demand for storage space, reliable data handling, and collaborative tools. New client work meant the company needed more complex workflows involving deeper research, collaboration, and solutions from across the company.

Staff members were continuously re-architecting the file servers to match the growing demands, which meant an even more complex storage environment, resulting in even more maintenance every time a problem arose. A large, complex, high-maintenance file server environment simply wasn't sustainable anymore. Designvox needed to eliminate the burden of maintaining unreliable, continuously outmoded hardware, and didn't want to spend even more on dedicated IT personnel.

The collaboration cloud

The solution had to be one where collaboration was built in from the beginning, not just a storage plug-in. Company decision makers looked at about a dozen solutions from Rackspace, Amazon, Box, Alfresco, and SharePoint before settling on a hybrid strategy.

"Although other products offered cloud storage services, the cost savings and flexibility of Google Drive for Work combined with the file sharing capability of Egnyte were extremely sizeable," said Petrit Rudi, Designvox director of technology.

One of the major attractions was Google's unlimited storage for its Drive for Work accounts, and connecting it with on-premises Storage Sync for Synology from Egnyte.

Egnyte for Google Apps extends Google Drive for Work into a hybrid corporate file server that brings cloud and on-premises file shares together across the entire organisation and centralises admin controls. By putting both products together, the team also has a single interface to view, manage, and access assets, regardless of where they're physically stored.

Google's single sign-on is also a big plus, letting users access all of their Google Apps, including Egnyte, after signing in just once. Collaboration hard-wired into the DNA of the solution was essential because of the sheer number of projects going on at Designvox at any one time; anywhere from 45 to 60. Google's unlimited storage meant the company could quickly push all of its data -- including archived data from backups -- into the cloud. It meant the end of on-site backup storage, which saved the company $5,000 to $10,000 a year, as well as over $200 a month in power bills.

Centralising and expanding

Designvox staff members have used Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides to create over 48,000 documents since the company adopted a hybrid cloud regime in 2012. They're writing and editing almost 20 standard classes of internal documentation.

Then there are all the PDFs, photos, movies, and Adobe Creative Suite projects. Even large files that would normally be prone to latency issues are easily accessible on-premises.

"It's not something we do on the side," said Petrit Rudi. "Egnyte for Google Apps has become the way we work from start to finish. It increases our efficiency, and in turn makes us that much more valuable to our clients. It's changed the whole flow of things tremendously. Whether we need to access a file at an offsite client meeting via phone, tablet, or computer, or stuck at our houses in a snowstorm, it just works."

No longer slowed down by server crashes, restarts, or rebuilds, Designvox systems administrator Jeff Dickinson said the company can focus on helping its clients succeed rather than troubleshooting, which was consuming hours every week.

"Since implementing Egnyte for Google Apps, we haven't had a day where work came to a complete standstill, and in the previous environment, that happened often," he said.

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