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Nasuni cloud NAS services replaces SAN at realty firm

Real estate firm Lewis Group of Companies has adopted Nasuni cloud NAS services to address remote office latency and disaster recovery for file data.

After trying on-premise storage area network (SAN) and network-attached storage (NAS) implementations without the desired results, the Lewis Group of Companies real-estate development firm turned to the cloud to reduce latency for files and enable disaster recovery.

The privately held company installed 33 Nasuni Filers on-premises more than a year ago to service 350 personal computers. The Nasuni Filers handle 8.3 TB on-site and another 8 TB in the public cloud for Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop and other client-level applications. The Lewis Group of Companies joins Nasuni Cloud NAS services -- which include the on-site storage controllers, management and cloud connectivity -- with  Active Directory.

Nasuni Filers cache active data on-premises to provide fast access across 32 remote offices, while the master copy for all data resides in the cloud. Snapshots are also stored in the cloud.

 "The caching ability was really appealing to us," said Michael Viselli, IS project manager at the Lewis Group of Companies, based in Upland, Calif. "All desktop files and photo documents are in the public cloud. We wanted to make sure all the files are available, but we didn't want to replicate everything. It's too expensive."

The Lewis Group of Companies develops residential and commercial property in California and Nevada. The company must provide the ability to access files and collaborate for nearly 500 employees across its offices. Viselli also wanted to ensure availability in the remote offices even if the main office went offline.

"Our goal was to have the 32 offices independent from the main office," Viselli said. "We wanted them to be their own islands."

Viselli said he was looking to increase performance by going to the cloud. Capacity was never an issue.

Prior to Nasuni Corp., the Lewis Group of Companies used a centralized hub-and-spoke infrastructure to provide files to all employees. It worked fine for operations within the central office, but the satellite offices incurred severe latency during file transfers.

The company had a farm of 150 Citrix-based desktops and stored file-level office documents on a clustered HP LeftHand P4500 SAN. The SAN held 18 TB on SATA drives for file-level office documents and 18 TB Serial-Attached SCSI (SAS) drives for Microsoft Exchange and a SQL database.

"The problem we had was it wasn't direct," Viselli said. "Dragging a file across the WAN was hideously slow. The Citrix was cost-effective, but it was less feasible as the files got bigger and everything needed to be faster."

The company also experienced a bigger problem two years ago because of a power outage.

"The whole company was out for two days," Viselli said. "It was pretty ugly."

Viselli said he tested a Buffalo Americas Inc. TeraStation NAS connected to five personal computers before looking at the cloud.

"The [NAS] performance was fine, but the management was hideous," Viselli said. "It was mostly about the permissions and it was a mess. They use a Linux operating system and that is not the same as a Windows manager. Then the RAID controller died and that was the last straw."

He said switching to the Nasuni Filers and hybrid cloud model gave employees fast access to all files in the company file share. The Nasuni cloud NAS services solved the latency problems without requiring any additional infrastructure.

It also solved the disaster recovery problem. Nasuni's cloud NAS services allow the Lewis Group of Companies to take snapshots of the storage infrastructure every five minutes across multiple physical locations, and store them in the cloud. Viselli said the company can recover any file from any location within seconds.

Nasuni sets up the public cloud account for its customers, usually using Microsoft Azure or Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3), because they perform best in its benchmark testing. Viselli said the Lewis Group's data is in Amazon.           

Lewis also is using Nasuni's mobile application to give employees access to the corporate file share directly from their iOS mobile devices. Event staff, for example, can take pictures of a party at a property, place them in the Nasuni app and automatically upload them to the corporate file share for the central office event staff to quickly put online.

"We can now collaborate much easier within our remote offices," Viselli said. "The performance is great and the collaboration is good. If someone loses a file, we have restore points as fast as every ten minutes. We didn't get it for backup, but that has been a great feature that we have been able to use."

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