The combination of Rubrik technology and a wrap-around managed service from ADP has given Ward Hadaway complete confidence in the success of its back-ups and recovery
Ward Hadaway, one of the North of England’s largest law firms, has cut the amount of time IT staff spend on data management by 95%, reduced its data centre footprint by 80% and achieved 50% faster backups after implementing a managed backup service from Assured Data Protection.
Established in 1988, Ward Hadawayis one of the largest full-service law firms in the North of England, with 93 partners, almost 500 staff and offices in Newcastle, Leeds and Manchester.
Like any modern law firm, it relies on IT to provide its regional, national and international clients with a high quality, consistent service, underpinned by accreditations with Investors in People, ISO9001, ISO27001, Cyber Essentials and Cyber Essentials Plus.
Ward Hadaway’s 11-person IT team, covering Facilities, Infrastructure, Projects, Applications, Training and Service Desk, is responsible for implementing the four main objectives of the company’s IT strategy – to improve IT infrastructure; to increase efficiency; to maintain and improve security and compliance; and cloud migration.
The latter is a gradual, on-going process, as Director of IT and Facilities Jonny Smith explains: “We currently and historically have always relied on ‘on-premise’ infrastructure. However, we are very aware that cloud services are becoming more and more popular, cost- effective and easy to manage. We have taken the approach to look at each service on its own merits and at the right time move that particular service to a cloud- based infrastructure.
“We have a cloud-hosted IT Service Desk and cloud-hosted HR and Payroll system and will initially be focussing on adopting Microsoft 365 technology for Teams, Exchange, SharePoint and desktop applications, before reviewing cloud services offered by more traditional legal vendors such as practice management and document management.”
For the time being, Ward Hadaway has approximately 150 servers at any one time, of which 98% are VMs and the remaining 2% are physical. Together, these servers store approximately 25 to 30TB of data.
Backup and DR
Backing up this data effectively is essential for a legal firm that prides itself on the service it provides clients and its compliance with data security regulations and accreditations. As part of its strategy to ‘maintain and improve security and compliance’, Ward Hadaway recently implemented a new backup and DR solution from Assured Data Protection (ADP).
Previously, Ward Hadaway had an in-house solution with replication to another site that, according to Rob Mackle, Managing Director, EMEA/APAC at Assured Data Protection, was expensive and time- consuming to manage, unreliable and no longer fit for purpose.
“Like a lot of companies, Ward Hadaway have a production site and a DR site, and often the DR site is not the same spec and doesn’t have the same horsepower and compute as the production site, so if you do invoke DR, or even try and run a DR test, you won’t have enough power and performance to do it. Even if you do get your systems back, you can’t run your entire environment, so it is a flawed platform. To do it properly is extremely expensive, not just the hosting and the power and the connectivity and the manpower but also the hardware, the licensing et cetera. It is expensive to have your own dedicated DR platform.”
For Iain Richardson, Infrastructure Manager at Ward Hadaway, the shortcomings of the firm’s old system, notably its slowness and unreliability, were placing a big burden on the Infrastructure team and raising concerns not just about the viability of the backups but also the speed and effectiveness of replication.
“We replicated to an offsite data centre, to VMWare hosts that had been repurposed from the previous main infrastructure refresh, which meant lower specification hosts on very old hardware. This meant that replications were slow and backup failures were common. Snapshot stun (where back-ups can cause a freeze or a stun on the production environment) meant that replications affected our production server performance, so replications could only be run out of hours alongside the backups. This increased the amount of failures, due to jobs occasionally clashing.
“All of the above meant that meeting the firm’s RTO/RPO became increasingly difficult. The older, lower specification hardware also meant that these systems would perform significantly worse than the live infrastructure if we had to fall back to them.”
Ward Hadaway started considering alternative backup and DR solutions, including Zerto and VMWare, before settling on a combination of Rubrik technology and an ADP managed service for backup, backup archiving, DR and replication.
Major attractions of the proposed solution included:
*Ease of install
*Ease of use
*Lack of snapshot stun
*Ease of restore
*Annual DR test Included
*Managed service DR invocation
*No extra cost to spin up VMs
*Daily reports, including remediation for failed jobs
*Reduced IT management time
ADP’s Rob Mackle points out that as well as being more efficient, this new solution has removed the burden of managing DR tests from Ward Hadaway’s IT team and given them the confidence that they will be able to recover their data in its entirety should they ever be required to do so.
On-premise and hosted
“Ward Hadaway has three different locations – Newcastle, where the majority of their data resides, Leeds and Manchester. We have given them a Rubrik cluster on premise, which backs up everything locally inside their network, encrypts it, compresses it and, most importantly, stores it on an immutable platform. The important thing then, to ensure they are compliant, is to get that data off-site to the Rubrik cluster in our primary UK data centre. Encrypted data is sent across the internet incrementally to our UK data centre.
“Because we have their data sitting in our data centre, we can recover it very, very quickly. We do an annual DR test for them where we recover everything in a known and logical manner. We run what we call a run book; we understand what needs to come back first and, essentially, we script it; we automate the recovery of DR where possible to make it quicker and remove human intervention. We do that all for them as a service, so Ward Hadaway don’t have to worry about doing the DR test themselves; we do it for them, give them secure access, then they test it. That’s what companies like them really like, because they just don’t have the time or necessarily the skills to do it themselves.”
Mackle adds that by wrapping a fully managed service around the Rubrik backup and data protection solution, ADPenables Ward Hadaway to get maximum benefit from the technology.
“We do things like monitoring the backups 24/7. If we see a problem, we will report it, tell the customer and then fix it with them or for them, depending on their preference. We want customer backups to be 100% successful every day. In reality, backups fail, normally not because of the backup software but because of the customer’s environment. Things happen, passwords change, networks go down. The most important thing is seeing it, responding to it, fixing it and showing we have a clean copy of the customer’s backups.”
Ward Hadaway’s Iain Richardson is delighted with the results so far, which include 50% quicker backups; an 80% smaller data centre footprint, from reductions in hardware, storage, connectivity and so on; and a 95% reduction in management time.
“Our IT Team management time has been reduced immeasurably; our Snapshot stun has all but disappeared; SQL log backups are replicated offsite numerous times per day, including production hours; backup jobs finish comfortably in their window; RTO and RPO can now be accurately determined; a single file restore has been reduced from 30 mins to 30 seconds, which sounds
like a minor thing but has resulted in huge time savings; Forever Incremental Jobs mean that once an initial job has been completed all further jobs just copy changes, again a huge time saver – I could go on!”
He adds: “We are so happy with our backup and DR strategy with Assured. The combined saving on data management time, backup speeds and reduction on our data centre footprint has been beyond what we expected. So, our plan for the future is just to continue with what we’re doing!”