Architectural firm puts giant data files in the cloud

A global architectural firm sees big advantages in putting building design data in a cloud storage service

Perkins and Will, like many other global architectural firms, is struggling to manage ever-growing volumes of information. Data-intensive applications such as building information modeling (BIM) produce enormous files on a regular basis.

The firm, which operates in six countries, has about 150 terabytes of critical data--80% of which is in BIM files of up to 300 megabytes each. And the volume of data is growing fast. In about three years, data volume is expected to reach 400 terabytes, says CIO Murali Selvaraj.

Perkins and Will executives determined in 2013 that traditional storage options could no longer meet the -company's needs. Many of the firm's building projects involved multiple offices, and its architects were spending a lot of time waiting for models to open or to synchronize files with the central office.

In addition, managing data backups at remote locations was costly, labor-intensive and taking up a huge amount of network bandwidth.

The firm was devoting budget not just to internal storage, where demand was growing exponentially, but also to backing up that storage and then creating offsite backups. This all placed a big drain on Perkins and Will's financial and IT resources, Selvaraj says.

The solution was to move data storage to the cloud. The firm deployed a cloud-based storage service from Nasuni to provide primary storage and data protection for its 25 offices. With the service, Perkins and Will estimates it can save more than 50% on backup expenses alone over three years. The firm had been spending more than $1 million on backups per year.

Besides saving the company money, the cloud service enables the firm's employees, such as designers and architects, to easily access and collaborate on files from many locations. "Our clients are global, so we need to stay global and go where our clients are going," Selvaraj says.

Another big plus is scalability. The firm no longer needs to buy additional server capacity whenever demand suddenly rises.

Many companies are concerned about entrusting critical files to the cloud, but Perkins and Will is confident that its data is safe. "Security is not something we take [lightly]," Selvaraj says. "But going to the cloud, we're not afraid of that."

A growing number of organizations are looking into cloud-based storage as a way to handle burgeoning data growth, make data more easily accessible to mobile users, and support disaster recovery, says Gartner analyst Gene Ruth.

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This story, "Architectural firm puts giant data files in the cloud" was originally published by CIO.

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