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I.T.@Womble Carlyle

Getting Connected

Protecting laptops with backup and recovery software.

By Sean Scott

I.T.@Womble Carlyle: Getting Connected IN 1982, Womble Carlyle operated with just one office in Winston-Salem, N.C. Today, the firm's 450 attorneys and 900 support staff work in nine locations across the Southeast from Washington, D.C. to Atlanta. Serving biotech clients and emerging technology companies, Womble Carlyle's culture is one that embraces technology and we often adopt new products even when the payoff is not initially apparent.

Our office technology includes: Microsoft Corp.'s Office 2000 Professional suite and Visio; Hummingbird Ltd.'s DOCSOpen 9.2 and CyberDocs3.9; Captaris Inc.'s RightFax 7.0; Novell Network 5.0; IPRO Tech Inc.'s imaging and scanning products; Summation Legal Technologies Inc.'s Summation 5.22; Bowne & Co. Inc.'s JFS Litigator's Notebook 7; Dataflight Software Inc.'s Con-cordance; Symantec pcAnywhere 9.2 from Symantec Corp.; and Capsoft Development's HotDocs 5.

Hardware includes: Palm Inc.'s organizers (Palm III,Vx and VII); Research in Motion BlackBerries 957/857, Dell Computer Corp.'s GX 110 personal computers and IBM Thinkpad 600E laptops.

We use MCK Communications' 4000/1000 extenders and a PBX Gateway for long-distance calls, and operate a high speed virtual private network to facilitate the transfer of information with Cisco Systems Inc.'s VPN equipment (3005 and 3015 concentrators). Intranets and Extranets provide access to resources such as documents and databases

While these technologies help traverse the distance among the firm's offices, supporting our traveling lawyers is an ongoing challenge for I.T.

Expectations

As Womble Carlyle's attorneys travel across the globe, they expect Web-enabled, reliable access to data. They want the freedom to travel with the accountability associated with dependable computers -- reliability once reserved for desktops. While maintaining a high-performance stationary corporate network has become manageable, our attorneys' high degree of mobility complicates the situation. Because computer crashes waste attorneys' already-limited time, we needed a recovery system that was dependable and fast -- even on the road.

In the past, I.T. responded to a laptop crash by talking travelers through the restore by phone, which often took hours, or by overnighting a CD to restore the system files, or sending a new hard drive.

Because all of these options stymied lawyers' productivity, downtime was a critical issue. These restorations also cost the I.T. department critical hours, resulting in inconvenience and compromised quality of service for the attorneys. We explored ways to expedite the restoration process, and searched for a PC/laptop backup system.

Initial Review

I.T.@Womble Carlyle: Getting Connected Our technology engineering department looked at a number of systems, including Veritas Backup Exec Desktop, Connected TLM from Connected Corp., and in-house options. We determined that several of these tools were adequate for a simple backup/data restore, but Connected offered a more comprehensive, efficient program.

We wanted to be able to backup and restore a complete system, including operating system, applications, data and registry. Connected allows for a complete backup without the need for every client to send duplicate files to the server, thus eliminating large storage requirements.

In our initial screenings, Connected stood out from the pack because of its "self-heal" capabilities: It restores not only files but registry information as well. The software restores an application to working status more quickly than the other programs. So we arranged for a demonstration of Connected.

After deciding to try Connected, we recruited attorneys in our "Technology and Commerce Practice Group" for a 30 to 60 day pilot program. During this pilot we analyzed Connected in various scenarios: backups, restores, and system heals. We even intentionally deleted entire program folders during demonstrations and restored the system to working order. The pilot was so successful that some attorneys complained about surrendering the software.

The Rollout

When it came time to launch the software firm-wide, the only issue we encountered during installation and configuration was in regard to file restrictions. By default, Connected backs up every file on the laptop. Because we back up many client/server applications on servers, we wanted to make sure that Connected did not back up documents needlessly.

We wanted to set up an exclusion list so that Connected backed up the operating system, all applications and associated program files, but not MP3, AVI MPEG, DOC, WordPerfect or other such files that may already be backed up. Connected's technical team helped us create the list and software configuration, which took approximately two weeks.

We rolled out slowly. We first gave the software to the 10 percent of our lawyers who are "power users." This helped us to identify and fix problems before the rest of the firm was brought aboard. We now have Connected on 400 laptops and 50 desktops.

Connected begins by backing up an entire laptop configured on Microsoft's Windows NT 4, which may take 90 minutes to three hours, depending on the laptop's proximity to the Connected server.

Although this sounds very time-consuming, for every machine that shares the same operating system, applications and files as one that has already been backed up, the process speeds up. Instead of replicating the same files, the server only backs up the files that are different on each machine. So, after we reach machine 25 or 35, complete "first-time" backups occur in 20 to 40 minutes. Subsequent backups after the initial ones take five to 10 minutes depending on how many files have changed between backups.

The Results

In many ways, the results of using Connected show up as what we don't see instead of as visible results. We don't see hours-long phone sessions with traveling attorneys. Attorneys don't see files that cannot be retrieved. Attorneys don't see lots of time spent to back up their files. In fact, Connected has been so non-invasive for our end users, attorneys often don't notice it. When they do use it, the restore is usually quick, simple and painless.

On a more measurable level, Connected creates reports that show the number of restores and of machines being backed up, average disk space being backed up and the duration of backups and restores.

Based on these reports and the disk space used, we found Connected's backup to be much more efficient than we had anticipated. We expected that we would be much closer to using all of the 80 GB hard disk space and all of the 12 tapes used to archive data after installing the product on 400 machines. But, in actuality, the system has used only a third of the disk space and one half of the tapes. For a growing law firm such as ours, Connected's scalability is an added benefit.

Sean Scott is chief information officer for Womble Carlyle, and is based in Winston-Salem, N.C.

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