NAS Solves FISH-y Problem
Heard of FIFO (first in, first out) and LIFO (last in, first out)? How about FISH (first in, still here)? This integrator made a $136,000 sale by catching a county clerk's FISH.
Located in the San Francisco Bay area, Contra Costa County is the ninth most populous county in California. Steve Weir, the county clerk-recorder, is the archivist for all real property records, such as grant deeds, deeds of trust, and reconveyance. The county clerk-recorder office uses an information inventory system called FISH (first in, still here). This means that it never deletes image records, but continues to add them to its online imaging storage system. In Contra Costa County, the county clerk-recorder office processes over 1,000 multi-page documents per day or about 100 GB of data to storage per year. The office processes all recorded documents using digital high-speed scanners. It also provides copies of documents to interested parties and has an online request system.
What To Do At End Of Life?
When the county's CLARiiON RAID (redundant array of independent disks) system, directly attached to a Data General AViiON server, was originally installed, it was sized for the expected life of the system. At the end of the product life cycle, Weir knew that the system would have to be either augmented or replaced. The cost to maintain the old system as an image file server exceeded the cost of augmentation or replacement. The new solution replaced the RAID arrays with NAS (network attached storage) and reconfigured the Quantum DLT7000 tape library to improve its 14-hour backup sessions.
The clerk-recorder office was already using solutions from AtPac, Grass Valley, CA, an integrator providing automation systems to government offices since 1984. AtPac had previously implemented its CRiis (Clerk-Recorder Imaging Information System), DocUment Advantage software, and PO$-4-GOV Enterprise Cashiering System for the office.
NAS Handles File Management, Maintenance, And Retrieval
Weir asked Jim Maclam, AtPac's president and CEO, to find a solution for the multitude of image files. After a site visit to obtain information on the network configuration and application software interface, Maclam recommended a NAS solution. NAS would reduce management time, decrease maintenance costs, and speed up image file retrieval for the county.
AtPac identified Auspex, EMC, and Dell as possible vendor candidates for the NAS solution. The county then solicited quotes from the vendors and with selection criteria based on price, performance specifications, and company sales and support staff, they decided on the Auspex NS2000 NAS device.
Image Movement Prime Concern
Once the network environment, the physical environment (power and climate), and application features were evaluated, the NAS device was pre-configured to meet the application and network needs. This step took about four hours for one AtPac employee. On a Saturday, AtPac uncrated the hardware and tested it. The main concern during the subsequent installation was the image file move. With the NAS device and the Data General server online, AtPac moved more than 230 GB of image files over the network from the server to the NAS. "We did an initial benchmark on the time it took to move images on one 100 MB network connection and then mirrored that operation on three more connections," said Maclam.
The on-site time was about six hours for three people. The image move was completed on the weekend, and the system administration training was completed on-site while images were being moved. On Monday, the county performed an image file audit to insure that all images were moved and accessible. During the audit, the named images in the database were compared to the stored image files and vice-versa.
VAR Measures Success With Standard
Maclam uses several factors to measure success in the government service sector. "We use the AT-AAA acronym - accurate, timely, accessible, accountable, and affordable all wrapped in reliability." He refers to this as the "At Triple A" standard. In addition to providing Weir with accurate information by giving him several vendors to choose from, the equipment and services were provided within the deadline period. AtPac provided access to image files and was able to account for all the data and the performance specifications on-site and in front of the customer. The cost of the installed system with UPS (uninterruptible power supply) and consulting to move images and training was about $136,000, which was less than the solutions proposed by the competing vendors.
Auspex reconfigured the county's existing Quantum tape drive to work with the new storage solution, and the backup process then shrank from 14 hours to only 4 hours. As for future enhancement, Weir plans to revamp the Contra Costa County clerk-recorder office enterprise backup strategy to even further incorporate the speed of the Auspex backup features. Additionally, he intends to employ the retired Data General server as a fail-over server for the office's present database server.