Like many other companies, engineering company Wright-Pierce had to deal with growing pains as it expanded from a one-office outfit to a multisite organization.
Wright-Pierce, based in Topsham, Maine, had problems ensuring that geographically dispersed engineers and office workers were able to collaborate on documents in an efficient manner. The solution? Deploy Riverbed Technology Inc.s Steelhead appliances.
Company Branches Out
According to Ray Sirois, IT manager for Wright-Pierce, “The reason why Riverbed Technologys Steelhead appliances got our attention is that we recently migrated from being a one-office company to a five-office company.”
Wright-Pierces expansion was completed earlier this year, “and we were having growing pains,” Sirois said.
Users had problems sharing large documents—primarily engineering files on specific projects and also companywide specification documents—while maintaining revision control, according to Sirois.
Previously, the company relied on an elaborate checkout scheme to keep files intact. Sirois asked his CAD people to check out and download files via FTP instead of opening files directly over the WAN. When users complied, they were able to reduce unproductive time, Sirois said.
However, some workers held on to files and didnt go through the checkout process, which harmed the integrity of the shared files, according to Sirois. There were times when people needed to access a file, and if the file was checked out, it created problems for users and unnecessary delays for time-sensitive projects, he said.
Wright-Pierce has solid WAN links between the new remote offices—in Portland, Maine; Portsmouth, N.H.; Richmond, Vt.; and Middletown, Conn.—and the corporate headquarters in Topsham. However, file access and revisions became a thorny issue as the company expanded, according to Sirois.
Even with T-1 links, Wright-Pierces office workers were waiting 20 to 30 minutes to access remote files, said Sirois, then waiting an additional 20 minutes to save changes.
Hoping to get a handle on document revisions while also lowering wait times, the company installed a Steelhead 500 in the Portland office on a trial basis. Deployment took a couple of hours, according to Sirois.
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The results have been impressive: With “warm” (that is, populated with working data) Steelhead appliances in place, Wright-Pierce workers can now get nearly instantaneous access to files stored at the home office and update them quickly, Sirois said.
With the major files stored at one site, it has become easier for Sirois to protect his companys data while providing a single place for his users to search for data.
With data centralization at a single site, user productivity will likely increase because there will be a single, master data repository from which to retrieve data, eliminating the need to search for documents in several places.
The company is performing trend analysis to figure out which Steelhead appliances will be used at Wright-Pierces other branches.
Sirois said that users have been happy with the solution so far and that he believes the other branches will be quick to adopt the Riverbed Technology solution when they see how much easier it makes their work process. However, it was too early to estimate a return on investment for the product, he said.
Steelhead appliances range from $5,995 for the Steelhead 500 device, which has a capacity of 40GB, to $39,995 for the Steelhead 5000, with a capacity of 512GB.
Looking into the future, Wright-Pierces need for the Steelhead appliances will likely increase as the company expands its use of aerial photography in planning its engineering projects. Aerial photographs, which can range in size from 10MB to 30MB, offer a wealth of useful information but are difficult to move around on a WAN.
“We wanted to make sure that our CAD files worked well over the network,” Sirois said. “We are working aggressively to try to solve the WAN problems that come with having large file types.”
Senior Analyst Henry Baltazar can be contacted at email@example.com.
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