CATEGORY: Storage

REVIEWER: Brett S. Pasternak, LAN team leader for the Bekins Company.

BACKGROUND: The Bekins Company, founded in 1891, is a single-source transportation, distribution and relocation services company with clients all over the world. Its specialized divisions do everything from moving household goods to warehousing to providing logistics support for e-tailers such as goodhome.com and myhome.com.

PLATFORMS: Snap Server 4000 runs on IBM S/390, Compaq ProLiant servers and Cisco routers.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Every business day Bekins generates more than 10,000 documents, creating an enormous archiving problem for our IT department. Until recently, we had stored these documents on microfiche and retained them for seven years to meet federal regulations. However, finding even recent documents could sometimes take two weeks. We solved the problem by creating an online database of these images using a Mobius imaging system that digitized and stored documents on an IBM S/390 mainframe computer. However, at the rate we were scanning documents, the mainframe's DASD storage filled up within 90 days. We solved our storage problem, in large part, with Snap Server 4000. As mainframe DASD approaches a threshold, large file blocks are transferred to a Compaq ProLiant 5500 server. As the NT server's storage capacity fills up, files are sent to the Snap Server 4000, freeing disk capacity at the front end and preventing the mainframe DASD from choking. Approximately once a month, we move the data down the line to the Snap Server. We specify which file blocks should be moved, and the software does the rest.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: The Snap Server 4000 functions just like any other server on our network, but at a fraction of the setup time of our NT server. The Snap Server gives us the data protection of RAID 5, as does our Compaq NT server. We expect to buy an additional Snap Server every six months. Even if we continue buying servers at this rate for seven years, the total cost for all them will still be less than half what it would have cost us for an optical system consisting of a jukebox, media and supporting software.

STRENGTHS: The Snap Server offers an affordable alternative to a multithousand dollar Windows NT server or an optical jukebox-based solution. Another significant strength is the fact that unlike standard NT servers, the Snap Server doesn't have to be configured. It can be used instantly. When we saw how easily the Snap Server 4000 integrated with our existing software, we knew this was a better solution.

WEAKNESSES: The data capacity could be higher. Furthermore, it is a 100 megabit system on a 200 megabit fast ether-channel ethernet. We have yet to notice that its slower communication speed has had any negative performance impact.

SELECTION CRITERIA: We were looking for a
system that would be substantially less expensive than the alternatives. We looked at buying an optical jukebox-based system. The jukebox cost $50,000 and required an additional investment of $20,000 for optical media and $25,000 for hierarchical storage management (HSM) software. Finally, we saw a demonstration of the Snap Server 4000 at a trade show. The server's operating simplicity, the 83GB of capacity in RAID 5 configuration and the price tag of under $3,000 exceeded our expectations. After evaluating a sales representative's system, we knew we found our solution.

DELIVERABLES: We can attach a Snap Server to the Bekins network in roughly two minutes. It automatically synchronizes with our network protocols and waits for the system administrator to give the configuration instructions. Large batches of files can be moved from the NT server to the Snap Server through a simple file transfer command, allowing our staff to instantly view selected documents online.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Support has been very good from the moment we contacted the vendor to evaluate the system. I viewed the server on
a Thursday at an exhibit hall. I called the salesperson on the following Tuesday and had a demo unit brought to my location on Wednesday by a technician. We had it up and running in two minutes.

DOCUMENTATION: The documentation is extremely clear, but you hardly need to use it because the Snap Server does so many things automatically to integrate into the network.

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