CATEGORY: Storage/Hardware

REVIEWER: Antonio Valeriano, systems administrator at TD Waterhouse Investor Services, Inc.

BACKGROUND: TD Waterhouse Group, Inc., also known as TD Waterhouse, is the global online financial services firm and provides investors with a broad range of brokerage, mutual fund, banking and other consumer financial products on an integrated basis. In the United States, TD Waterhouse is the only online discount broker to have a retail branch in all 50 states. Worldwide, TD Waterhouse currently services 4.2 million customer accounts in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, Hong Kong, Japan and India.

PLATFORMS: Our IT center is using Compaq and HP hardware, running on a Windows NT version 4 platform.

PROBLEM SOLVED: In the late 1990s, the TD Waterhouse IT staff realized that they would run short on data storage space. At the time, they were storing and accessing the majority of the company's data on magnetic hard disk cache devices. A solution was needed to expand data storage capacity. In addition to fast data access and an economical price per megabyte, TD Waterhouse needed an optical storage solution to comply with new SEC data retention regulations. These regulations mandate the type of data storage media used to archive digital information, requiring a write-once-read-many (WORM) format media that reliably archives data for more than six years. To meet these requirements, TD Waterhouse contacted Plasmon, a leading removable storage vendor through the VAR Digital Storage Solutions. Plasmon recommended a 5.25-inch magneto optical data storage solution. As a WORM format media, magneto optical would comply with the SEC's strict data retention regulations and also meet TD Waterhouse's data access and price criteria.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: With help from Automatic Data Processing (ADP) and Plasmon, the M-52 (52 disk) unit was the first magneto optical library installed in TD Waterhouse's data storage center. As capacity needs grew, three additional magneto optical libraries were installed, including an M-104 (104 disk), M-156 (156 disk). Finally, a huge M-500 (500 disk) was installed and configured by Digital Storage Solutions Inc. with the help of ADP and Plasmon. The libraries, along with the accompanying AllStor ELM storage management software, were managing more than four terabytes of data.

STRENGTHS: Magneto Optical's inherent data durability and integrity guarantees that our data is safe and accessible for the long term. Also, the WORM format satisfies all SEC regulations on data retention. Fast access to data is also a big plus with these units. Plasmon's disk flipping mechanism and solid robotics keep the data accessible in seconds in all but the most demanding environments.

WEAKNESSES: During extremely heavy use periods, the time to data is sometimes slowed by the constant movement of the robotics. Also, we have experienced some data buffering errors.

SELECTION CRITERIA: We knew that Plasmon was a leader in the optical storage industry and initially contacted them to purchase the first magneto optical library. The unit worked so well that we continued to work with Plasmon as our data requirements grew. We chose the magneto optical format because of its inherently robust qualities. Unlike 120mm optical products (CD and DVD), magneto optical is manufactured to be extremely durable and will withstand years of use. It is a true archiving medium that easily complies with the SEC's strict data retention regulations and will keep data secure for more than 30 years.

DELIVERABLES: This product encodes our customers' data onto an exceptionally reliable magneto optical device while allowing our employees fast access to the data from their workstations.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Digital Storage Solutions, with the help of Plasmon, has done a great job in supporting us with the magneto optical libraries. They are very responsive whenever we have a question or problem, and they even call us to check up when we have not been in contact for a while.

DOCUMENTATION: The manuals, data sheets and all documentation are complete and easy to understand. We have been able to rely on the documentation to answer our questions and help us through minor problems.

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