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Case Study

Integrated Branding Agency Transforms Legacy Infrastructure with CTERA

Company Background

Glenn Davis Group (GDG) is the second-largest independent branding and design agency in North America. Serving many Fortune 500 clients as well as emerging brands, GDG combines marketing strategy and consumer insights with world-class design to create dominant brand messages that drive business performance.

“One of the greatest challenges facing a design agency is predicating and scaling our storage infrastructure. Images and video files take up lots of space – a single project may require hundreds of them. CTERA’s global file system paired with Wasabi’s object storage delivers on-prem performance to handle the demands of a big project while protecting historical files and stale data in a vast, encrypted cloud container. Add to that mix an elegant web interface for anywhere access to all our information, including endpoint backups, and we have the perfect solution to address the evolving needs of our organization.”

James Payne, Technology Director

The Challenge

With explosive growth in creative digital content and a sprawling infrastructure comprising 48U of data center equipment, GDG’s file storage and backup strategy was at a critical juncture. Its legacy Dell EqualLogic SAN infrastructure was approaching end-of-life, and GDG’s IT team sought a more efficient and scalable way to meet the firm’s storage capacity and backup management needs going forward.

GDG was interested in moving to the cloud, but still had concerns that going full-cloud could be problematic from a performance standpoint. Its creative teams work with massive media files, such as UHD videos, and thus require fast file access and high throughput to efficiently handle their media editing workflows.

Another productivity-driven requirement was to enable GDG’s freelancers and other remote users to access files over the web – and not only via VPN as in its existing solution. This was particularly important for WFH users with standard internet connections.

With business continuity in mind, GDG also wished to improve its backup performance and DR capabilities. Its legacy tape backup solution did not support incremental backups, and data restore times from tape could often take days or even weeks.

The CTERA Solution

To satisfy its requirements for infrastructure consolidation, fast local performance and reduced TCO, GDG decided to replace its legacy infrastructure (Windows file servers and SAN) with CTERA’s cloud-based Global File System.

GDG deployed the CTERA Edge X Series appliance, running on HPE SimpliVity’s hyperconverged platform, at its Toronto headquarters. This edge filer caches frequently accessed files for “local” performance, while offloading cold data to the Wasabi object storage cloud. CTERA’s solution provides GDG with inline deduplication, local high availability and asynchronous cloud replication. Endpoint backup of Mac workstations enables capturing local creative content and protecting media assets at the core.

By harnessing the cloud for file storage, CTERA’s solution allowed GDG to retire nearly 200TB of on-site EqualLogic storage hardware, reducing its datacenter hardware footprint from 48U to 4U.

“As we faced the limitations of our on-premise storage infrastructure, our investigation into cloud and object storage-based platforms culminated in the CTERA global file system, which allowed us to consolidate virtualization, backups, storage, presentation, and sharing into a single solution,” said Kyle Edsall, VP Technology at GDG.

Infrastructure consolidation and the use of low-cost object storage is expected to save costs by eliminating GDG’s constant investments in on-site storage hardware that depreciates over time, as well as reducing datacenter power requirements.

Another key benefit of using CTERA is the added control it gives GDG over their files. All files are updated incrementally in the global filesystem as block-level changes, without the need to upload or download files. This means backup and restore can be performed in an immediate and fully secure manner – even from home. The IT team can roll back and restore individual files, while users can restore files without needing to submit an IT ticket.

The ability to access any file over the web also resulted in improved user performance because designers no longer have to send files over the VPN. “Moving to CTERA object storage gave us a single web-based portal to mount all of our Windows and Mac volumes and give users access over the web. Otherwise, it would have been SMB over VPN for everything, which, depending on your bandwidth, just isn’t a good solution,” said Edsall.

GDG migrated its on-premise storage platform to CTERA’s global filesystem in January 2020. When COVID struck in March, GDG sent everyone home and that same day they were all back up and running on the CTERA platform without major interruptions. In fact, the inherent remote work capabilities in the global filesystem enabled Glenn Davis to boost productivity and gain added agility for its WFH users.

Looking Ahead: Optimizing Media Workflows

By leveraging the cloud, the CTERA solution has helped GDG to future-proof its infrastructure against constantly increasing file sizes and storage growth. The company has plans to implement additional CTERA features, such as advanced macOS interoperability, that will be fundamental for supporting creative content workflows for its 100% Mac user base going forward.

“Beyond enabling us to simplify our IT infrastructure and increase performance, CTERA removes impediments to growth while giving us the hyper-agility we need to make changes on the fly,” said Edsall.

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