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WAN optimization helps law firm manage bandwidth

WAN optimization tools helped a national law firm leverage its bandwidth and end the competition between user and backup traffic.

Bandwidth is a hot commodity for Loeb & Loeb, a multi-service national law firm. The firm, headquartered in Los Angeles, was struggling with backup traffic and user traffic running over the same pipe, oftentimes competing for the same bandwidth.

The firm, which connects the LA headquarters to its New York City branch with T3 lines and its Chicago and Nashville branches with T1s, was experiencing slow application performance because of the constant fighting between user and backup traffic. Regular traffic, such as users opening and closing documents and emails, was incredibly slow while data replication was ongoing.

"Working in Chicago, for example, and retrieving and saving documents from LA; it was painful," said Judi Flournoy, Loeb & Loeb's CIO. "It was painfully slow."

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The firm also uses the chatty SQL protocol and Citrix tools for WAN access to applications, along with SAN technology and IP stores for data replication between offices.

Flournoy said Loeb & Loeb needed to optimize its WAN connections to better leverage its bandwidth. The firm looked into WAN optimization tools and solutions to speed backup traffic and alleviate the delays end users suffer when performing such routine tasks as saving and retrieving email and accessing other necessary applications.

In its 2006 network budget, Loeb & Loeb had earmarked some cash for a WAN optimization project, initially deciding on Packeteer Express to thwart degraded performance. But late in the game, the firm evaluated Steelhead appliances from Riverbed. Steelhead's performance bumped Packeteer out of the running, Flournoy said, because Riverbed was more efficient, easier to manage, and used the bandwidth "more cleanly."

After deploying four Steelheads last April, Loeb & Loeb has experienced a 65% overall drop in bandwidth usage, she said, including a 95% reduction for document management and up to a 50% reduction when replicating data for disaster recovery. As for ROI, she couldn't put an exact figure on the savings but noted that "it did save us money." ROI is also evident in end user productivity now that the firm's roughly 500 end users don't have to wait extended periods for documents and messages to open, close and save.

"Where we can measure it, we've seen improvements and reductions," Flournoy said. "We're now getting the most out of the bandwidth we have."

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