Brokerage firm speeds up data transfers

A small Toronto brokerage firm’s problems with replicating large files between two offices were finally solved when a consulting firm recommended installing Windows Server 2003 R2.

Mitchell Sandham Inc., a 40-year-old independent insurance and financial services brokerage firm, captures many documents in electronic form — including, since the beginning of this year, all of its policy documents. The problem, says Norm Sandham, president of Mitchell Sandham, was with transferring these files between a satellite office in Mississauga, Ont., and the firm’s downtown Toronto headquarters.

Files stored on disk at the Mississauga office are replicated to the Toronto office for backup and to make them accessible to staff at both offices, explains Brian Bourne, president of CMS Consulting Inc., which provides IT services to Mitchell Sandham. Even though the firm had installed a separate Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) line to handle the replication, transfers still took too long.

“I had operators that were very frustrated because of this slowness of the system and because of the connection being dropped,” says Sandham.

Bourne says the root of the problem lay in two things. One was the inability to control when replication took place. With the previous release of Windows Server 2003, once files were added or changed they were replicated to the remote system on the next scheduled replication — which happens every 15 minutes.

The company had tried to manage the replication traffic manually, Sandham says, “but you can’t manage that like you need to.”

The second problem was that even a small change to a large file meant the entire file would be copied over the ISDN connection to the distant office.

Windows Server 2003 R2 fixed those problems, Bourne says. The new release improves replication management, so the file transfers can be paced to avoid large spikes in traffic. It also does “delta replication” — making a small change to a large file with only the change replicated. That dramatically reduced the amount of replication traffic, Bourne says. “Especially when you’re talking about a small change to a large document, it’s a big difference.”

Bourne says his firm was aware of the new replication features in R2 and moved quickly to install the operating system upgrade within a couple of weeks of its commercial release in February.

The resulting reduction in replication bandwidth needs was enough that Mitchell Sandham has been able to dispense with its separate ISDN connection between the Toronto and Mississauga offices and run the file replication traffic over its main connection between the two locations, without affecting the speed of other communication between the offices. Eliminating the ISDN line has saved the brokerage firm money, Sandham says, and the file replication is also faster than before.

Bourne says Windows Server 2003 R2 brings a few other benefits to Mitchell Sandham, such as its File Server Resource Manager, a set of tools for storage management and reporting. This new feature in R2 helps the firm understand what files are taking up space on its servers, what data has not been changed in a long time, and so forth, he says.

Microsoft Corp. announced general availability of Windows Server 2003 R2 on February 1.


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