RHTLaw Taylor Wessing ensures business continuity as it innovates with technology

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"No one can guarantee the infrastructure - it can fail. That is why we needed a disaster recovery (DR) solution" - Azman Jaafar, Deputy Managing Partner, RHTLaw Taylor Wessing

Challenges: RHTLaw Taylor Wessing prides itself on being an innovative and technology-driven law firm, and is building an IT Infrastructure that will enable it to “force multiply” what it does, said Deputy Managing Partner Azman Jaafar. Starting with a simple file server and terminals, it has gone on to implement software for practice management, document management and document versioning as well as other enterprise solutions for accounting and customer relationship management. It has also invested in virtualization to optimize the use of its hardware resources. One of the goals of the firm’s IT strategy is to give its lawyers remote access to work, enabling them to use a Wifi connection or mobile data dongle to access corporate email, the filing system, practice management system and even to retrieve bills. The firm is also looking to give clients access to more information ranging from case files to accounting records. With these developments, the IT infrastructure becomes critical. “When you start moving in that direction, a lot of importance is placed on the reliability of the infrastructure,” said Azman. “It becomes so integrated that the moment there is a failure, it affects everything.”

The firm, which runs most of its IT operations in-house, is aware of the ever-present possibility of system failure or events such as flash fires which could destroy critical systems in its server room. To protect its business applications and data, it ran a traditional backup and restore solution on a local server. While this allowed it to re-start its systems in the event of failure, setting up a new server could easily take one or two weeks. Ideally, it should be able to recover from any system failure within a day, said Azman. “No one can guarantee the infrastructure - it can fail. So the only way to work towards any viable solution is to make sure that there is a contingency plan. That is why we needed a disaster recovery (DR) solution,” said Azman.

Selection: In sourcing for a DR solution, RHTLaw Taylor Wessing looked at two options - storage replication and data replication. Storage replication involved replicating its systems from one storage area network (SAN) to another and integrating this with VMware Site Recovery Manager (SRM). With this approach, one of the concerns that the firm had was with hardware lock-in. “In all likelihood, if we had SAN-to-SAN application, I believe we would have been stuck with one vendor.” With data replication and the use of Disaster-Recovery-as-a-Service (DRaaS) proposed by ICONZ-Webvisions (iWV), the firm would be able to avoid this issue. Another important consideration for the law firm was the perceived reliability of the DR solution. “At the end of day, we wanted to go with a service provider that was more focused on our requirements,” said Azman iWV, which was formed with the merger of leading Singapore web hosting company Webvisions and New Zealand-based cloud company ICONZ in 2006, had a strong reputation as an IT service provider. Through its partnership with Pacific Internet, it provided RHTLaw Taylor Wessing with the assurance that the firm’s applications and data would be housed in a dedicated server farm in a purpose-built data centre, alleviating concerns over events such as fires and electrical trips. It was also able to convince RHTLaw Taylor Wessing that it was doing its utmost to ensure that the service was reliable and the data and applications were secure. “In IT, nothing is watertight. It is a question of how much effort goes into preventing something from happening. No one can guarantee that you will not get hacked, but you can take certain steps to make sure that it is less likely to happen,” said Azman. iWV was also competitive in the pricing of its services, offering the law firm a cost-effective solution tailored to its needs.

Solution: iWV’s DRaaS for enterprises is based on Zerto, an enterprise-class virtual replication solution that can handle both VMware and Hyper-V environments. The service also includes a built-in Linux utility for the backup of RHT’s Affinity server which runs its financial applications, Microsoft SQL Mirroring for database backup, and secure connectivity provided via a virtual private network. The iWV DRaaS enables the law firm to rapidly restore its business applications and data by falling over to a dedicated virtualised environment according to its DR requirements determined by the Recovery Time Objective (RTO) and Recovery Point Objective (RPO). The project kicked off in March 2015 and took about six months - from in-depth requirements gathering and design to phased implementation and testing. In all, about 6TB of data was replicated as well as applications for accounting, practice management, customer relationship management, document management and versioning.

Benefits: DR is of critical importance to RHTLaw Taylor Wessing, and what iWV’s DRaaS does is to provide the firm with a cost-effective solution to address its DR needs, without having to invest in additional in-house hardware or manpower expertise. 

  • Addresses critical need for DR -  With RHTLaw Taylor Wessing’s IT infrastructure, applications and data so tightly integrated into its everyday operations, it is almost impossible to put a figure on the importance of DR to the firm, said Azman. “We have to look at the entire picture – the pervasiveness of our IT infrastructure and how we handle our work every day. If the system is down for three days, and if within these three days you have a closing and you cannot close because all your documents are locked up, what are you going to say? It is unimaginable. There is a certain amount of pain that we are trying to avoid.”
  • Cost - effective - The iWV DRaaS offers the law firm a more cost-effective solution compared with SAN-to-SAN replication, with the latter due to complex integration and expensive licensing involved.
  • No vendor lock-in - The DRaaS approach enables the law firm to do away with high capital investments in a proprietary SAN-based solution and make use of commodity hardware instead for its DR needs, thus avoiding vendor lock-in.
  • Manpower savings - With a DRaaS subscription, RHTLaw Taylor Wessing does not have to invest in additional manpower for DR and can better deploy its existing IT professionals to more mission-critical tasks. iWV provides ongoing DR operations support which includes monitoring the DR replication, troubleshooting, and carrying out DR simulation or a full-scale DR exercise in coordination with the law firm and its application vendors. RHT does not have to worry about the hardware platform on the DR site or the DR software solution that is used, as these are provided as part of the service. This allows RHTLaw Taylor Wessing’s IT team to focus on the firm’s core IT needs - supporting their business applications and serving their end users.
  • Scalable - RHTLaw Taylor Wessing is embarking on plans to go entirely digital and as it progresses on this journey, iWV provides the firm with a DR approach that can be scaled easily as its applications and data – and hence its DR needs - grow. With the traditional local backup solution that RHT had in place, or even with the SAN-based approach, the firm would have had to acquire additional hardware or software as its DR needs grew. With the DRaaS, VM replication acts as the base platform that allows easy adding for future and new workloads with a few simple clicks.

RHTLaw was established in 2011 when a group of lawyers led by Rajan Menon and Tan Chong Huat came together with the aim of building a local international law firm. Since its formation, it has grown rapidly and is the sixth largest law firms in Singapore. In 2012, RHTLaw became a member of Taylor Wessing, an international grouping of independent law firms, and its name was changed to RHTLaw Taylor Wessing LLP. It further strengthened its international footprint when it embarked on an ASEAN Plus strategy, partnering with leading law firms in Southeast Asia and North Asia to offer clients practical country experience. With this development, RHTLaw Taylor Wessing now gives clients access to a network of over 1,800 legal professionals across 26 offices in Asia, the Middle East and Europe.