Evaluating Litigation Support Storage and Architecture

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In 2011, according to an IDC research poll, over 1.8 zettabytes (1.8 trillion gigabytes) of information was created and replicated.  Almost eighty percent of the information transmitted across law firm servers today is litigation related.

With so much data being created and replicated within the law firm environment for litigation related matters it is time to tame the tiger and institute governance over litigation support data.  Governing litigation support data will necessarily mean evaluating storage and architecture, information organization and connectivity, security and policy.

Consider these questions to determine the best storage system and architecture for litigation support:

  • Does your litigation support center process electronically stored information (ESI)?
  • If processing inhouse, what ESI types are processed, how much quantity, and with technologies?
  • Should a new storage system and architecture be considered?
  • If a new system is contemplated, then should litigation support be moved to a co-lo facility?
  • Should more storage be added to an existing system?
  • Is it possible to re-mediate storage to recover space rather than adding more storage?
  • Will it be necessary to re-mediate litigation support data in order to move to a new system?

Understanding the three primary storage technologies DAS, NAS, and SAN and their architecture

Data is unquestionably the lifeline in today’s digital organization; this is true for the legal organization (particularly litigation support).  Storage solutions remain a top priority in IT budgets precisely because the integrity, availability and protect of data are vital to business productivity and success.  Litigation support is the largest consumer of storage in a law firm environment.

Several storage options exist today to support various needs of the small, medium and enterprise level business.  The three primary options are:

Direct Attached Storage (DAS)

Direct Attached Storage (DAS) as the name suggests involves the direct connection of services to storage.  This can either be with the use of an internal server disk controller with either internal or external drivers, or with a completely external storage subsystem that includes the controller and disk.  The main characteristic of DAS is that the storage connection from the server to the storage is hard-connected.  This connection is typically through a direct SCSI cabled connection.

Network Attached Storage (NAS)

Network Attached Storage (NAS) is the storage attached to the network – the common Ethernet network.  A NAS is essentially a file server storage that often integrates an optimized operating system dedicated to file sharing.  Optimized OS means designed to serve files to multi-protocal and multi-platforms.  All the processing is done locally on the NAS whereas client only demands it.  This is basically a cooked system – it can be used out of the box.  One major difference with NAS is that it provides file-level I/O via traditional CIFS and NFS network file shares, while DAS and SAN provide block-level I/O.  NAS devices are fairly easy to implement and offer storage consideration and file sharing of data over a standard Ethernet network.

Storage Area Network (SAN)

Storage Area Network (SAN) are the back-end storage networks that connect multiple hosts through a switched fabric such as Fibre Channel of iSCSI.  A SAN provides flexibility for “carving” out storage for multiple servers where the servers can be spread out across a data center.  A typical SAN is configured with multiple switches and multiple server Host Bus Adapters (HBA) to create a high-availability storage configuration and various RAID solutions are used to protect data at the disk level.   Buidling a SAN is more expensive than DAS or NAS and requires expertise with specific hardware and software used to configure the SAN.  A SAN should be considered when supporting many servers as part of an overall data center storage design concept.  The real strength of a SAN is that storage can be assigned and later reassigned as needed to support the changing needs of specific servers.  This results in the efficient use of storage and minimizes unused storage capacity for a given server.  SAN allows for better resource capacity utilization by sharing server growth space.  SAN also allow servers to boot directly from the SAN.  This allows new servers to access LUNs on faulty servers, thereby restoring system functionality without losing data.

Best Model for Litigation Support may be Architecture of Fibre Channel SAN, Server Attached Storage, Database Block Access Model for Primary Activities

In a Fibre Channel SAN there is a low latency and high performance characteristics of the traditional proven model b’cos of the dedicated I/O network.  This is a huge benefit in litigation support with so many transactions per day.  You also have the flexibility of a networking solution with distance, sharing and multiple-host connectivity.  Again, three important features for today’s scalable litigation support infrastructure.


Advantages of SAN for Primary Litigation Support Services

1  Storage sharing among two or more host systems is possible.

2  Storage can be physically located further away from host systems.

3  Storage can be brought on-line and reconfigured dynamically.

4  Backups can be simplified.

5  It is possible to expand and add more positives.

6  Workload is off-loaded from LAN networks.

7  Postpone or delay updates and improve performance of LANs.

8  No extra steps involved in performing I/O to reduce latency.

9  Full redundant hardware RAID with mirrored cache.

10 Integration with volume managers and other storage utilities is possible.

11 Support for RAW volumes for Oracle and other applications.

12 Dynamic storage allocation and expansion can be done.

13 Variable I/O size, RAID levels and other performance enhancement tools available.

14 Hardware RAID offloads server from RAID operations and disk drive rebuilds.


Four Key Requirements for Litigation Support Storage and Architecture

To effectively support required litigation support work spaces these four requirements should be considered:

  • Consolidate data onto a single platform that combines file-level control with block-level functionality
  • Maximize disk resources for unified storage by separating allocation from utilization with thin provisioning
  • Ensure file and block data is always in tune with application needs with automated tier storage
  • Streamline data backup and recovery with space-efficient Replays (continuous snapshots) and thin replication


Required Litigation Support Workspaces

Litigation support will require several work spaces to deliver its services.  The following spaces should be considered and architected across the storage environment to deliver the best quality service for users of litigation support and the unit itself.  The three major work spaces include:

1  Preservation – original client evidence, compressed and password protected, should be maintained in pristine (unspoliated) condition;

2  Work in Progress – working copy data of pristine evidence/information may be manipulated, analyzed or “processed”;

3  Results Work Area – results area is where customer/client uses information, or may create additional content themselves



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