Calif. county speeds backups

The Contra Costa County Clerk'Recorder's Office keeps track of the milestones of its 930,000 county residents' lives, from birth to death and everything in between: marriage, court proceedings and property transactions.

All those milestones take up a lot of disk space.

'We never purge or get rid of any documents,' said Barbara Chambers, assistant county recorder. 'If we don't have it, nobody does. We've got data and images going back to 1849.'

In 1997, the office started digitizing files and storing them on an Aviion enterprise server from Data General Corp., later bought by EMC Corp. of Worcester, Mass. The server quickly maxed out at 280G of storage a few years ago, she said.

Not only was the server full, but Data General announced that it would stop providing support for the model, Chambers said.

Chambers consulted with Jim Maclam, president of AtPac of Green Valley, Calif., and designer of the county's Clerk-Recorder Imaging Information System. Also used by 10 other California counties, CRiis is written in a fourth-generation language called CQCS from Cyberscience Corp. of Denver.

The office chose the NS2000 data server, a network-attached storage system from Auspex Systems Inc. of Santa Clara, Calif. The NS2000 can store more than 9T of data, Auspex officials said.

The office's imaging group digitizes about 10,000 pages a day using several M3099 scanners from Fujitsu America Inc. of San Jose, Calif., which save the documents as TIFFs, Chambers said.

'The office kept its Data General thin client devices and PCs,' he said. 'We figure the county has saved at least $375,000 because that's what it would cost to upgrade the whole system.'

Chambers was more impressed with the time the county has saved. With 100 users and more than 6 million records, backup is especially important for the recorder system.

'The Data General servers took two and a half days to back up,' Chambers said. 'With the NAS device, all of our data is backed up in three and a half hours.'

The NS2000 uses Auspex's Snapshot software, which Maclam said takes a picture of the disk mapping, then backs up the disk map offline without getting in the way of users.

The process of installing a new system is not usually a 'delightful' one, but that's the adjective Chambers used to describe the process.

'The whole thing went totally bug-free,' Chambers said. 'Auspex preconfigured everything. They brought it in Friday night. Saturday morning they installed the NAS and migrated all 280G of data to it. Monday morning the staff came in and all our data was available. It was fantastic.'

About the Author

Trudy Walsh is a senior writer for GCN.


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