International Forwarders, Inc.

Founded in 1948, International Forwards, Inc. (IFI) is a full-service international logistics management and customs brokerage firm with clients around the globe. IFI manages imports and exports of products valued in the millions of dollars. It is a wholly owned subsidiary of Odyssey Logistics & Technology.

  • Challenge:

As international shipping costs and complexities have increased, the requirements for precision among IFI's clients have grown along with them. Even small delays or problems can have a huge ripple effect in other parts of the supply chain, which puts enormous pressure on IFI to ensure its systems are always available and working properly when needed.

While there had not been a serious problem to date, after evaluating its then-current technology, IFI recognized that the potential was there.

The ultimate goal was to create a high-availability environment that ensured systems and data could be restored quickly in the event of a failure. With a small IT staff, Bonnie Miley, IT Supervisor for IFI, wanted a long-term solution that would be easy to manage and update.

  • Solution:

For help with finding the right technology, Miley turned to eGroup, a Cisco Premier Partner with whom they had a long-standing relationship. eGroup recommended replacing IFI's six previous servers with two Cisco Unified Computing Systems (UCS) C210 rack servers. Those servers would give IFI higher capacity storage and processing, more importantly, they are optimized for virtualize environments making them easier to manage. In addition, eGroup suggested upgrading the network with two Cisco SG300 ethernet switches with automatic failover further protecting against a loss of system availability.

eGroup also recommended VMware as the virtualization platform and adding EMC Data Domain backup storage appliances to create real-time, electronic data backups that would prevent data loss between tape backups, speed the recovery process and ultimately eliminate the need for tape backups (and the hassle of taking tapes off-site).

  • Results:

The new technology is performing at or above expected levels on all counts keeping systems available for internal users as well as clients while making it easy for the IT staff to manage. Mile is also happy with the speed of Cisco UCS servers and how easily her staff has been able to optimize the servers as IFI's internal requirements change.

On the backup and recovery side, IFI is required to store a backup of its data off-site. That requirements is currently being met by having a physical tape leave the building once a week. But the plan is to move off tape and have the backup transmitted electronically to Odyssey's Data Domain appliance where it can be easily accessed anytime a restore is needed. Should the main side be down for an extended period of time, IFI will also be able to put up servers there and run the business from the parent company's location.

Part of the ability to operate out of headquarters is the fact that IFI and Odyssey are both running the same core technologies (although not necessarily the same models). While it wasn't a requirement, Miley definitely considers the alignment an asset. Miley says the other great asset in the move was eGroup. Their expertise on Cisco UCS, and with virtualization in general, made it a smooth and easy transition.

eGroup is fantastic. They have an excellent technical staff and their service is outstanding. They took the time to understand our needs, as well as where we wanted to go, and they put together a plan to get us there. Once we gave them the go-ahead, it was all implemented quickly and precisely. We couldn't ask for a better partner. - Bonnie Mily, IT Supervisor, International Forwarders Inc.