Boutique law firm Dewey Pegno & Kramarsky wanted increased reliability from its PCs, and partner Stephen Kramarsky didn’t want to be the IT guy any more. They both got what they wanted with an infrastructure optimization to Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows 7, with the assistance of Microsoft Gold Certified Partner eMazzanti Technologies.
Attorneys are accustomed to fulfilling different roles with clients, colleagues, opposing counsel, judges, and others, but “IT manager” shouldn’t be one of them. That, however, is the role in which Stephen Kramarsky, Partner at boutique law firm Dewey Pegno & Kramarsky (DPK), sometimes found himself.
The firm operated on a variety of client operating systems, including several versions of the Windows operating system. On the server side, it ran Red Hat Linux. Maintaining this mixed infrastructure was a challenge. As none of the desktop or laptop computers was locked down, attorneys could easily go onto the Internet and inadvertently download malicious software that would slow, corrupt, or crash their PCs.
That’s where Kramarsky’s informal second job at the law firm came into play. He had served as the de facto IT guy—setting up PCs, updating them, and troubleshooting them—since he had founded the firm in 1998 with two other attorneys.
“Back then, helping my two partners with their PCs wasn’t a big deal,” Kramarsky recalls. “But as we grew to a 25-person firm, the responsibility became a distraction from my real work.”
By 2007, Kramarsky found himself spending several hours a week in his IT role—precious hours that took away from his time with clients. And, given the firm’s billable-hour model, that time was valuable: worth some U.S.$125,000 per year. Both Kramarsky and DPK wanted him devoted full-time to his roles as partner and attorney.
The firm took care of its problem by engaging eMazzanti Technologies, a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner. eMazzanti played a strategic role in helping DPK to design a new IT infrastructure, and then a tactical role in managing that infrastructure on a daily basis with a fixed fee maintenance and support plan, called eCare.
Central to the overhaul of the DPK infrastructure was the replacement of the Red Hat Linux server with Windows Server 2003, which was subsequently upgraded to Windows Server 2008 R2. Kramarsky had been attracted by the Linux no-charge licensing model, but when it came time to reconsider the firm’s server platform, he rejected an expansion of the Linux environment.
“Linux had been a nightmare to keep up-to-date,” he recalls. “And it didn’t offer us the applications we needed as a small business. Linux was not an easy operating system to live with.”
The move to Windows Server made it possible for the firm to adopt Windows Server Terminal Services, now called Remote Desktop Services. With Remote Desktop Services, the personal computers became thin clients for a centrally run operating environment in which all processing takes place, eliminating most, if not all, of the issues generated by the unlocked PCs.
Along with the Windows Server deployment, eMazzanti Technologies helped the firm bring its e-mail system in-house. The hosted UNIX-based e-mail service was replaced with a deployment of Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 and then Exchange Server 2007.
The next step was the creation of a backup and disaster-recovery solution. A backup server was installed to which production servers back up their files every 15 minutes. The backup server, in turn, sends its files on a continuous basis to an offsite disaster-recovery site. The service-level agreement that DPK has with eMazzanti promises that a failed server will be brought back to production status within an hour with the eMazzanti eCare Business Continuity platform.
On the desktop side, DPK and eMazzanti Technologies have begun upgrading computers to Windows 7. Firm members are taking advantage of the new operating system’s intuitive navigation, enhanced power management features, and more.
Kramarsky says that he and his partners and associates are thrilled with the new IT infrastructure at DPK. The most widely noticed improvements are the increased stability of the system and the wide availability of system resources off-site, both of which have led to increased productivity throughout the firm.
“Time when your computer is down is time that you can’t fully service the client,” says Kramarsky. “That problem has virtually gone away because the system is more reliable and because we have it managed remotely for us by eMazzanti.” That, in turn, has allowed Kramarsky to resume his legal work full-time. Both he and the firm are happy with his increased attention to client needs.
The eMazzanti eCare Business Continuity platform, which handles backup and disaster recovery, was put to use for the first time when the server for the firm’s mobile devices crashed. That’s when Kramarsky discovered that the new solution also gave DPK the flexibility to run the server for remote devices as a virtualized server on the same computer that provided the backup. “We gained the flexibility to decide when to purchase a new computer, rather than having to run out and make a purchase,” he says.
The Remote Desktop Services solution was put in place to help make desktop computing more secure and reliable, but it too has had a surprise benefit for the firm. “Because the desktop computers are run remotely from a central server rather than from the desktop machine, attorneys and staff no longer need to be at their computers to access their files and services—they can do so from anywhere there is Internet access,” says Kramarsky.
This means that employees can take care of pressing business on nights and weekends without having to return to the office, as the Remote Desktop Services version of their desktop will display on their home computers just as it displays on their office computers. It will also display on their laptops, giving attorneys security-enhanced, reliable access to everything they need while in court, at depositions, or at a client site.