OmniCenter Helps Broad and Cassel Law Firm Upgrade Its IT Infrastructure to Improve Service to Clients

ORGANIZATION

  • Broad and Cassel, Attorneys at Law

INDUSTRY

  • Legal Services

LOCATIONS 

  • Nine offices throughout Florida

APPLICATIONS 

  • Enterprise-Wide Network Management
  • Fault Monitoring and Alerts
  • Performance Management
  • Server Management
  • End-User Application Management and Monitoring
  • Virtualization Management
  • VoIP Management
  • Traffic Analysis and Audit Trails

NETREO PRODUCTS 

  • OmniCenter® Enterprise™
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“With OmniCenter, I can make informed decisions, take the money I am saving in one area and put it where it is really needed. My users have better performance, and I’m not spending any more.”
David Michel, Broad and Cassel Law Firm

EMPHASIS ON SERVICE AND RESULTS

The Broad and Cassel law firm was founded in 1946 by Alvin Cassel and Shepard Broad. The two partners created a full-service business law firm, now with more than 170 lawyers in nine offices, all in the state of Florida.

While originally focused on real estate and banking, the firm has expanded into health care, transportation and infrastructure, public finance, and business litigation. It has organized itself into 25 practice groups serving a full spectrum of clients.

The firm prides itself on establishing personal relationships with clients, and finding innovative approaches to solutions. Its use of technology to meet these standards has been an integral part of its operations.

MAJOR INFRASTRUCTURE UPDATE

Technology has always been a key component of Broad and Cassel’s service provision, but that technology had become a dated collection of diverse systems. When David Michel, Director of Technology Services, assumed responsibility for Broad and Cassel’s technology infrastructure in 2015, he found systems that were not standardized, with old procedures in place, and a telephone system that needed a refresh.

In a move considered bold in the technology world, Michel implemented a “forklift update” where entirely new systems were quickly put in place and integrated in a short period of time. Admittedly, this was an aggressive strategy, but Michel found it necessary.

“No one internally knew how to manage the phone technology, and it was expensive to run,” Michel said. “We installed new systems for PC management, new switches and routers, a brand new VoIP system, new support hardware and servers, and updated operating systems. This extensive upgrade involved about 215 devices with a total of 350 system users, and we needed monitoring for everything to ensure the health of our networks and infrastructure.”

To monitor all the new systems, Michel selected Netreo OmniCenter.

“We now have OmniCenter monitoring everything it can watch, including our office copier machines,” Michel said. “We wanted to make a specific person in each office aware of when the copiers drop to a certain level for toner and paper. That way, an admin person can proactively refill them, so we do not have an attorney going to the copier, and then having to call office services to get things changed out. The legal profession is one of the few industries where time is literally money, so every minute lawyers don’t have to spend on IT issues is a minute that can be profitable for the company.”

BETTER SECURITY AND MONITORING

Florida’s Information Protection Act (FIPA) dictates the specific security and privacy standards that Broad and Cassel must comply with, and these standards are similar to what law firms in other states must follow.

“When I first arrived here,” Michel said, “there was not enough standardization of security in place, but now we have instituted many new improvements.”

OmniCenter assists Broad and Cassel in meeting those standards, according to Michel.

“We want OmniCenter to be our go-to for everything, including security. If it’s possible to monitor or relay the information, then we want OmniCenter to be that point of contact and that notification system.”

OmniCenter’s audit trail of all system changes has proven very useful.

“If somebody changes something on the switches or on a server that we have configuration monitoring set up on OmniCenter, it will tell us that. We will know who did it and when,” he said. “This gives us an extra measure of protection.”

RELIABLE PERFORMANCE EXPECTATIONS

With the number of third-party hardware devices that Broad and Cassel needs to monitor, establishing Service Level Agreements (SLAs) with vendors is critical. Before OmniCenter, securing and maintaining those agreements was more difficult.

“I would not want to create an SLA without some hard data to base it on,” Michel said. “Now that we’re getting historical data on hardware performance, we can create SLAs that are reasonable and achievable. I can now say, ‘These servers have been up 100% of the time for the last month or two,’ or ‘We have had a lot of problems in one area.’ But, that’s okay. Reliability is at 99.55%. I can look back and say, ‘On our services, if we set our SLA at 99%, that’s reasonable and gives us some leeway,’ versus 99.99%.”

OmniCenter’s ability to track hardware performance helps Broad and Cassel, even with redundant systems. A portion of the phone system might go down, and the end user probably will not know about it, because of failover and backups.

“Just because we have redundant circuits that will keep us connected to the world if one pathway goes down, that doesn’t mean the vendor doesn’t have to make it right,” Michel said. “If they are down for a day, even though it doesn’t impact our users, we’re still not getting the services we contracted for. We might call up the vendor and mention the outage, and they’re saying, ‘We think we were down from 3:52 to 3:58 p.m.’ We can access the data in OmniCenter and tell them, ‘Whoa. You were down for much longer than six minutes.’ When you start talking about a 99% versus 99.5% SLA agreement, that hour or two could be the difference between getting the service you’re paying for, and getting something less.”

“Netreo is an extension of our IT department, a talented group of people we really trust.”
David Michel, Broad and Cassel Law Firm

OMNICENTER BENEFITS TO BROAD AND CASSEL

  • Continuous, 24x7x365 monitoring of dozens of devices on a statewide network with a total of 350 users.
  • Supports informed decisions, and makes it possible to improve network performance, without making huge expenditures.
  • Improved security systems and audit trails to ensure confidentiality of client resources and compliance with standards, including a local information protection act.
  • Accurate, fact-based analysis of system performance to define and enforce service level agreements.
  • Makes it easier to secure refunds if SLAs are not maintained, and adjust subscription agreements to optimize cost and performance.

ENHANCED TELEPHONY AND PHONE MONITORING

Lawyers make their living by communicating, and a reliable telephone system is the lifeblood of their practice. In addition to upgrading their entire phone system, Broad and Cassel is now using OmniCenter to fully track phone call usage and quality.

“The new phone system is a huge win for us, because it allows attorneys to make and receive calls to their office phone from their mobile devices,” Michel explained. “Now, they have all the functionality of their desktop phone on their mobile devices.”

Call quality is as important as call flexibility. Broad and Cassel uses OmniCenter to monitor the phone system throughout their statewide enterprise, paying particular attention to issues like latency, jitter, and other telephony quality issues.

“We can be notified proactively if we start seeing issues on a circuit. We can also go back and look at call history,” Michel said. “We can say, ‘For the last 30 days, here are all the calls to and from this extension,’ and we can see what the call quality was. If someone complains about the quality, we can look and determine if there was a problem. Now we have the metrics to go back and say, ‘If you had a problem, it wasn’t us.’”

Broad and Cassel designed redundancies into their architecture to ensure that their systems are always up and available for lawyers and clients. But, what OmniCenter does for them is to identify problems that might not be noticed by the users.

“If one of the two circuits to our Miami office goes down,” Michel described, “everything will failover to another link into another office. The users probably won’t notice. But, if we don’t know about it, then we might not get it fixed, and that can cause problems later on. That’s where OmniCenter comes in to let us know that, yes, the Level 3 circuit to Miami is down, and some traffic has been rerouted over to another office.”

No one may know about the problem, except the IT people, when they are alerted by OmniCenter, and they get everything back online quickly.

“We need to be proactively notified in those cases, so that we can have things repaired as needed, especially if something happens in the afternoon, and it has to be brought down overnight for special attention. We want to be able to resolve the issue immediately, and not get reports the next morning from our lawyers that a network is running slow.”

SUCCESSFUL IMPLEMENTATION

Broad and Cassel accomplished a lot of hardware changeover in a very short period. Because Michel was familiar with Netreo, he knew it could be quickly implemented with the relatively small IT staff he had available.

“One of the reasons I selected Netreo was because they were willing to handle all of the hard work for the integration into our systems. The overwhelming majority of the configuration was done by Netreo. We asked them, ‘Here. Do this, this, and this.’ My people didn’t have to spend a day here and there trying to get it all set up, configured, and tested,” Michel said.

What Michel appreciates about Netreo is the responsiveness of the Netreo staff, and the compatibility of OmniCenter with their systems.

“Netreo’s level of service is pretty significant. If something doesn’t go exactly right, I’ll just call them, and they’ll take care of it immediately. I haven’t seen anything they could not do. They have a very impressive level of knowledge, expertise, and service.”

IMAGINATIVE USE OF MONITORING

Broad and Cassel’s document management system is an application called NetDocuments, which does not have a good notification method if it goes down. Microsoft Office 365, which they also use, is similar in this regard. Prior to OmniCenter, Michel would get calls from users on Saturday or Sunday, saying, “Is there a problem with NetDocs?” The IT staff would have to log into the system remotely to take a look.

“Using OmniCenter, we created ‘ghost’ users to simulate an occasional log-in to these two applications. Now, if NetDocs or Office 365 goes down, OmniCenter sees the problem with the simulated user, and we get notified immediately. This allows us to get in front of the issue and proactively notify our people.”

Michel is now able to systematically schedule downtime for his critical assets.

“With OmniCenter, we may start seeing services that have issues and we can proactively tell our users that we’re going to reboot that night, preventing mid-day downtime for our users. We are now able to accomplish this using our IT staff members who are also dealing with other issues. Our primary system engineer is a very smart guy, but he’s not an expert on everything. Fortunately, he doesn’t have to be, because Netreo does all the heavy lifting.”