Masks. PPE. Disinfection procedures. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has raised new issues for employers of all sizes, including new practices related to employee and customer safety as well as new liability concerns. To help manage the new issues, teams at Ogletree Deakins quickly began providing their customers with support and resources to protect health and prevent legal actions.
Ogletree Deakins is an international employment law specialist with more than 800 attorneys in 53 offices on two continents. With 45 years of history and more than half a billion dollars in annual billings, it helps employers of all sizes, from global conglomerates to small businesses, with employment law issues ranging from hiring practices and disability access to arbitration and litigation, regulatory compliance—and workplace safety.
But just as the virus expanded the meaning of workplace safety, Ogletree Deakins teams around the world faced stay-at-home orders, quarantines, and the necessity of a massive shift to working from home. While remote work wasn’t unusual, it wasn’t the norm—not in an industry that requires frequent client contact, collaboration, and reams of documentation. The firm suddenly had to enable much more remote work while protecting highly confidential client information and maintaining compliance with stringent data security regulations, including the E.U.’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
The approximately 15 members of the firm’s solutions delivery team, part of an IT staff more than 100 strong, knew they faced a remote access problem. Terry Wilkins, Solutions Delivery Manager, said his team is responsible for supporting “all the infrastructure behind the scenes.”
“Up until recently, we had just two data centers, and frankly they were physically located fairly close to each other,” he explained. Those data centers were managed by staff who knew they were no longer sufficient.
“We needed more robust remote access points for people,” Wilkins explained. Prior to the pandemic, occasional issues with latency were acceptable. When they involved employees working remotely, often they were caused or exacerbated by local variables, like a home network’s bandwidth. But complaints grew to a roar as the pandemic expanded.
“What we found was when everyone started working remotely, the latency to go from the West Coast to the data centers was excessive,” Wilkins said. Ogletree Deakins has an office in nearly every major urban center on the West Coast, and many offices share clients, particularly larger ones. That meant network traffic from those West Coast users had to be routed to the Carolina data centers and then back to whichever office might be collaborating on the same data and documents.
Wilkins and his infrastructure team moved to add a tertiary data center via Microsoft Azure and set up two additional remote access points, including one in London. Creating these local points of presence (POPs) would put some services closer to users, providing a more direct path to the data they needed and improving reliability.
Time was of the essence, but fortunately, Ogletree Deakins already had a relationship with F5.
“We've used F5 load balancers on-premises for many, many years,” Wilkins said. “We were brand new to the cloud-based solutions, but we were really needing a solution quickly for load balancing the cloud. When we found out that F5 provided this type of geo-sensing DNS cloud load-balancing product, it was a no-brainer. We really didn't look anywhere else after that.”
The F5 Cloud Services DNS Load Balancer Service met all of the company’s criteria, providing geolocation-based load balancing that was easy to use, scalable, and affordable.
“The price is very reasonable, considering what we needed it for,” Wilkins noted. “And we knew we could continue to grow with it—it wouldn’t be ‘one and done.’”
The purchase decision moved even faster than the virus. The local F5 account team collaborated with Dan Kuchem, an F5 Cloud Services specialist. From the initial contact and two demos to onboarding and testing, the decision took just a few weeks in mid-March, and the solution was in place by early April.
“It was a very quick turnaround, it was an easy setup process with the guidance that Dan gave us, and it just worked,” noted Wilkins, who also praised the product demos, documentation, and user portal. “It was very turnkey, right out of the box.”
The geolocation-based load balancing of F5 Cloud Services has delivered the low-latency access Ogletree Deakins employees need, whether they’re down the street from a data center or working for one of the firm’s teams in Europe.
“We really haven’t had any complaints from our end users when it comes to them not being able to get to the data they want in a timely manner,” said Wilkins. “I think a lot of that has to do with with F5.”
Wilkins also is pleased with the service’s reliability. “100% uptime across all the portals and services is basically what we would expect, and it's been great,” he explained. “Very, very robust.”
He added, “We’re still early in the process of standing up Software as a Service, or Platforms as a Service, in our cloud initiatives. But it does exactly what we needed to do, right off the bat. We’ve even done some upgrades already. Everything we've done so far has worked perfectly.”
Wilkins noted that his team supports a lot of remote desktops now, and he expects more to come.
“I think we're going to see more and more people realize the benefits of working remotely,” explained Wilkins. “There’s a subset of our people—attorneys, paralegals—who have to be in front of others face to face. But other than that, I think a lot of our user base, or at least a percentage, will stay 100% remote into next year.”
Fortunately, Ogletree Deakins’s experience with F5 Cloud Services has helped provide useful experience and confidence for further extending the firm’s architecture via the cloud, including additional gateways and measures to address finer points of the GDPR over time. Wilkins noted, “It’s not our first SaaS, but it's definitely not going to be our last.”