+ Delivering Rapid and Reliable System Recovery in Germany's Leading Supplier of Accounting Software for Small and Medium-sized Businesses +
Storage capacity of no more than 320 ilobytes on two IBM mainframes was available when DATEV was founded in 1969. The founders' vision was to support "members of the tax consulting professions' with software, consulting services and computer center.
Today, DATEV manages data volumes of 300 terabytes and reigns supreme among suppliers of financial accounting programs for samll and medium-sized businesses. The financial accounting for two-thirds of all German companies is handled using DATEV software, entailing an impressive total of 2.4 million sets of business accounts.
Even more impressively, the majority of this accounting data is stored at DATEV itself. All this makes reliable systems and efficient administration and absolute necessity. And DATEV relies on Symantec for system reocovery and PC software installation.
Symantec Backup Exec System Recovery ensures repaid and reliable system recovery should a failure occur, while Symantec Ghost Solution Suite guarantees efficient and reliable software installation.
2.4 million business acounts per annum
As varied as Germany's small and medium-sized businesses can be, most have a great deal in common when it comes to the software they use to prepare their annual financial statements: it is likely to come from DATEV.
Two-thirds of all business accounts are prepared either by a tax consultant or in-house with the help of DATEV solution, a total 2.4 million business accounts per annum.
And that's not all: DATEV is also responsible for providing two million business assessments and over seven million payroll accounts each month. What may initially sound like a range of specialized products in a dedicated market niche has therefore gained substantial market share. This applies equally to DATEV financial accounting products as well as to the company's archiving services.
The audit trails for the business accounts of 98 per cent of all companies whose figures are processed using DATEV software are archived at the compnay's computer center in Nuremberg.
Whether it is dealing with accounting or archiving, DATEV itself generally keeps a low profile. It sells software solutions to tax consultants who use them to keep their clients' book. DATEV's customers include some 39,000 tax consultants, certified accountants and lawyers. At the same time they are also members of the company, which is legally a registered cooperative society.
DATEV supplies around 200 programes that offer the usful digital support that is required by fiscal, auditing and legal experts: software that tax consultants use to manage their offices, programs that enable certified accountants to document their audits and database that help lawyers read up on the latest case law.
Pioneers in their field
DATEV is a software company with a long tradition. It was initially set up more than forty year ago. The founders operated with rented computing power for three years before finally starting up their own computer center in Nuremberg.
This was launched with two IBM 360-series mainframes that offered a total storage capacity of 320 kilobytes. At the time ,this represented a huge volume of data; although by contrast, DATEV servers today manage around 300 terabytes of information.
The workforce has also experienced lightning expansion, with the compnay - now one of the region's biggest employers - currently employing some 5,400 staff, 1,250 of whom are software developers.
Rapid and reliable system recovery - with leaving the workstation
At DATEV, reliable systems are an absolute must. This applies to the company's servers with their huge volumes of customer data as well as to DATEV's email and Microsoft Office systems, which are distributed across 350 servers at three different computer centre locations.
The 40 terabytes on these servers contain crucial business correspondence, proposals, order extensions and the results of negotiations - in other words, information that has to be accessible to DATEV consultants and customer support staff whenever they need it.
So it is vital that the systems operate efficiently. And in the event that any of them should fail, the IT department has to have a contingency plan in place. This is the responsibility of Harald Dazian, head of servers, data network and internet services at DATEV.
"In an emergency, a system with a guaranteed highest service level has to be restored within just a few minutes," he says. Harald Dazian provides this Service Level 1 for 100 servers operating with business critical data, which includes customer correspondence, personal details, software development resources and print and send control data.
He manages Service Level 2, which guarantees next-day system recovery, for a further 250 servers funning Microsoft Office applications and documents application programs and department data. He works with Symantec software. "We opted for Symantec Backup Exec System Recovery because it was the first solution on the market to store Windows server operationg system as an image while they're running.
And this ensured the fastest possible reocvery," says Harald Dazian. By contrast, a traditional manual restore or entire reinstallation could take hours. As well as using Symantec Backup Exec System Recovery, Harald Dazian applies the Symantec pcAnywhere soultion within his remit. "This allows us to perform a remote system restoer with leaving our workstations.
We can access each of our three computer centre locations directly," he explains. The software thus not only saves valuable recovery time but also unnecessary work for administrators - even outside regular office hours: "Symantec pcAnywhere allows us to organize our emergency service at night and at weekends as an on-call service form home."
The administrators can et to grips with the problem with actually being present at the computer center themselves, recovering a system from home within a matter of minutes. Not only does Symantec LiveState Recovery office a rapid and reliable method of recovery, it also captures recovery proints without impairing system performance. DATEV backs up the operating systems at night.
"This is a fast process because the system need only save the changes that have been made to the operating system," says Harald Dazian.
Efficient and error-free: software distribution to desktops and laptops
What's more, DATEV looks after so many system that even minor potential time-savings on administration quickly add up to hours and days. Currently arount 7,000 PCs, inculding some 2,000 laptops, are managed in DATEV's central office communications network.
DATEV always buys the hardware only, installing the operating systems and applications on an in-hour basis. This is the job of Frank Gunthor, Head of PC IT technology, mainline and systems management.
He has been working with the Symantec Ghost Solution Suite for ten years now. This solution stores PC operating systems, configurations and software as an image that can be subsequently implemented on PCs.
Frank Gunthor's team has already built arount ten different software images. The appropriate digital package will be installed on the user's system, depending on the task and user hierarchy involved. "The software has to be installed rapidly and reliably on each individual PC." says Frank Gunthor. "Even if there is only a difference of a few minutes for every PC, the total installation time adds up to significant figure when you consider that we perform new installations on some 2,000 systems each year."
The Symantec Ghost Solution Suite has continued to make significant advanced in terms of speed since it was first used at DATEV. Frank Gunthor confirms this fact: "We naturally have to handle much more data now than we did even a couple of years ago, so that installation time has not been reduced in absolute terms.
But today we can cope with a far greater volume of data in that same time." It only takes around fifteen minutes to install the operating system and application software. The administrator then needs another ten minutes to tweak the system to suit individual user requirements before it is ready to use. "It is vital that we operate with an absolutely reliable software solution," he says. He has never received any reports of installation errors. "And a good thing, too, as installation error cost major time and effort and we have to do all we can to avoid them.
You might have to search for ever before finding the problem." Use of the Symantec Ghost Solution Suite has proved especially practical for the sales team, whose job involves installing current version of the DATEV software. In the course of this process, the DATEV sales representatives are able to show customers a "live" product demonstration, often inculding individual sample figures.
Because not all DATEV programs can be installed simultaneously on a single system, the presentations have to be updated promptly and reliable before visits to customers take place. This process may be relatively time-consuming, but is absolutely esential.
"Symantec helps us here, too," says Frank Gunthor. "The Symantec Ghost Solution Suite enables us to greatly simplify this key procedure."