How Leo A Daly embraced cloud backups for scalability and security

Artwork of a cloud connected to several dark cubes by wires, representing cloud backups. Decorative: the cloud is white, the boxes are dark grey and all are set against a red background.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Architecture and engineering firm Leo A Daly got an early proof point of why moving to cloud file storage was a smart approach when a member of staff accidentally deleted the entire marketing drive – and the company was able to restore it again, almost instantly.

“We were mid-implementation when we realized how valuable the snapshot recovery was,” says Stephen Held, CIO at Leo A Daly.

“Someone in our marketing department deleted their entire marketing drive and it took us eight minutes to restore that.”   

The company had embarked on the move to the cloud as part of a new backup strategy.

Held's team were weighing up spending on a new on premises storage backup system, with costs estimated at $500,000 to $700,000 (£402,000 to £562,000). Simultaneously, the firm was staring down a storage proliferation challenge as teams working across different offices found it time-consuming to share files for collaboration.

“We would copy them overnight in order to have them ready for the location the next day, so at worst you had a 24-hour old copy and at best [it was] 8-10 hours depending on the location of the file,” Held explains.

“And you were duplicating everything, so our ability to share work had this time delay on it that was real challenging for us if we were trying to work effectively.”

A hybrid approach for improved backup efficiency

To address these problems, the company adopted Nasuni as a hybrid cloud file storage in provider in 2016 and has worked to improve services in the interim. Through Nasuni’s Continuous File Versioning, Leo A Daly drastically reduced recovery times and eased the budget necessary for on-premises backup systems.

Since adopting Nansuni’s services, Leo A Daly has been able to reduce these times to between 45 and 90 minutes, depending on the site. It has also continued to innovate by implementing Nasuni’s Global File Acceleration, which has pushed the time down below the three-minute mark. 

Global File Acceleration makes rapid snapshots of data after it has been created, which helps with restoring data to a specific point and is an essential part of data recovery following a ransomware attack.

“It’s not real-time but it almost nearly negates those file sizes and those updates, because of how it delivers the full model and then the dynamic changes,” Held says.


Another significant impact of this has been to reduce the amount of physical storage hardware the firm has needed to buy for its offices. Whereas it had required 20 or 30TB of long-term storage, it now doesn’t have to buy more than 10TB.

“We’ve collapsed our print server, our Active Directory server, our 2TB cache - we’ve been able to collapse all of this infrastructure down to a single server environment because the storage demands are so much less for our actual project files,” Held says.

It’s also made it easier to move offices, if needed, by reducing the infrastructure needed at each location. “That physical footprint that we have in our technology is always problematic because of what you have to build out in the way of a network closet … so it’s helped from that regard,” he adds. 

That also means that, because all the information is now in one global file system rather than locally, regional data center outages don't mean the entire company still has to deal with extended periods without IT systems.

Improved scalability in the cloud

Moving to the cloud has helped the company better manage its data growth. “I replaced our data center storage twice in my early years of being with the organization,” Held tells ITPro.

“The second time I did it, we bought something that should have lasted us five years and it was barely on the two-year anniversary and we were already having to look at adding physical storage to it. That’s infuriating as a CIO.”

While the company’s data growth continues to be substantial, he says, it’s software and applications that are driving the real demand for expansion. “I can only imagine if we were still duplicating those files across our environment in the way that we were doing it before that we would be three or four times what our current data growth has been,” Held says. 

When Leo A Daly was hit by ransomware, its cloud-first approach also paid off in a major way. Leaning on its regular backups and snapshots as the cornerstone of its disaster recovery strategy, Held says it restored all encrypted data to normal. As a result, the overall effect on the business was tiny. 

“It greatly minimized the repercussions, the impact”, Held says, explaining that if it was more reliant on its on premises storage the business would have faced a lengthy server rebuilding process across various locations and manual wipes for all infected devices. In such a scenario, the recovery of files could have taken a week or two to fix, if not longer.

The move to cloud storage also meant that the company was better positioned when the COVID pandemic forced staff to work from home.

“We were positioning for road warriors, our people that wanted to go client sites or project sites and wanted to be able to function the same way they were in the office ... that was real challenging before technology like this,” he says. While using the cloud file system to support more than 800 remote workers was something Held's team hadn't accounted for, it nevertheless worked as a concrete foundation to keep staff operating remotely.

The switch to the cloud has also supported the broader culture at the company, Held explains, as colleagues could now collaborate without having to rely on slow file sharing and collaboration software.

“We went to one mapped network drive. Everyone had the same project drive, everyone had the same marketing drive because we had the recoverability," Held says.  

“We have a big ‘one-firm’ mentality and just taking some of those technical barriers out of the equation really helps with people unification."

Held recommends that companies considering a shift to cloud storage go for it, as it’s now a tried and true technology. “We had to think differently,” he says. “They don’t have to take near the leap that we took years ago to gain the benefit. 

“In the last nine years, I’ve only seen real benefit.”

Steve Ranger

Steve Ranger is an award-winning reporter and editor who writes about technology and business. Previously he was the editorial director at ZDNET and the editor of