GBBN Architects Improves Work-Life Balance With Egnyte
GBBN Architects improves file access, security, and management to save time and boost productivity.
Headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio, GBBN Architects is an architectural design firm focused on innovation in housing, healthcare, education, and cultural venue design. With over 150 employees across five offices in Ohio, Kentucky, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and China, they strive to deliver designs that not only result in great buildings but positively impact people. With a geographically dispersed workforce, many working remotely, the need for a secure and easy-to-use file collaboration platform came into focus.
Challenge: GBBN Reaches an On-Premises Crossroads
In 2021, GBBN Architects found themselves at a crossroads. The company had on-premises N5 storage device running their virtual environment which was soon running out of support. In addition, GBBN’s Panzura appliances were also running out of support. Between the expiration of hardware and software licenses, GBBN saw an opportunity to research new technologies and providers.
At the same time, GBBN was also focused on managing company data more effectively. For example, the IT team would receive support tickets that read, “My project is gone from the network.” In helping resolve the support tickets, GBBN’s IT staff couldn’t pull data usage reports from individual staff members to diagnose the issue. Matt Birk, GBBN’s CIO, says, “Using traditional tools such as Windows search, responding to this type of support ticket could take up to two days of searching through terabytes of data to find where a project was moved.”
Another challenge to effectively manage company data was secure file collaboration. Previously, GBBN was forced to give project partners access to their network, providing a domain log-in and access to a VPN connection. Birk says, “It was challenging for our IT staff to manage connectivity. Partner users had way more access to our company data than just the project files they needed; we hoped they wouldn’t inadvertently launch a ransomware attack.” There was the additional burden of tracking whether a partner user was still employed with the firm or not, ultimately relying on the individual partners to notify the GBBN IT staff of any personnel changes. And providing VPN access to partners of smaller firms that had outsourced their IT staff was even scarier. Birk says, “Each time a new partner was added to the network, our IT team would lose more control over the users accessing our company data.”
Carefully considering the existing data challenges and knowing the opportunity, the company began researching its options, starting with Panzura, Nasuni, AWS, and Microsoft Azure. GBBN focused on their primary data requirements, specifically global file locking, stability, and security. While all solutions met all or most the basic criteria, Egnyte went beyond. Birk says, “Once we met with Egnyte, we discovered the product included many more features than the other candidates in terms of security and governance. That caught the attention of our team, especially our network administrator.”
"There is no longer the need to request files or handle requests from partner firms to send files. We add partners as another team member to our data source, giving them access to the project structure."
Director of Technology • GBBN Architects
Solution: Richer Data Usage Reporting and Collaboration Capabilities
Egnyte reporting features captured everybody’s attention. Specifically, individual staff usage data coupled with the machine learning applied to each employee’s use of data jumped out to the company. Birk says, “Egnyte has unique features we did not see with the other platforms, or at least we did not see in depth on the other platforms.”
When considering whether to renew their Project Information Management application’s license, they found overlap between features provided by Egnyte and those provided by the PIM solutions, including sending large files, download tracking, file transfer link clicks, and outside party file requests. Given the extensive range of security and governance features and Egnyte’s ability to cover critical areas served by PIM applications, GBBN decided to change to Egnyte.
Once Egnyte was deployed, GBBN found immediate value in data usage reporting. The IT team could search for file changes and get results within five seconds, not the days they were used to waiting. The team also gained additional security features built on machine learning. Birk explains, “If a user is typically opening 50 files a day, but one day they open 100 files, we get an alert. Egnyte’s features have saved us from confidential data walking out the door.” Birk continues, “Prior to Egnyte, we had no ability to audit files that were downloaded, leaving our firm to trust that no confidential or source files were taken from our network. After Egnyte was implemented, we were able to audit and report on what individuals were downloading. This new capability enabled us to reverse the trend of an abnormal download of proprietary company data. Our management team was impressed with Egnyte’s data auditing tools, and IT has really earned their keep in protecting our company’s data!”
Egnyte is also making it easier for GBBN to collaborate with other architects. According to Mike Rensing, Director of Technology, “There is no longer the need to request files or handle requests from partner firms to send files. We add partners as another team member to our data source, giving them access to the project structure.” Once partners are added to a project folder, users have full access to working project documents, making collaboration smoother. But with Egnyte, GBBN can hide and protect confidential files and folders, meaning their partners can’t access them, keeping their data secure.
“Project Managers like using iPads. They are ecstatic about Egnyte's data availability, which frees them from bulky laptops, power supplies, and a VPN. They love traveling light and being able to communicate our brand more effectively.”
CIO, GBBN Architects
Benefits: Secure Data Availability Creates a Greater Work-Life Balance
“I don’t think I’ve implemented anything in my recollection that has had as many staff come to us saying how they love the access,” says Birk. He explains one of their goals was to get rid of VPN; GBBN is now 99.9% VPN free. Another goal was to provide project managers out meeting with clients the ability to access the files they needed from iPads or iOS devices. Birk says, “Project Managers like using iPads. Egnyte is agnostic, which allows them to present projects to client leaders from any device they want. They are ecstatic about data availability, which frees them from bulky laptops, power supplies, and a VPN. They love traveling light and being able to communicate our brand more effectively.”
The availability of the data has vastly improved project site visits. Rensing says, “Our teams can go to the site, pull out their phone, snap a picture, and directly place that image file in the project folder.” He explains, “Simply filing the image where it needs to go right from the project site saves time. Teams no longer download the photos and move image files to the folder at the office. It happens right at the job site.”
“Egnyte is improving work-life balance and mobility of our staff,” Birk says. “When we bring in a new hire, they are blown away by our access and the feature set.” Rensing recalls one staff member who expressed joy in accessing files from the car. He says, “This person was delighted to be able to access work files while traveling as a passenger. Something is being done right if you get thanks for that.”
Looking at what’s next with Egnyte, GBBN Architects will be tackling the management of old project files and stale data. Birk says, “We used to search for old folders on our projects drive to determine which ones were not being accessed in the past year. We are looking at Egnyte to automatically identify project files that have not been touched for a given amount of time and move them off active storage to archival storage. That will save space and money.”