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Tuff Shed

When it comes to snow shovels, lawn mowers, and other household miscellanies, Tuff Shed knows a thing or two about storage. But when an avalanche of PDF files threatened to overload its databases, it was time to call in the networked storage experts.

Tuff Shed, a Denver-based manufacturer of free-standing storage structures (the kind for the yard, not the data center), had been using an IBM Fibre Channel array that was supposed to handle all of its storage networking needs for at least five years. But things didn't quite go down that way, according to Tim Schultz, director of IT for Tuff Shed, who says the SAN maxed out after only two years. "We needed something more modular and with better response times," he explains.

If rapid growth is a good problem to have, then Tuff Shed has been happily challenged in recent quarters. In-store sales increased 25 percent, and the company opened 55 new locations in the last 10 years. Revenues for 2003 were $82 million, and while not yet official, 2005 figures look to be almost double that at around $152 million. In addition to expansion of an existing agreement with retail giant Home Depot Inc., the company opened six new factories in 2005 and now counts more than 1,200 employees.

All this progress has translated into some heavy traffic in and out of the company's IBM SQL Server database. What started out as 10 Gbytes of data not too long ago has mushroomed to more than 250 Gbytes.

"We store lots of orders as PDF files, and the driving force behind storing data that way is that a lot people need to see those orders," Schultz explains. Users tunnel in via an IP-based virtual private network equipped with Citrix servers for remote client access. Access methods for remote users range from dialup to ISDN and T1.

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