PFD Food Services: Case Study


PFD Food Services has a rich and varied history, tracing its origins back to 1864 when the business sold fresh fish in Melbourne. Over the years the company has grown substantially especially since the 1970’s when the current owner, Rick Smith, took the reins and has grown the company to be Australia’s largest privately owned fresh and frozen food distributor with $1.5 billion turnover, 2,200 staff and over 65 sites across Australia. Food distribution is a fast and often unforgiving business; there is a narrow window to match supply and demand for the customer, while the market is fiercely competitive. Richard Cohen, Chief Information Officer of PFD, understands all too well that for a fast growing business in this sector, it is essential that information systems are effective in supporting the organisations’ strategic data assets. His goal has been to establish a reliable, resilient and risk-free environment, harnessing state of the art technology to drive out costs and ensure that PFD’s data assets are properly protected. Key to that is an effective and efficient approach to data management, supportive of business continuity.


About five years ago the company migrated from HP Data Protector to Commvault’s integrated platform in order to support faster and more effective data management. As the company evolved, PFD looked to their trusted advisors at Venn IT Solutions to find even more ways to strip out cost and risk while increasing productivity and availability of data. Key to the company’s contingency strategy was the decision to establish a new disaster recovery site in Ultime, Sydney, ensuring it was a significant distance from the primary production facility in Melbourne. DR Data replication between the main facility and the R site on NetApp Storage Arrays was managed by Commvault providing rapid up-to-the-minute failover if require. Some services have a less than 15-minute recovery point objective, ensuring business continuity for PFD. Commvault managed PFD’s short-term backup/recovery of NetApp storage Snapshot Data at the Primary and Secondary sites for 30 days of data retention. Tertiary data backup for long-term data retention occurred via tape at the primary facility only, with tape media sent offsite. The “Cold” Tape library was installed at the Ultimo DR site to provide tape recoveries in the event of a Production facility disaster. While tape is believed to be a traditionally cheaper storage medium for backup and archiving, it faces some quality and speed issues, as well as management costs which can quickly add up. PFD was incurring close to $30,000 each year in tape rotation and offsite services, tape media and tape library maintenance fees. To improve quality and efficiencies, Cohen looked to Venn IT to help with phase two in removing workload stress optimising backup windows for production data. All backups were moved to the Ultimo DR site to minimise the backup process impact on production services.

After considering efficiency and cost implications of tape offsite and cloud-based backup, Venn IT and Cohen decided to remove the use of tape completely.


The real-time integrity and accessibility of PFD’s data assets are critical to the business as it grows and responds to market demand. The company performed a proof of concept of its cloud plans by initially running backups to tape in parallel with backups to Amazon S3. PFD deployed Commvault’s Exchange and SQL agents and uses the system to handle file and virtual server backups, along with all replication recovery services. The first step in this phase was to change the destination from Tape Backup to Amazon S3 Cloud-based backup. Commvault now handles snapshots every hour of incremental data from the company’s ERP, MFG Pro, to the NetApp arrays in the secondary data centre, which are then replicated to the S3 cloud. Increased operational efficiencies have been achieved by shutting down the backup environment supporting infrastructure when not in use. By deploying Commvault Global Deduplication extended to the cloud environment, PFD has maximised storage efficiencies, resulting in a compressed 18 Terabytes of PFD’s data in S3.

“The team at Venn IT enabled a programmatic approach to modernising our data management strategy, and Commvault was critical through this process of transitioning data across tape, disk and now cloud,” said Cohen. “The functionality and technical maturity of Commvault gave us the assurance to seamlessly embrace Amazon’s S3 cloud storage – Again helping us reduce costs and risk further, and streamline our data management.”

For IT professionals managing the process, the fact that Commvault is agnostic in terms of storage medium or destination of data makes it simpler to manage, modernise and scale infrastructure as changing business demands require. Backups to AWS S3 currently take about half an hour per day during the week, with Commvault setup to complete a full system backup over the weekend. Further reduction of operating costs has been achieved due to the automated management (startup/shutdown) of backup servers hosted in AWS. This management is automated by Commvault using scripts customised by Venn IT for the PFD environment.

Moving away from tape and leveraging Amazon S3 has also saved PFD 34 per cent in yearly costs just by eliminating tape management. The company has removed inefficiencies due to media handling, storage and manual intervention.

“We have confidence in Commvault and Amazon cloud that in the event of a catastrophic failure in our primary data centre, the data stored in our DR data centre and the cloud can be up and running within an hour,” said Cohen. “There are no longer any media costs, no recall costs and the process of recovering the data is easier, plus Amazon guarantees elevens 9s of durability.”


Cohen has been pleased with the staged approach led by Venn IT to reform PFD’s data management strategy. With help from their trusted advisors at the consultancy, Cohen is now exploring further ways to drive efficiencies and cost reduction. Amazon’s Glacier Cloud Storage will be used for archiving older backup data that has been untouched for 12 months. Cohen says he is confident that the Commvault platform, which manages the company’s end-to-end data management processes today, will equally face the challenge of seamlessly supporting PFD’s future requirements providing a risk-free framework for growth.



  • With a national footprint and round-the-clock operations, PFD needed to ensure the protection and high availability of its data assets.
  • The company wanted to modernise its information infrastructure and ensure business continuity without injecting additional cost.
  • The competitive nature of the food distribution business meant that PFD needed a cost-effective data management strategy which could respond nimbly to changing business conditions.


  • Commvault Data Protection, Disaster Recovery and Cloud connector software with NetApp Storage and Amazon’s S3 cloud.


  • Trusted partnership with Venn IT Solutions has delivered a “Belt and braces” approach and reduced risk, improved timely access to data and enhanced business continuity.
  • 34 per cent of tape management-related costs stripped out with no compromise on quality
  • Process automation combined with strong integration with industry-leading hardware and storage solutions enables flexibility, durability and business continuity for the business.



  • Microsoft Windows


  • Microsoft Exchange, SharePoint, Active Directory
  • VMware
  • ERP: MFG Pro


  • NetApp Storage Arrays


  • Amazon Web Services S3
  • Amazon Glacier Cloud Storage.

Out with the old, in with the new.

If you're scratching your head at the very idea of ditching tape, use our handy estimator and begin to imagine the possibilities.


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