PFD drives durability and savings with modernised data management

Over the years, PFD Food Services has grown substantially 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 organisation’s 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.

Ensure Business Continuity and Reduce Risk

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 Ultimo, Sydney, ensuring 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 required. Tertiary data backup for long-term data retention occurred via tape at the primary facility only, with tape media sent offsite.

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.

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



  • 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 costs.
  • The competitive nature of the food distribution business meant that PFD needed a cost-effective data management strategy that could respond nimbly to changing business conditions.


Our Solution

The company performed a proof of concept of its cloud plans by initially running backups to tape in parallel with backups to Amazon S3. 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.


Key Benefits

  • 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.
  • A 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 were 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.

“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.”


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.”


Future-proofing for further improvements

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.