Customer Stories | Case Study: 1HQ

Global Branding Agency Accelerates Creative Content Collaboration and Lowers Costs with Nasuni

Industry: Media & Advertising

Global File System: Nasuni

Cloud Storage: Microsoft Azure Storage

Sites: 3    

Key Applications:

Adobe Creative Cloud

Use Cases:

Multi-site file collaboration; file server consolidation


Improved design team productivity; lower IT costs; faster file recovery; more recovery points; simplified file infrastructure

Business and IT Challenges

1HQ Brand Agency provides packaging design, product innovation, and shopper engagement services to customers in 35 countries. Over the past 25 years, the agency has compiled an impressive list of leading global brands – Heinz, Cadbury, Coca-Cola, Microsoft, and Nespresso are just a few of its clients.

At 1HQ, creative professionals distributed between offices in London, New York, and Rotterdam develop strategic ideas that shape brand futures, add value, and signal change. They begin projects by identifying the One Hard Question a given brand faces, then develop creative campaigns to strategically address this issue. The detailed work of making campaigns beautiful and valuable depends heavily on Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and other Creative Cloud applications, as well as the ability for 1HQ’s creatives to share the files generated by these apps with each other and with clients.

Explains 1HQ IT Manager Sean Probets, “The design team will come up with four or five concepts. The client will pick the one they like best, and it will then go through as many as 20 stages of edits. It then gets passed to the implementation team who prepares it for print. We then send the final artwork and printout of what it would look like on paper or card packaging, which includes a colour calibration test. Then it goes out to the mass production house where it’s produced.”

As the size and complexity of the design files grew, and as 1HQ expanded into new locations, it became apparent the agency’s file storage, multi-site file sharing, and data protection solutions were not equipped to handle business or IT requirements. Probets and his IT team identified four major problems that needed to be addressed.

Ineffective Global File Collaboration

1HQ is expanding globally to better serve its clients.  The firm already has offices in New York, London, and Rotterdan and is considering new locations in Asia. One of the challenges we face with our global presence is collaboration. The majority of file data is in our UK headquarters. Our creatives in the NY office need to access this data, and they have their own file storage needs as well. This was creating islands of storage and all the latency issues that come with it. The problems would only get bigger the more locations we added. Comments Probets, “One of the challenges we face with our global presence is collaboration. The majority of file data is in our UK headquarters. Yet our creatives in the NY office need to access this data, and they have their own file storage needs as well. This was creating islands of storage and all the latency issues that come with it. Until we addressed that issue, it would hinder our growth. The problems would only get bigger the more locations we added.”

Limitations of Traditional File Storage

Along with a universal type server application that provides thousands of fonts, Adobe Creative applications such as Illustrator and Photoshop are essential to 1HQ’s business. As those applications have become more advanced and complex, 1HQ’s files have grown larger and more numerous. The IT team was struggling to provide enough capacity and accurately forecast how much storage each location would need.

Adds Probets, “We were constantly coming up against the limits of our storage arrays. We’d reach full capacity, and have to micromanage storage to create more space for projects so users could continue to save. Or, we’d have to over-provison and buy ahead of our needs.”

Risky Disaster Plans

Probets and his IT team were concerned about a Disaster Recovery plan that left them open to significant downtime. This was unacceptable in such a highly competitive space.

Explains Probets, “The DR plan was insufficient for a business of our size and was something we were very keen to address.”

High Capital Expenses

Like so many other growing and established enterprises, 1HQ was looking to move away from the expense of buying and maintaining extensive and expensive hardware at each of its global locations.

Comments Probets, “We were really looking to save money. Buying on-prem storage the traditional way is CapEx-intensive, and we’d still run out of capacity. We wanted to move to more of an operational expense model and take advantage of the cloud.”


1HQ had these challenges in mind when they went searching for a modern file services solution. Researching new ways to leverage the cloud to share large files and accelerate global file collaboration led them to Nasuni.  After an intensive proof-of-concept, 1HQ  selected and began deploying Nasuni Cloud File Services.

By deploying Nasuni’s global file system backed by Azure object storage, 1HQ now has the scalable file infrastructure it needs for efficient, cross-office creative team collaboration; low-cost, OpEx-based file storage; simple storage administration; and global expansion.


Nasuni is now deployed across all 1HQ locations, unifying file storage, backup, DR, file synchronization, and management under one cloud-scale solution. Nasuni’s “cache from cloud” architecture stores the gold copies of all files and metadata in Azure object storage, while caching frequently used files in each office on Nasuni Edge Appliances.

Unlimited Storage Capacity

Nasuni’s patented UniFS® global file system enables 1HQ to store, protect, manage, and extend access to all the files generated by Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, and other applications without worrying about capacity or volume limits.  The applications can write to UniFS just like traditional SAN or NAS-based file systems, but UniFS scales without limits inside object storage. This means 1HQ can expand capacity to any level needed just by increasing its Azure storage and Nasuni subscriptions.

Accelerated Cross-Site Creative Collaboration

Drawing on the firm’s global talent by enabling creatives in different offices to work with each other had been a challenge in the past. This has changed significantly with Nasuni.

Explains Probets, “Before Nasuni, if we had a 250 MB file to copy from the New York office to the London office, we were looking at 20-25 minutes. Now that both locations are connected to Nasuni’s global file system, even if that file isn’t in cache, that time is reduced to less than 10 minutes. If the file is in cache, then it’s almost instantaneous.”

Rapid, Cost-Effective Office Expansion

To help facilitate 1HQ’s strategic expansion plans, the IT team wanted to minimize high startup costs and slow-to-set-up hardware. With Nasuni, a new office can be brought online, connected to the global file system through a physical or virtual edge appliance, and granted secure access to the same files as the creative teams at headquarters – all in a day, and for a fraction of the cost of provisioning and protecting an office using traditional storage hardware.

Adds Probets, “We started with a Nasuni edge appliance VM running in our New York office. That became the template for all our offices because they are easy to spin up. And the VMs don’t need a lot of physical hardware behind them because they are only caching the frequently used files.”

Fast, Secure Client Access to Creative Files

1HQ’s business workflow depends on being able to quickly and securely share draft files and works-in-progress with clients through multiple revisions. Projects are done on deadline, so any delays can be tremendously frustrating to the creative process and negatively impact the creative/client relationship.

In addition to accelerating internal multi-site collaboration, Nasuni also makes it easier to securely share Adobe Creative and other files with clients and external vendors. Says Probets, “Nasuni enables us to share links to our file system externally, and automatically expire the links after a certain time. This has really enhanced how our creative teams can work with clients.”

Faster Remote Access for Creatives

The creative leaders at 1HQ aren’t always working out of one of the firm’s offices. Great ideas can strike anywhere, so IT needs to grant users fast, secure remote access to the most recent versions of files whereever they happen to be. Nasuni simplifies and accelerates this process without forcing IT to relinquish control.

Explains Probets, “In the past users would need to connect through the VPN, then index the entire contents of the share. So just trying to grab a file remotely would take them 16 to 20 minutes. Now, it’s a couple of clicks to get into the share and find the files they want and get on with it. This is another way Nasuni is increasing productivity.”

Strengthening Data Protection and Disaster Recovery

Nasuni’s continuously versioning file system securely protects 1HQ’s files in cloud storage as they change, eliminating the need for separate file backup or DR solutions, while providing dramatically improved RPOs and RTOs. Access can be restored to files, folders, and the entire file system within minutes of a data loss event or disaster. Since data protection is built-in, this also frees more of the IT department to devote time to strategic projects that directly benefit the business.

Leveraging the Cloud to Reduce Costs

By moving away from its traditional SAN and the associated costs, 1HQ is reducing the infrastructure footprint at all its offices and saying goodbye to expensive refreshes and service contract renewals. With Nasuni’s global file system and Azure object storage, 1HQ can leverage the favorable economics and unlimited capacity of cloud storage, and the small footprint of Nasuni virtual edge appliances.

Next Steps

With Nasuni and cloud storage, 1HQ now has the scalable file infrastructure it needs to continue to expand globally and help brands around the globe answer the One Hard Question. On a day-to-day level, Nasuni and cloud storage have also been quickly embraced, both by the IT department and the creative teams that drive 1HQ’s business.

Concludes Probets, “Nasuni has become the new norm. It wasn’t difficult to get people to move over. It was quickly accepted because of the challenges they faced before. Our file data is our most important business asset. To use Nasuni as a better way to store, share, protect, and manage our file data just made perfect sense.”