Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Migrating Customer Applications to the Cloud

Recently, I acquired a new medium-sized customer with no on-site IT support. Previously they outsourced their IT services to a very capable group. But as I started working with this company, it became evident that management wanted to take a serious step towards minimizing internal services and IT management. In the past, I would have been hesitant to undertake this operation as I was not fully comfortable relying on a company in the cloud to host a business in its entirety. The organization was completely sold on moving their services and I wanted to make sure they had every need taken care, so we signed an agreement to get them moving forward.

I did my research on all of the hosted services available, but specifically looked at services for providing email and file sharing. There are many solutions available for providing email and most of them around the same cost. I looked at the organizations needs and we were able to quickly narrow the selection. As for hosting file services, this would be a little more tricky. Do the end users need access to files simultaneously? Will they be using a product like Quickbooks where multiple users may be entering data at the same time? How large are the individual files that the organization will be hosting? What kind of backup service is offered with the package? What kind of security (HIPAA/Sarbanes Oxley/FISMA) compliance would they need?

After sorting through the organizational needs, I decided on a solution and have gone through the process of creating the appropriate data shares and securing them to the company's needs (determining this was an undertaking on its own) and synchronizing data between the local server to the cloud. If you are to go through this process, I highly recommend buying a version of GoodSync so that both versions of the data are being updated while you migrate users over to the new service. One of the features that made our choice a little easier was the ability to use mapped network drives to the cloud making the transition easier for the end users. Definitely lowers the learning curve and they will be able to take their time learning about the other advanced features without affecting their production.
The end goal is to remove their internal servers, GoToMyPc applications, and the need for VPN services. The migration to outside services will be saving this organization almost 90% of their monthly cost for IT services/hardware. Current projections for this project put it in a two week period to accomplish these feats.

Soon on the horizon: getting into some of the data extraction/manipulation projects that FAST has been working on.