How We Moved Almost Everything to the Cloud: 5 Lessons

In 2010, creative services firm Aquent moved even its custom ERP system to the cloud -- where most other key business apps such as e-mail were already running. The result: Better agility and IT spend slashed by 50 percent.

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4. Be prepared for outages

Moving to the cloud is not an automatic disaster recovery plan. Planning is required. While cloud services can improve availability, they can also result in outages that affect a large swath of businesses. The recent Amazon EC2 outage in North America is proof of the dangers.

In Aquent's case, its technology provider Distributed Logic created a multi-master replication system, so that Aquent's cloud infrastructure could be continuously updated amongst all three of its current zones in Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The benefit of this infrastructure design became evidence during a recent outage. While Aquent was not affected by the North American Amazon outage, its infrastructure allowed it to avoid a 12-hour Amazon outage in Ireland that took the company's application server down in March, 2011. The company was able to point its European workers to the North American server while it quickly rebuilt the European server.

"Without the replicated data, we still would have been able to recover, but in the meantime, our users is Europe would have been without a system," says Aquent's Hunter. "So what we gained was availability."

5. Agility also means the ability to move the office

As a staffing company with creative services clients, Aquent needs its offices to be near the creative centers of town. As those centers move, the company tends to shift its office space.

"Everything that the office does now — if you walk in and look at our agents, they are basically looking at screens and on headsets probably — all of that is channeled over an Internet link," Bolick says.

Having its essential business processes and office functions in the cloud allows the company to simplify the movement of offices, says Bolick. The company has moved nearly ten of the key applications that run its office to the cloud, including e-mail, video conferencing, fax and its business reporting system.

"It makes it comparably easy to move an office," he says. "We take a router and take the modem, plug it into a new location, and make some backend changes and we are ready to go."

Today, Aquent has nearly completely its cloud transformation. Its looking at replacing its remaining non-cloud application — a desktop productivity suite — but has decided to wait until that market has matured and its current licenses expire, Bolick says.

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Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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