Anatomy Of A Cloud Migration: Inside The Channel Company's IT Transformation


'NOTHING TETHERED TO THE BUSINESS'

Once the discovery phase was completed and the slate was cleaned, The Channel Company had to start making decisions as to what types of systems and software it wanted to fill that slate. And that led to a philosophical question: Should The Channel Company go partial cloud or full cloud?

The Channel Company went into its discussions with GreenPages with the aim of offloading all on-premise infrastructure. "My dream is to have nothing tethered to the business but the printers," Faletra said. 

But there was a good deal of vetting and debate as the cloud migration project progressed. What were the advantages of putting the entire data center in the cloud? And what were the risks? "At first we were really considering going with no on-premise servers at all," Brown said. "But we started asking if we should have a couple of Active Directory servers on-site to make sure we can log onto our systems."

The cost savings and flexibility of cloud computing are well known advantages. But was there a concern among The Channel Company executives about not having valuable corporate data stored on-site?

Short answer: No.

"To be honest, I never knew where the data was before we moved to the cloud, so I'm not worried," Faletra said. "I feel better now because the data is with a company that I write a check to every month and if they don't perform, then I stop writing checks."

The Channel Company was wide open to new ideas or alternatives -- and that included moving off Microsoft Windows and applications and moving to Google products. Ultimately, however, GreenPages recommended The Channel Company stay with Windows and move to Office 365. And Office 365 has been one of the more pleasant surprises of the whole project, particularly Microsoft Lync, Faletra said. "I would also say, however, that we are not wed to Microsoft for the long term," he noted. "If Ron's team came in here with a clear, coherent reason why we should jump to a different solution and it made business and financial sense, we would do it. My trust is with my solution provider partner, not Microsoft." 

The Channel Company also decided to move off existing back-office and ERP software, which was complex and expensive, to Intacct's cloud-based accounting, billing and human resources applications. "We're seeing huge cost savings every day from the ERP switch alone," said Rob Wiseltier, chief financial officer of The Channel Company.

There were other decisions besides where to host servers or what cloud software to go with. For example, did The Channel Company want to have internal tech support or outsource to a third party? Ultimately, the company decided to outsource it to GreenPages as part of a cloud and managed services contract.

As for client devices, The Channel Company kept the vast majority of notebooks and desktops employees were using before the switchover from UBM; each system had to be wiped of previous applications and UBM software and migrated to Office 365 and new email servers. 

But the big question was what to do with the data center. The decision was made to move the company's files and data to cloud servers hosted in Atlanta by LogicsOne partner Cirrity, an Infrastructure-as-a-Service provider, while a couple of Active Directory servers would be converted to virtual machines. So even though all the servers would be off-premise, The Channel Company wasn't completely in the cloud, strictly speaking.

"We're not quite 100 percent cloud because we're using a couple of virtual [Active Directory] servers," Brown said. "Still, it's a huge advantage to not have any infrastructure on-site."

With the migration plan ironed out and the holidays fast approaching, it was time to start actually migrating.

NEXT: Transition Time