How We Moved Almost Everything to the Cloud: 5 Lessons

Companies that move to the cloud have a whole host of decisions, one of the first being whether to develop their own software on top of a cloud infrastructure or to attempt to customize an existing cloud service.

Aquent, a global staffing firm specializing in design and marketing professionals, decided to port its own back-office system in 2010, after successfully moving other information systems to the cloud. The company had already made the most obvious cloud choices, moving its e-mail system to Google and it phone system to a voice-over-IP service in early 2010, saving hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in the process.

In September, 2010, the company made its most serious commitment to the cloud, completing the transition of its enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, a custom application ported over to a Postgres database. While there have been challenges, the move paid off: The company has slashed its annual information technology expenditures by nearly half, from 4 percent of the company's expenses to 2 percent, Aquent CIO Larry Bolick says.

"There has been a major impact on the cost line for IT here," says Aquent CIO Larry Bolick. "It is not just the pure monthly bill from your telco... There have been a lot of process changes and a lot of organizational shifting of responsibilities."

The process changes, such a moving some IT support functions back into the business units, allowed the company to reduce its support staff. In addition, the outsourcing of its most support-intensive application, e-mail, helped reduce needed staff as well, he says.