How to Move Your Company to the Cloud: Q&A with a Director of IT and Cloud Architect

In the last decade, cloud computing in the enterprise environment has gone from the hot new fad for tech-savvy companies, to a growing trend supported by positive empirical outcomes, to the proven way of the future for companies that want to rapidly scale, innovate, and nimbly adapt to market demands.

According to Gartner, growth in cloud computing will account for the majority of new IT spending by 2016. By 2017, Gartner expects to see nearly half of large enterprises instituting hybrid cloud deployments.

To assist organizations who have just made the move to cloud computing and those considering cloud adoption, we sat down with Steve Simmons, Director of IT and Senior Cloud Architect of AMAG Pharmaceuticals, who helped his company transition from a traditional, on-premises data management approach to a nimble, collaborative cloud model starting in 2009.

In the interview below, you’ll learn about a small IT team who has “been there, done that” when it comes to cloud migration. Simmons, one of the leaders in the push to the cloud, discusses his preparation and planning for the process (a step he recommends to any organization aiming for a successful transition), the tools and resources he used during cloud migration, the benefits AMAG reaps from cloud computing, and how the company currently uses it in daily operations.

Q: Who was the key mover in the decision to migrate to the cloud?

A: Our Vice President of IT, Nathan McBride, was the executive sponsor of our decision to move to the cloud. However, the process required a team effort to plan, design, and execute a three-year year plan for the migration. Three experts representing distinct skillsets lead the charge for AMAG: our infrastructure, application, and security managers were all vital pieces of the puzzle.

Q: Did you have a detailed business plan to move to the cloud or did it happen on an ad-hoc basis?

A: Yes, we absolutely had an organized plan of attack. We originally built a three-year plan for migrating, starting with the adoption of Google Workspace, and later expanding to other commodity applications (timekeeping, faxing, e-signatures, etc.). However, we first sought to fully understand the controls we needed in place in order to migrate.

We created a Detailed Functional Spec guide based on our business needs for what we expect of our cloud vendors, as part of our effort to set out the appropriate operational controls, and we also educated our legal team about dealing with these new types of technology contracts. We determined that we would hold all cloud partners to high standards: they should be industry-leading companies with a strong support channel and a high level of transparency.

Then we identified the need to back up our Google Workspace environment. We chose Spanning to do this, and they played a significant part in giving us the confidence to go full steam ahead with our cloud adoption strategy. We also needed a securing environment; for this, we selected CloudLock and Okta. Once we saw success with commodity IT, we made it a policy to look at cloud options against on-premises options as services came up for technology refresh or renewal. Soon enough, we got to the point where on-premises solutions were no longer an option.

Q: Did you engage the services of a cloud integrator or consultant to move your operations to these cloud-based services or were they easy enough to do yourself?

A: A mixture of both. With a small team, it made more sense to leverage experts. This allowed multiple projects to run in parallel, as well as faster delivery of technology. I’ve found that SaaS has been typically easy enough in all cases for deployment, and I rely heavily on vendor partners for best practice recommendations. We handled most of the infrastructure backbone internally. At the enterprise level, we generally leave technology implementation to partners, while we focus on education, training, and end-user adoption.

Q: How would you rate your move to the cloud on a scale from “love it” to “total disaster?”

A: Love It! Because we were a small nimble team, it allowed us to do much more – but we did run into some challenges. Many times, we had to wait for the industry to catch up to us. Additionally, as early adopters, we ended up pilot testing several products, which can be challenging when you’re dealing with constantly evolving security. However, moving to the cloud when we did and the way we did allowed our IT to move more quickly than ever and provided better visibility into our IT investments, and with better cost controls.

Q: What about the cloud made you keen to use it at an increasing rate?

A: To answer this, I’ll have to start with Google Workspace; this was the cornerstone to replace our existing messaging tools and strategy. This software showed us we could build modularly and easily add or remove technology pieces as we saw fit.

I’ll also point to our small team adding value to our cloud adoption strategy. We can execute more quickly than ever, leveraging the speed and collaborative features of the cloud. As the company scales, we won’t need to add more personnel to handle our IT needs. On the business side, we liked the speed of adoption we were able to achieve and the adaptability to a mobile workforce, largely making the office cubicle obsolete. Our use of the cloud now allows for easier transition for any business development.

Q: Tell us about your experience with the cloud at AMAG: what model do you use and how extensively do you use it?

A: At AMAG Pharmaceuticals, we now heavily leverage the cloud, utilizing Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), and platform-as-a-service (PaaS) products and services, as well as leveraging a hybrid cloud model. Our software applications are in the cloud for messaging, backup and recovery of SaaS data, enterprise single sign-on, e-fax and more. We are running hypervisors and OS platforms, we have a small internal Virtual infrastructure, our data centers are collocated for disaster recovery, our application environments are running in a hybrid cloud environment via internal portals. We are truly bridging several cloud types at AMAG for our IT environment.

Learn more to help your company succeed in the cloud

You can find out more about Steve Simmons and AMAG, their cloud story, and how they keep their SaaS application data safe with Spanning Backup by reading their customer story and watching this video. Don’t forget, after moving to the cloud, your cloud vendors can only do so much to protect your SaaS data. To fill in the gaps, you need a cloud-to-cloud backup and recovery solution like Spanning Backup to ensure the availability of critical data at all times. Learn What You Need to Know About Cloud Application Data Protection and Availability by watching our free on-demand webinar.