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With all the talk about migrating enterprise IT to the cloud, an admin might be forgiven for thinking that clinging to the traditional in-house model would make his employer something like the corporate equivalent of the last fellow standing on the wall at the high school homecoming.
But for businesses looking to make the jump to a cloud deployment, it's not always that easy to get into the game. Even once an organization has made the decision to head to the cloud and selected their environment -- neither a matter of just checking boxes! -- a host of challenges concerning security, data migration and project management await.
So it's no surprise that the niche sector of cloud solution providers -- those companies that can help shepherd IT departments through the transition -- has become a growth industry.
One that comes highly recommended – by Google, in this case – is the San Mateo, Calif.-based Appirio, founded in 2006. In the time since, Appirio has helped more than 200 enterprises and other organizations on their path to the cloud, offering a services portfolio that encompasses the implementation and management of deployments on Salesforce, Google, Workday and Amazon.
Indeed, it was Google that recommended Appiro to the IT management at Tyler Junior College, once the school's senior leadership opted to abandon the SunOne Messaging system in favor of Google Apps.
"Data migration between the two systems created a potential roadblock that would cause the project to miss its target go-live date," said Tyler Junior College CIO Larry Mendez. "While working with Google Education division, they recommended five companies and only two companies replied within a day."
Aside from the punctual response, a number of factors ultimately persuaded Mendez and his team that Appirio was the best fit, particularly what he described as "a firm foundation of project management methodologies" and "their deep bench of human resources."
Mendez also noted that his organization had staked out an ambitious timetable for its transition, which didn't faze the Appirio team. Concluded this January, the project took just over three weeks to complete.
At the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, which is in the midst of a two-stage transition to a Salesforce deployment guided by Appirio, the decision to head to the cloud in the first place was not taken lightly.
"Cloud solutioning was -- and is -- a tough sell internally. The status quo -- heavy, on-premise, 'we want to own our own data' mentality -- doesn't go away easily," said Frederick Wolf, national manager of IT programs at the foundation. "We have an executive leadership group that has grown up in the 90's and is comfortable with what they know: on-premise solutions [and] client-server technology."
But as it happened, the foundation was using Convio's Luminate CRM for its fundraising operations, a solution whose underlying architecture paved the way for the migration to the cloud.
"If that hadn't been something built on top of SFDC I doubt our executive leadership would have approved a cloud-centric solution set," Wolf said.
As the foundation went shopping for a cloud-solution provider, Appirio had a leg up on the competition, as Wolf said he had "worked directly with a dozen or so Appirians in past lives and knew they knew their stuff." Additionally, he was confident that they were steeped in the Salesforce environment the foundation was working with.
What's more, Wolf, like Mendez, was impressed with the professionalism of the Appirio team.
"Appirio showed commitment," he explained. "While the others were either showing entitlement to the work, or didn't work with our team collaboratively, Appirio collaborated well and also laid out a financial approach that was based on true partnership."
The solution providers that the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation considered, but ultimately rejected, included Astadia, TMA, Softrek and Global Cloud, which had built and supported the organization's legacy systems.
Wolf said that the foundation rolled out the first phase of its deployment in February, with the second phase planned for this month. The organization is planning to undertake the major conversion next May.