How my company went 100 percent cloud

A drunk driver expedited our cloud migration. Here's how we swapped in-house apps for the cloud equivalents in record time

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Google Apps
Google Apps is central to everything we do. Whether it's Gmail or Calendar or authentication for Sugar or Jira or whatever (via Oauth), this is where it happens. Overall, there have been some minor performance issues on occasion, but Google Apps has been increasingly reliable, especially after we switched to a fiber-optic network.

Google Calendar has been a drastic improvement over Zimbra, particularly with regard to mobile integration. It isn't Zimbra's fault per se, but the CalDAV apps on Android aren't great. Nothing beats Google Calendar's integration with the Android Calendar app. Our mobile division has a number of developers with iPhones, and they seem just as happy.

We were already using Google Apps in our personal Gmail accounts before going Pro. There isn't a great migration path. Instead, we've had to implement some workarounds (sharing from personal accounts to the overall account, copying documents, and so on). In the future, we'll have the security of being able to "take ownership" of all of our new documents, but I really wish there was a path.

I'm not overly enthusiastic about our migration of the wiki to Google Apps. As you might expect, moving free-form wiki docs to word processor documents has not worked out so well. Ironically, I don't think the search works as well as it did before, especially since you can't limit searches to a particular folder. Nonetheless, I hate most of the cloud alternatives. I find Socialtext cumbersome and a bad compromise between a wiki and a word processor. Atlassian's Confluence is nearly as laborious -- almost SharePoint-like. Some may regard that as a compliment, but I assure you that it is not.

QuickBooks Online
The great thing about QuickBooks is its market position: Most credit card companies, banks, and other vendors have integration points.

But frankly, Intuit needs to get its act together. QuickBooks Online catches fire more frequently than a 787; Intuit posts oddly suggestive messages that QuickBooks Online will soon be back to "delight you" or other nonsense. We're probably on the verge of outgrowing it as a service. I have a feeling there aren't a lot of multi-million-dollar tech companies with multistate presences using it (indeed, QuickBooks Online's payroll functions handle the multistate aspect poorly).

Migration to the online edition of QuickBooks was very rocky. It recategorized data in a way that messed up our tax returns and the like. However, it freed us from desktop support, as the installed version seems to rely on the most brittle Windows libraries. Now our finance department only needs a browser.

Dropbox
I admit that I haven't completely weaned all of our applications people off of LibreOffice. They still find it helpful for certain uses, and the Google Apps Spreadsheet program has some irritating bugs -- for example, it doesn't adjust the sheet name reference in formulas when you copy a sheet. However, they use Dropbox to avoid emailing file attachments (I'm known for seriously disliking them) and backup.

We haven't tried the new "for business" function. In general, we'll need to move there or get everything into Google Apps, which seems to be an option. We need to centralize control, so if someone leaves, we can easily recover the documents. We use Dropbox as a mirror, so this is less critical.

Sugar On-Demand
This was a rocky migration. We'd had bad experiences with Sugar's support and service in the past, and initially I wanted to migrate to a different vendor. However, I'm filling in as sales manager until we find someone more qualified, and I love the SugarCRM dashboard and manage my month with it. No one else had a dashboard that came close, although the "reporting" functionality we got in the Enterprise upgrade leaves much to be desired.

Because the dashboard was the deciding factor, can you guess what didn't work when we first migrated? You know it: the dashboard. We filed a support ticket, and after a day or two, I did what anyone would do when they don't get immediate gratification: I Twitter-slapped them. The bug was fixed within a few days.

Since then, my opinion of Sugar both as a product and a company has been rising. We'd never gotten the email integration to work before, but now it does. My salespeople are entranced, and our department is becoming more compliant (that is, we're filling out all the fields we are supposed to) since it's automatic anyhow. I can tell where deals are by looking at the email history. I long for telephony integration that will make logging calls and other tasks equally easy.

Overall performance and reliability have been an improvement, and I've been satisfied since our rocky beginning. Sugar On-Demand is fairly expensive per user, though, so we vastly decreased the number of user accounts.

Expensify
Expensify is perhaps our longest-used cloud service. It was a major productivity boost for our operations people. When we started the company over five years ago, receipts were literally stapled to paper and scanned. Now, most of this happens automatically.

That said, Expensify has been one of our more problematic and increasingly unreliable services. I've said before that PaaS and IaaS are technologies, whereas SaaS is a business model. Expensify isn't based on cloud technology at all, if you read what the company has posted. It's also using very old school master-slave or multimaster replication and a SQL database for what seems on its face like a very easy case for a document database since expense reports and receipts are, like, documents and stuff. I can only imagine the queries necessary to put Humpty back together again.

I'm also pretty skeptical that Expensify's stuff will get better. Each recent release of the software has done weird things like blow away preferences or even ignore them, which has caused problems for our accounting people. It's incredibly disruptive because it happens with low predictability.

The overall setup of Expensify is a lot more "self-serve" than we work as a company. We don't make programmers do very much with regard to expense reports (snap pictures of the receipt with the Expensify app and identify whether it is reimbursable or not). I'd like to say this is because we love our developers and would never make them do such a thing, but the truth is that our accounts people simply do a better job. I kind of think their general target user of Expensify is the independent, self-employed type rather than a company of our size.

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