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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I used to hate Jira when software development was the bulk of my responsibility. When I became more of an operational manager, I grew to love it. Now that I'm more of a strategic manager, I love the integration possibilities. We formerly used Trac and QuickBook's time tracking for billing, but getting developers to do double-entry accounting is not easy. We are now able to use Jira for both.

It's possible that one of the newer tools like Rally would overcome some of Jira's shortcomings with process and workflow, but we were already using Jira on premises and migrating to cloud-based Jira was totally painless. Also, swapping something central like an issue tracker used by both developers and operational people alike would be very disruptive.

Additionally, Jira integrates well with Google Apps for authentication. It also worked well when we used LDAP. Single sign-on has become increasingly important to us as we've grown.

I felt a little dubious about BitBucket at first. Atlassian's related product, FishEye, was terribly slow. On the other hand, BitBucket integrates with Google for authentication and integrates with Jira for history, timeline, and more. It's also cheaper than GitHub, since BitBucket charges per user, while GitHub charges per private repository -- and most of ours are private. (We use GitHub for our public repositories.)

We were overdue to move from Subversion to Git. We waited a good while because the IDE integration wasn't there, and Git's command-line interface is cumbersome, especially when onboarding junior staff. We took the time to do a general reorganization, so this was mostly a manual process. We've been happy with it -- although it does have one really frustrating "feature" that makes you pick a username that's unique to BitBucket and can't be an email address. If you're me, this means you either do acoliver42934 (which I loathe) or you end up with acoliverAndALotOfExpletivesJustFreakingWork.

As Drupal users, our natural cloud choice would seem to be Acquia, the best-known cloud-based Drupal offering. But good grief, Acquia wanted a crap load of money or its pricing was too confusing for us simple software developer folk. I tweeted in protest and the company said that if we were happy with an SLA that was less than what we needed, then the price wasn't so bad.

Synaxis CEO Paul Welty engaged me on Twitter, and for about $9k, we got what we needed. As far as I can tell, this is better than what Acquia offered, but Acquia has weird sliders and stuff that don't tell me whether I can get with some kind of 24/7 SLA. When our engineers tried to get a quote, it was something like $25,000 for our two sites (our DBA Bull City Mobile is used for mobile applications).

We've had outstanding service and performance with Synaxis. The company was also very helpful and supportive when we subsequently relaunched our website.

We needed to upgrade our Internet connection. We expect to be at nearly 50 people by the end of the year. It wasn't so much the downlink speed as our uplink speed.

The hidden cost is that we upgraded our Internet to 30-by-30 fiber from 50-by-5 cable. It took a long time for the salesman from Time Warner Cable to convince me that 50-by-5 was slower even on the downlink. True, if you're downloading a gigabyte file, it's debatable, but the ramp-up for most usage is far more latent with cable.

This is one of the areas where U.S. policy has really screwed up small business. The cable companies have been successful at lobbying states to make it hard for towns to band together to improve the Internet -- and they say this under the guise of free market. That "free market" they are protecting is cable giants' government-protected duopoly. If you don't live in Kansas or Austin, where Google is giving is selling gigabit connections for under $100, expect to pay through the nose. Yes, 30-by-30 costs $1,500 where we are, take it or leave it.

The system integration opportunity
Our finance department is still doing a number of things by hand that really should be reports or workflow; there's a hole in the cloud here. We've been schooling some of our developers on Google's scripting capabilities and hope to do some kind of mashup between Google Apps, Expensify, and Quickbooks -- or their successors. Mainly this would be monthly management reports and making certain repetitive tasks in Expensify automatic and integrated with Quickbooks for when we bill expenses to clients.

The cost
The total cost for all of the cloudy goodness is $21,000 per year for about 30 people, minus the Internet upgrade. This isn't easy for me to stomach, until I figure in outages, administration, hardware, and more.

There is also that other thing: I sleep better. There's a lot of fear of the cloud, some of it warranted. Yet, without question, I now know that some drunk can't take out my whole company with his SUV. I'll worry about China or the U.S. government some other time.

This article, "How my company went 100 percent cloud," was originally published at Keep up on the latest developments in application development and read more of Andrew Oliver's Strategic Developer blog at For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

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