The following is an analysis of a recent local project that migrated a client to cloud systems in order to address a large number of operational inefficiencies.
Case – ABC Mediation – “Pamela”
Pamela operates a legal mediation consultancy. She delegates day-to-day responsibilities to her assistant who performs said work from her own home remotely.
Documents are passed back-and-forth between mediator and assistant for data entry, revisions, editing, etc. before being organized in a file system structure on the Pamela’s Windows PC.
Contacts and several calendars are synced frequently via a well-known cloud service.
Pamela travels frequently and communication falls to her Apple MacBook and iPhone.
The amount of documents requiring adjustments is increasing, and miscommunication between her and her assistant are confusing both of them as to which document revisions are the most recent. The assistant is forced to regularly “clean up” the file structure of document storage on Pamela’s hard drive. To enable this, a remote interface is required which cannot be shared and time must be scheduled so as not to interfere with Pamela’s daily operations.
The popular cloud service in use is buggy and unreliable. Sync settings must be removed and reconfigured regularly to re-establish the sync. Many calendars are unused altogether. There are multiple contact lists for no good reason and it is becoming hard to find some contacts.
Neither her phone nor her laptop are configured with her email account due to security concerns. Previous IT advisors have configured a secondary business account that she may email from so as not to send business email via a private account, but managing multiple accounts is becoming unwieldy. Email software as it is currently configured will only send messages via networks using the same ISP – in this case Shaw. Primary email is theoretically accessible from a web interface but all of her email client software is configured to download and remove messages from the server, leaving no messages to be seen. Emails cannot be left on the server due to a restriction on her web hosting package which limits inbox size to 50 megabytes. Messages sent from one device will not show up on other devices, making it difficult to look back to see what was said and when, which are important features in a legal practice. Sorting rules are in place to manage flow of email coming from many clients – rules are managed by the assistant during regular remote desktop connection (which is itself buggy and unstable).
Configured a cloud storage service package using Amazon’s S3 service of 10GB and mounted the space to the file system of both Pamela and her assistant. Transferred business file structure to this storage space.
Consolidated calendars and contacts into one single respective items. Synchronized the calendar and contact list with Google Apps and granted modification privileges to Pamela’s assistant. Configured desktop, laptop and phone to access online calendar via CalDAV protocol.
Migrated primary email account to Google Apps hosted business solution. Configured PC to connect via IMAP protocol. Configured iPhone and MacBook mail clients with custom accounts – enabled sending from primary account but receiving messages from a dummy account. Configured outgoing messages to be sent via Google’s SMTP server. Uploaded old messages to new mail server.
Pamela and her assistant now both have direct file access to all documents without relying on email (and conversely each-other to send them) as a transmission medium. Files can be opened, saved, moved and organized from a single location, making it easier to manage changes and identify most recently updated documents. If both users attempt to access a single file simultaneously, the second user will open the file in “read only” mode. This “cloud storage” folder behaves as if it were a drive plugged directly into each computer, but this drive is in fact distributed across many fault-tolerant servers, providing the data with redundancy.
Calendars and contacts now sync live whenever a change or addition is made from the web or any device including the phone. Synchronization is reliable and stable.
Pamela’s iPhone and laptop can now send email from the single business address, but not receive because the dummy account in effect does not exist (thus no confidential information is present on the phone). Messages sent from anywhere will show up in the “sent” folder on all other devices and on the web. Email can now be sent from any geographic location and from inside any ISP. Mobile devices can access the inbox via webmail interface, which contains every message ever sent or received, thanks to the massive 7.5GB mail storage space. Messages deleted from web will also delete messages from email client software and vice-versa. Email can now be sorted from the webmail instead of relying on Outlook or a remote desktop connection.
Workflows are drastically streamlined since they no longer depend on unstable remote connections or inefficient email. New options and abilities are adapted and taken advantage of, further leveraging the new technologies present. A massive amount of time and money is saved every day because of improved functionality, performance, and efficiency. Aside from the labour involved in provisioning the overall migration and a $4/month service fee for the cloud storage, the remaining technologies were free to implement.