Ray Kieffer | Systems Analyst | Northeast Iowa Community College
As data security concerns rise along with internal IT staff being stretched thin, on-premises technology infrastructures become an increasingly risky and inefficient proposition. In contrast, a cloud-based platform offers much more robust security features, redundant backups, automatic updates, and continuous uptime, whether an organization has one location or many. Such is the case for Northeast Iowa Community College (NICC) with its two campuses and six educational and career development centers. Knowing their existing on-premises document management and workflow arrangement was not sustainable in the long run, leadership embraced a strategic move to the cloud.
“I'm always waiting for the next new feature because I know it's going to solve a nagging issue or problem,” said Ray Kieffer, Systems Analyst, Northeast Iowa Community College. “Quarterly updates to our on-prem application didn’t cut it. But being in the cloud, those new features or updates are continuously implemented, and that makes my life and the lives of my users a lot easier.”
As NICC moved swiftly into migration planning, the question of data security during the migration and after was definitely top of mind.
“We partner with a security firm, and they gave us a comprehensive Cloud Vendor Questionnaire for Softdocs to fill out,” said Kieffer. “Everyone was so impressed by what Softdocs gave us. They'd never seen such a thorough response that ticked all the boxes.”
By moving to the cloud, NICC transferred much of the data security burden from their internal CIS team to the Softdocs support experts. That included the tedious effort of maintaining on-site servers. “We went from five servers down to two, and the maintenance on those remaining servers is much more manageable.”
By migrating to a cloud solution, now NICC’s CIS staff can focus more on improving the overall strategy and performance of their campus tech stack and processes rather than getting bogged down in supporting the day-to-day upkeep of their existing infrastructure.
The magnitude of a migration from on-prem to the cloud may seem daunting at first. But with precise planning and clear delegation of responsibilities, NICC felt confident moving forward. “The migration was a huge undertaking. You're disconnecting thousands of connections and then putting them all back together,” said Kieffer.
“Fortunately, Softdocs did most of the heavy lifting. We set up the hybrid server separately from the production servers we were using at the time, and Softdocs created the cloud system. One of the things I liked was that it was basically a standalone system we could test. We could make sure everything was working and move forward confidently before the final cutover.”
Though the migration plan and responsibilities were clear and Kieffer felt confident about moving forward, he couldn’t shake the concern about losing “control” of key databases. “From my on-prem admin perspective, I was reluctant to give up access to the database,” said Kieffer. “Not only because I want to see what's going on there, but also we were running several reports through Informer that referenced the Etrieve Content database specifically, and we didn't want to lose access to those.”
“So we created a linked database, which is a read-only version of the databases we're still able to query. I can't run any update statements on it or affect the data, but we can query the data that is there. I think we have hundreds of reports using this process, so it was a big deal for us to keep that access. Softdocs worked with us to make that solution happen. Then once the system was up, we simply made sure all the processes worked the way we needed. By the first week after migration, everything was 100%.”
As NICC continues to discover the benefits of its cloud-based document management and process automation platform, the expectation is to continue to scale the operational efficiencies more quickly to more areas. “We're a heavy user of Softdocs across campus. I don't think there's a department that doesn't have at least one or two Softdocs processes running,” said Kieffer. “It's a continual kind of growth, and we are always striving to add more process automation whenever we get the chance.”
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