AWS Public Sector Blog

How one small public library IT team saw big benefits from migrating to AWS

The Poudre River Library District is a public library system in Larimer County, Colorado that serves approximately 177,000 patrons. When their integrated library system (ILS) vendor notified the Library District that the system could no longer run on their aging on-premises hardware, they were at a crossroads. After pricing out multiple options, the Library District opted to manage their own ILS migration to Amazon Web Services (AWS). With an IT staff of four, the Library District completed a successful migration in six months with help from their AWS account team.

Migrating to AWS: From ideation to launch in six months

Before contacting any cloud service providers, the Library District looked for other public libraries who had migrated their ILS to the cloud to ask questions about their experience and migration outcomes. Not many libraries of their size had migrated, with most examples coming from large universities and academic libraries. The Library District knew that purchasing new on-premises hardware at the processing power required for their ILS was not a desirable option due to cost. Despite a lack of peer examples, Poudre River decided to migrate to AWS, which provided a cost-effective option thanks to the flexibility offered in customizing the environment to the Library District’s needs.

During this migration and upgrade, AWS allowed the Library District to pivot and respond to changes from their ILS vendor within hours and without additional cost of physical hardware modifications. From the Library District’s initial meetings with AWS to the launch of their new cloud-based system, their ILS migration was completed in about six months without interruptions to their ILS availability.

Migration benefits realized

The Library District’s system administrator, Victor Zuniga, helped customize their AWS environment to their specific processing and storage requirements. The resulting environment led to a 50% cost savings over an on-premises hardware replacement. Library District saw additional benefits with AWS, like the ability to create machine images, which are templates for building, testing, and deploying virtual machines, that the Library District can use for system upgrades in the future, preventing long hours and heavy workloads for the small team during upgrade periods. Prior to migrating the ILS to AWS, fully operationalizing the system after planned upgrades or unanticipated events could take up to twelve minutes. This down time is now under one-minute post-migration. Not only does this lead to more efficient software upgrades, but it also minimizes the wait times for patrons. The Library District can also manage the ILS environment remotely, which provides their small IT staff with greater flexibility in responding to unexpected emergencies.

The Library District’s ILS is now hosted on their self-designed and managed Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) instances. The team also took advantage of Amazon EC2 Reserved Instances to generate even greater cost savings over on-demand pricing.

Migration lessons learned

Not all public libraries have their own IT staff and if they do, that staff may be challenged by where to begin with creating and managing their own cloud environment. “A key element of the Library District’s success was Victor’s expertise and experience,” said Mark Huber, the Library District’s IT and facilities manager. “Victor had a firm foundation for learning the basics of AWS Cloud infrastructure in a short time-frame as we began our migration. In our experience, in-house technical resources, whether permanent IT staff members or consultants, is important for any public library undertaking a similar project,” said Mark.

For any organization lacking in-house expertise, AWS Educate offers no cost, self-paced online training resources for cloud beginners. AWS Training and Certification offers both digital and in-person classroom trainings as well as AWS Cloud certifications at the foundational through advanced levels. If in-house staff resources are limited, the AWS Partner Network includes system integrators and consulting partners that specialize in migrations and public sector cloud environment design and management.

For Victor, the ILS migration presented a welcome challenge. “It’s exciting to tackle a new problem where the majority of the pieces are question marks,” said Victor. “Within the cloud environment, we were able to try new things with very low risk, since reverting and improving our approach was much easier in the cloud than in our previous physical hardware.” The Library District recently completed a second migration from on-premises hardware to the AWS Cloud through their upgrade from Red Hat Enterprise 7 to 8. “The Red Hat upgrade was smoother and faster than our ILS migration, since we had confidence from our prior experience,” said Victor.

Learn more about public sector migrations on AWS

Learn more about how other state and local governments innovate with AWS. Contact AWS to discuss how we can help you with your next project.

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