Skill Set 365 Transforms Cloud HR & Payroll Management by Moving to Amazon AWS

Several months ago, with a new injection of capital, we decided to decrease our IT operational overhead so we could focus more intently on its core business-- Cloud Payroll & HR. To this end, we transitioned applications from its many on-premises IT centers and collocated environments into the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Cloud.

The Challenge

Skill Set 365’s cloud software solutions are a critical part of the Human Resources, Compliance & Payroll workflow for many organizations. Our applications are the glue between Organizations, Payroll Bureaus, The Government and employees. Previously, Skill Set 365 relied on multiple IT centers and collocated environments to support its software solutions. However, this approach led to major challenges. For example, certain activities required more compute and storage capacity at certain times of the month nearing payroll deadlines or timesheet entries.

We spent approximately 18 hours per day facilitating data processing at peak capacity. During the remaining six hours per day, as well as weekends, we were processing significantly off-peak but still had to manage, maintain, and pay for the underlying unused compute environment during those times. We lacked the ability to efficiently support 24/7 on-demand access by our 12,000+ monthly website visitors seeking jobs whilst maintaining uninterrupted access to our SAAS. Skill Set 365 also needed the agility to develop and deploy new applications faster. Our ability to adequately support our account managers, data scientists, and developers were not where it needed to be. We wanted to lay the foundation necessary to reduce or eliminate barriers needed to increase the speed of innovation

Why Amazon Web Services

Skill Set 365 determined that moving to the cloud was the best way to address its challenges. We knew the cloud was the only way to get the scalability, speed, and security our customers expect from us. We considered building our own private cloud and using solutions from cloud providers, including Digicel Datacenters, Microsoft Azur & Google Cloud Platform. After a thorough analysis, we found AWS to have the best infrastructure and performance to meet our data, security & hosting needs. One of our key processes operated 60 percent more efficiently on AWS than on any other platform, without changing our code.

After choosing AWS, we began migrating several important applications to the AWS Cloud. We bought access to a super guru dedicated AWS Support Professional, which provided the expert architecture and configuration guidance required to accelerate the migration. This AWS Services Professional played an important role in the migration processes. 

It’s one thing to provision servers, but it’s another to configure an environment that complies with strict security requirements. This would have been very difficult without the assistance from AWS Professional Services.”

The Stack

Skill Set 365 applications run on 100 of Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) Instance

Each Instance runs on Windows Server 2019 base

Each Instance type m5ad.4xlarge running 64 GB of RAM and 16 vCPUs

Each instance is grouped into 10 groups comprising 10 instances each. 

Each group sits behind 4 Load balancers simultaneously supporting 2 availability zones and running off Amazon Route 53

Provisioned IOPS (SSD)

2 groups of instances are offline 23 hours a day and exist purely as a backup. 

Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS)

Each of our 12 RDS instances runs on SQL Server Enterprise Edition 2017 (We are stuck with this edition due to our full-text needs and advance SQL server agent task requirements)

8vCPU & 32GB Ram instance size

Provisioned IOPS (SSD)

Multi-AZ deployment Mirroring / Always On

Additionally, we leveraged the AWS-managed CodeCommit source-control service to host private Git repositories, AWS CodeDeploy to automate deployment, and AWS CloudFormation to automate infrastructure—all supporting a DevOps culture that includes using AWS CodePipeline to manage our continuous integration and continuous delivery deployment workflows. We also meet a portion of our regulatory and security requirements by using AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM).

Although we employ a multi-cloud strategy and continues to host some applications in other data centers, we plan to rely more on AWS in the coming months. We will move an additional dozen applications and services to AWS in the coming months. We see the cloud as the safest, most scalable, and most cost-effective place to operate.”

The Benefits

By running our 3 dozen plus applications on AWS, we can easily scale up or down without needing to acquire and provision servers’ months in advance. The server-provisioning process used to take us 20 weeks or more, but it’s down to minutes using AWS. That gives us the flexibility to support the scaling events we experience several times per day. We pay for what we need when we need it. We no longer need to pay for and manage unnecessary peak compute capacity. We recently had a major call-center customer request a large volume of processing, and we simply spun up an additional 20 instances of our service on AWS. When the large workload completed, we just turned off those instances.

We are also able to innovate faster by using AWS services to increase developer efficiency. We can more easily and quickly build our application environments and manage our applications by using AWS CodeDeploy and CodeCommit and are fully supporting our continuous integration and deployment pipelines by relying on AWS, and that has really boosted our development efficiency. Using AWS, we’ve gone from deployments taking six weeks to one per week, and very soon we expect that to be multiple deployments per day.”

As we continue to migrate more of its applications to AWS, we expect to create and implement innovative new Payroll & HR software for our customers. Skill Set 365 is not in the IT business. Rather, we are an HR-analytics company. We are getting out of IT operations, and by going to AWS, we can focus our R&D team on the science of Effective People Management. For us that means analytics rather than IT, enabling us to attack the HR industry’s cost and quality challenges.

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