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It’s a perfectly ordinary Saturday afternoon in late May. A conductor raises his baton, an orchestra fills the room with the age-old sound of a commencement ceremony, and suddenly, for the thousands of students celebrating the end of three hard years studying law, the world is their oyster, and anything is possible—if only for a moment.

There are two requirements necessary to legally practice law in the U.S: a post-graduate degree in law (JD) and a passing score on the Bar exam. After the dazzling commencement speeches come to a close, BARBRI, a global organization that provides innovative learning technologies and test-prep services, will be there to help these individuals prepare for the notoriously challenging 12-hour exam—something it has done since 1967.

Leadership at BARBRI recognized early on that there was a disconnect between the requirements of universities and the requirements of the exam. With a decade of experience, Director of IT, Mark Kaplan, developed the proprietary software that differentiates BARBRI’s specialized course from any other test-prep service. Sure, other courses provide an ongoing review of university coursework, but BARBRI actually bridges the gap between curricula requirements and actual skills needed to pass the Bar. “Law schools do a great job of teaching the law,” explains Kaplan, “but they don’t prepare students to pass the Bar exam.” After years of industry leadership, Kaplan identified the infrastructure as an opportunity to enrich the customer experience and began looking for a digital environment that would optimize their global operation.

Searching for a new digital solution

As an organization offering year-round services to prepare future lawyers for the Bar exam, BARBRI has helped more than 1.3 million students “own the Bar” across the globe. That is more than every other test-prep service combined. To handle such a large volume of clientele, BARBRI needed the ability to operate at full capacity throughout the year. This meant the organization’s on-prem data system needed to go.

As cost and efficiency issues associated with on-prem infrastructure began to get in the way of progress, BARBRI began searching for a cloud solution. Their previous IT infrastructure consisted of two identical data centers on the East and West coasts. This system created restrictive barriers for employees due to a lack of on-demand access to essential resources and data. To mitigate these issues, BARBRI began their process of digital transformation.

“I evaluated the numbers and moving to the cloud made the most sense,” says Kaplan, who knew that while “migrating to the cloud would certainly be a process,” it was also integral to the company’s future success.

A partnership with Microsoft

BARBRI had built its tremendous success on its previous data infrastructure, so the decision to move to the cloud wasn’t made in haste. The organization carefully considered a number of cloud computing platforms, but with leadership and the recommendation of Kaplan, BARBRI trusted Azure as their new cloud partner. Ultimately, the decision came down to an overall positive experience and unprecedented support from Microsoft.

“AWS had a fine system, but their assistance was not there. Microsoft rolled out a lot of resources for us, welcomed us, and helped us get to where we needed to be,” Kaplan recounts.

The transition took place in three phases. First, BARBRI was challenged with moving all of their database management systems to Azure’s more flexible cloud platform. They realized the undertaking would be massive and involve a significant transfer of sensitive data. However, Microsoft worked directly with Kaplan to successfully transition from Oracle to Microsoft SQL.

The second step was to create a “hybrid” environment by shutting down one of the databases and replacing it with Azure. Finally, after a year of running their hybrid operation, the team felt comfortable in Azure and leveraged Azure ExpressRoute to migrate all remaining data to the cloud. While the process was immense, with the help of Microsoft, BARBRI’s transition was met with ease and they were able to finish the transition to the cloud with confidence.

Empowering success through the cloud

With a new system in place, BARBRI has begun to optimize its operations with Azure’s easy-to-navigate environment and customizable platform. The portal’s intuitive navigation allows employees to confidently make changes while enabling management to control the platform from anywhere through the mobile app. The organization has also experienced greater threat protection through Azure’s security framework, ensuring sensitive data remains out of the hands of cybercriminals.

The scalable solutions offered by Azure has also allowed BARBRI to achieve significant cost savings. Developers now have the capability to expand and contract resources as needed. “In the cloud,” explains Kaplan, “you have the freedom to spin the servers down to avoid spending money in the off season.”

Driving innovation with cloud systems

BARBRI is looking into the future of productivity with Azure. Their forward thinking and new data management capabilities have paid off and enriched user experience in ways they didn’t think were possible. With greater capabilities, they are able to offer students a more reliable and efficient experience that leads to a better outcome for all.

At the end of the day, “Microsoft is a partner, not a vendor,” says Kaplan. BARBRI is looking forward to increasing its partnership with Microsoft and begin to fully utilize everything Azure has to offer.