the spring and summer, Brand intends to replace the financial and personnel applications with PeopleSoft programs. Currently, he is working on a project to connect all 700 field offices with frame relay -- putting Cisco routers and file servers in those locations, hooking up e-mail and mainframe access -- and establishing the support systems for the new network. He estimated that it will take about three years to complete the project.

With computer prices for performance seeming to always reach for new lows, refitting DHR's entire 41 floors, including networking equipment, was accomplished for under $1 million.

Although there's no silver bullet to move legacy data to the Web, Brand did have one piece of advice for managers facing a similar situation.

"With computers in a large organization, you have to standardize, and you have to standardize on the right equipment," Brand said. "Servers should be certified, workstations should be reliable. We could have 'saved' a lot of money by buying our own servers -- we tried that, and it was the most expensive server we ever bought. It kept going down and we had service calls. Do you know what's it like having a couple of thousand people not working? Not on my shift."

The Easier Route

Moving legacy systems to the Web is neither trivial nor impossible. Generally, there are two approaches to the problem: leave the legacy data intact and use existing products to translate from old to new, or replace the old entirely. By handling key parts of the problem with existing solutions -- such as routers that understand and can translate between older protocols and more Internet-friendly protocols -- the job is made far easier.


David Aden is a senior consultant with webworld studios, a Virginia-based Web application development consulting company. Email

David Aden  | 
David Aden is a writer from Washington, D.C.