Charity uses cloud computing to protect from visitor surges

Action for Children, one of Britain’s foremost charities has used a cloud hosting provider to create a hybrid cloud with which to support its website as well as applications, especially during peak surges in visitor numbers.

Action for Children’s Data Scientist, Darren Robertson explained how their data cloud arrangement worked.

Less sensitive data is kept with the cloud provider, whilst sensitive information (accounting for around 60% of total data) is kept separately on hard drives at the Action for Children HQ. The provider’s public cloud is used to host the website itself. This hybrid cloud arrangement also means that migrating the website is made much easier, should the need arise.

Robertson said that before using the cloud arrangement, hosting was done with their “web development agency, which was a shared environment of other charities.” This was problematic as it was expensive to change to a different agency.

He qualified this, saying that “Every time you want to change, you have got to lift the website up and move it somewhere else, which becomes very time consuming and expensive. This is especially true of the charity sector, where you have to put things out to tender on a regular basis.”

Another key problem was the surge in visitors periodically occurring. Demand spikes can overwhelm servers and cripple a website very easily. Such surges typically happen due to social media events, such as celebrities mentioning the website in question or when there is a news article released.

The managed server service eliminates this danger almost entirely thus making use of the surge, as well as reducing down-time and saving money. Downtime also costs money as content writers employed permanently cannot do their job if the site is not online. The alternative would be to move the website to a dedicated server which would be costly indeed.

Robertson decided not to use an entirely public cloud as there were still concerns about the security of ultra-sensitive data. The hybrid cloud thus proved the ideal solution, until such time as there is an increase in cloud security confidence.

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