Unicef UK extends its charitable reach with support from Claranet

Executive summary

Challenge: Many of Unicef's campaigns are digital and their website is key to fundraising efforts, but they were outgrowing their infrastructure with downtime significantly impacting the charity's effectiveness.

Solution: Claranet designed a fully managed Hosting solution that allowed Unicef to build more reliable and resilient infrastructure and streamline their IT management – letting them dedicate more time to campaigning.

Result: Unicef doesn't have the resources to have in-house hosting expertise and benefited hugely from Claranet's support structure. During their Soccer Aid event, for example, Claranet migrated and load tested the website, before adding the required load balancers and bandwidth at short notice – all of which played its part in raising £6.5 million on the day.

The challenge

Unicef UK’s digital channels are central to everything they do and their websites are key to its fundraising efforts. However, the path to digital success has not been without its challenges and with some big campaigns on the horizon, for which website performance and support were key, the charity called on Claranet to migrate its online presence to its secure and flexible Managed Hosting solution.

Unicef is the world’s leading organisation for children, promoting the rights and wellbeing of every child in everything they do. Unicef UK is a registered charity supported entirely by voluntary donations, which they rely upon to protect children in danger, transform their lives and build a safer world for tomorrow’s children. Many of charity’s campaigns are digital, which helps to gain exposure and share the amazing work they do with the public. Donations are generated through its websites, which in turn allow Unicef to protect children in danger and build a safer world for children.

However, digital technology poses significant challenges because website traffic can vary, particularly if there is a big campaign being executed, which can put pressure on its hosting arrangements. Any downtime can seriously impact Unicef’s ability to drive support for its causes and accept donations, so the charity’s digital team set about finding a more secure and reliable platform on which to host its websites.

Joanne Di Rosa, Digital Technology Manager at Unicef UK, explained:

We had outgrown the infrastructure we were using and were experiencing significant performance issues with our websites. 2014 was a busy year for Unicef UK, with two significant fundraising events; Soccer Aid and Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, so it was important to have reliable hosting in place."

The solution

That’s when we turned to Claranet for a Managed Hosting solution, who designed a more reliable and resilient infrastructure for our websites to sit on, and streamlined the management of the environment to a single point of contact, allowing us to dedicate more of our time to campaigning.”

The Managed Hosting solution, which is underpinned by Claranet’s private MPLS network, supports the majority of Unicef UK’s web presence including the main website, donations funnel and other transactional applications. The infrastructure includes load balancers and Claranet’s Web Acceleration service, which caches the applications and diverts traffic away from the servers themselves. This allows the sites to perform effectively during crucial times and when Unicef UK needs their websites most. During the Commonwealth Games, for example, their websites saw peaks of 18,000 visitors, but in spite of the pressure that this level of traffic entails, the hosting went off without a hitch.

A good example of what it is like working with Claranet was ahead of our high profile sporting event Soccer Aid. Unicef worked with Claranet’s dedicated Service Management team in order to migrate and load test the website on the newly commissioned hosting environment. After load testing it became clear that we needed to increase the scope of the solution and Claranet were quick to add dedicated load balancers and more bandwidth at short notice. This meant that on the night itself Claranet’s solution played its part in helping us raise an amazing £6.5 million for children all over the world.”

Joanne Di Rosa
Digital Technology Manager, Unicef UK

The result

As a charity, Unicef UK doesn’t have the resources to dedicate to being experts in hosting, so according to Joanne, a key benefit of the solution has been the support structures offered by Claranet: “We wanted a provider that could lead us in the right direction and give us the help we needed to get on with our fundraising efforts. Claranet immediately understood the way we work and how the internet supports our outreach. We really value the service they offer. It's nice to have someone looking at our business impartially who cares about us and proactively looks at ways to help. We have a great relationship with the Service Management team - they just 'gets things done' when we need them to.

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The future

Unicef UK’s future aspirations are to use its digital channels to engage more supporters for the work that it does for children.

Joanne concluded: “When an emergency hits it’s vital to have the right technical solution in place to support our digital estate and engage the public. Unicef UK’s relationship with Claranet is that of a trusted partner, and we know that we can rely on them to help us drive digital innovation so we can maximise funds to support children in danger around the world.”

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