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With dispersed operations and projects up and running in some of the remotest parts of the world, charity organisations such as the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) have come to depend on their networking infrastructure as a means to more efficiently manage their operations.
However, in the WWF’s case, a jungle of capacity and quality of service (QoS) issues meant that its network was no longer fit for purpose – things were getting wild and the beast needed taming.
The charity already relies heavily on bandwidth-intensive unified communications technology to communicate with branch offices – besides its Woking, Surrey HQ it runs satellite offices in Cardiff and Edinburgh to be close to the UK’s devolved legislatures – as well as needing to keep in touch with charity workers at field sites located around the world, explained Paul Beyer, WWF UK infrastructure architect.
“Our experts and programme managers need to communicate, and are really reliant on a wide range of tools, and they were very unhappy,” Beyer told Computer Weekly.
Over the years, Beyer explained, the IT team had underestimated quite how embedded internet-based services and tools were in the charity’s wider organisation, and because of that, the network couldn’t cope. Every time Beyer upped the capacity, it was swiftly used up, and budget was always tight.
“Our mantra is to cost less and get out of the way because as IT operations, we’re a cost centre. We would rather spend money on snow leopards than buying computers,” he said. Additionally, the organisation was trying to implement a cloud-first strategy across its entire IT stack, but finding this a virtual impossibility.
“Software as a service is the most desirable place for us to be, but like any organisation that has been around since the 1960s, we’ve a legacy of data systems and information that hasn’t necessarily moved on at pace,” said Beyer. “We had one foot there, and one out in ‘as-a-service land’.”
Disaster recovery strategy
Perhaps most worryingly of all, the creaking infrastructure also meant the WWF could not implement any kind of effective disaster recovery strategy because it could not count on being able to move data offsite, introducing a significant element of risk to the business because, should anything go wrong, the IT organisation had no idea of how much data could be recovered and in what timeframe, if any.
Understandably unwilling to recommit to its old service provider given the issues it was seeing, the WWF tendered for a new service and ended up enlisting cloud and network services provider Exponential-e to revitalise its infrastructure.
“Several things stood out for me but the professionalism and personal skills of the account management team and tech presales stood out head and shoulders above the other potential contracts,” said Beyer.
“We hadn’t swapped service providers for a decade, maybe longer, so it was stressful and there was a sense of nervousness, but the implementation process was very good. They worked with us really closely, and managed to get all our new circuits in in parallel to our existing circuits in good time to do validation, redundancy, speed and QoS testing,” he added.
At the core of the WWF’s new network sit high-capacity load bearers and enhanced QoS technology that helps Beyer understand how and where the network is being used so that he can better support data flows across the business. This has meant he can now proactively manage the network and mitigate issues before they have an operational impact. He has also seen a massive improvement in trip times and latency.
“In a cloud environment the importance of this can’t be overstated. From a business risk perspective, we can now execute a sophisticated disaster recovery plan that would see the company up and running rapidly with full data access,” he said.
Read more about IT in charity organisations
Besides de-risking the organisation’s operations, enabling it to finally make good on its cloud ambitions, and freeing up IT resource from firefighting network issues, the switchover has also paid dividends for the WWF’s customer call centre.
The contact centre is particularly important to the WWF because, unlike a retail store or other business, everybody who calls in is fully-committed to either becoming a member, or making a donation, meaning the organisation must fully optimise the experience.
With the enhanced network, the WWF is now able to better integrate its contact centre into its wider IT systems, and has introduced new tools to better serve its supporters.
“WWF is an incredibly important organisation and one that we are very proud to work with. They work across the globe so it is imperative that they have the connectivity to enable them to do so effectively,” said Exponential-e head of networks, Andrew Chant.
“By implementing the technology needed to enable the digital journey they want to go on, we have given the WWF UK peace of mind in its day-to-day internet use and plans for the future.”