Doctors Without Borders

Reliable uptime when natural disasters and humanitarian crises occur permits the Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières website to do its key job: disseminate information and collect donations that help provide life-saving aid when and where it’s needed.  HOSTING’s hybrid infrastructure solution, built to be highly scalable and highly available, gives this non-profit a solid foundation on which they can rely.


“HOSTING’s ability to provide an Always On solution and quickly work to help us make changes to meet anticipated spikes in demand are the two primary reasons we continue to rely on their services. I can call HOSTING and tell them we are going to be featured on 60 Minutes or that there is flooding in Pakistan that will impact our resource needs and they make them available through their cloud resource pools. ”

MSF Web Team Manager
Julie Whitaker


Rock-Solid Uptime When it Really Counts

Background

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is an international medical humanitarian organization created by doctors and journalists in France in 1971. Today, MSF provides aid in nearly 60 countries to people whose survival is threatened by violence, neglect, or catastrophe, primarily due to armed conflict, epidemics, malnutrition, exclusion from health care, or natural disasters. MSF provides independent, impartial assistance to those most in need.

During humanitarian disasters like those described above, MSF relies upon its website to quickly convey information from personnel on the ground, to recruit workers of all types and to accept donations.

Challenge

Unlike some business verticals whose usage spikes are relatively predictable—holiday gift-buying, Halloween costume season, flower ordering and delivery, and so on—disasters adhere to no schedule.

When the earthquake struck Haiti in January 2010, the stories and images broadcast across all media outlets spurred a huge rise in visitor traffic to MSF’s website – doctorswithoutborders.org. As shock and horror turned into an outpouring of charitable donations, doctorswithoutborders.org moved from an average of 28,000 visitors per week to a sudden peak of 1.5 million visitors—in one week.

The MSF website must remain robust and stable when it counts, not only to collect essential life-saving donations, but to provide their unique on–the-ground reporting from MSF field workers around the world. News organizations as well as individual visitors have come to rely on the unbiased content, images and streaming video and audio media that the doctorswithoutborders.org site provides as the first line of information in a crisis. A mention of MSF by CNN’s Anderson Cooper can funnel large numbers of visitors in moments—and doctorswithoutborders.org is ready for the challenge.

Solution

HOSTING has provided infrastructure solutions for doctorswithoutborders.org since 2006. As Hybrid Hosting clients they utilize a combination of managed hosting and cloud hosting services; specifically HOSTING’s Cloud Private and Cloud Enterprise solutions. These solutions ensure that doctorswithoutborders.org gets the necessary website security, financial transaction compliancy and peak-time scalability.

In addition to the hybrid solution, MSF recently chose HOSTING’s content delivery network solution, Limelight, to host their many videos, which are critical tools that broadcast timely footage of events from around the world. Limelight makes the increasing amount of streaming media now hosted on the MSF website easily playable with no performance degradation.

“The 2010 earthquake in Haiti created one of the largest spikes in web activity and general interest in Doctors Without Borders in our history. Live video streams, photographs, and articles that told the stories of our patients and doctors combined with the outpouring of public support and donations created a web demand and activity that we could not entirely plan for. Fortunately, our solution with HOSTING and their team’s technical assistance allowed us to keep our website functioning throughout this crisis,” said Julie Whitaker, MSF Web Team Manager.

Results

Capturing donor gifts is often a one-shot proposition. If the site is down or slow, gifts could be lost as donor patience wears thin with waiting. Zero outages during the earthquake helped MSF broadcast timely videos of the reality on the ground, while collecting generous donor outpourings.

“HOSTING’s ability to provide an Always On solution and quickly work to help us make changes to meet anticipated spikes in demand are the two primary reasons we continue to rely on their services,” Whitaker notes. “I can tell HOSTING  we are going to be featured on 60 Minutes or that there is flooding in Pakistan that will impact our resource needs, and they make them available through their cloud resource pools.”

MSF operates with a lean staff to ensure that operating budget goes primarily to fund their mission. Whitaker remarked that “we operate with a small web team that does not include an expert in systems administration, so we depend heavily on the knowledge and assistance of the HOSTING support team. Having quick and comprehensive support a phone call away is invaluable.”