Comic Relief puts charity in the cloud

Comic Relief, the charity behind Red Nose Day and more recently the Sport Relief fundraising event, has an extremely uneven demand for IT systems, as it takes about 25% of its yearly income in a matter of hours.

“For 95% of the year we use only 5% of our IT platform,” Tim Savage, donations and platform manager at the charity, told attendees at Information Age‘s Hosting & Managed Services conference. “So the ability to scale up and down is a huge benefit.”

That made the scalability of cloud computing an irresistible proposition. In April 2008, the charity’s previous managed hosting contract came to an end. Savage said the charity saw this as a “natural break point” and more importantly an opportunity to consolidate on the “ridiculous range of hardware” that Comic Relief had come to possess over the years, most of which was nearing the end of its life cycle.

The economic model of the cloud was also a draw for Comic Relief, as the charity has no defined budget. The per-usage payment terms typical of cloud engagement meant that Comic Relief’s IT spend could be kept to a minimum at times of the year when its major campaigns were not underway.

The charity partnered with UK cloud computing provider Carrenza. It took three months for the charity’s donations platform to be moved into the cloud – including a PayPal application for processing payments – and was ready for use during the live Red Nose Day 2009 campaign, when it successfully processed around 542,000 payments in seven hours.

The move has liberated Comic Relief from the constraints imposed by its previous platform, Savage concluded. “Our scenario at the moment gives us no restrictions from a platform perspective – we can now adapt very quickly.”

Pete Swabey

Pete Swabey

Pete was Editor of Information Age and head of technology research for Vitesse Media plc from 2005 to 2013, before moving on to be Senior Editor and then Editorial Director at The Economist Intelligence...

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