Westminster, by Robert Sharp, released under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Saving money for UK local government

When the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, Westminster City Council and the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham joined forces to save money on hosting, they needed to procure a robust and cost-effective platform for their web presense. And they chose us.

As you can imagine, when you have three local governments sharing a technology platform you need a pragmatic and flexible supplier. And because this is government, you also need security and rigour. Code Enigma are fully signed up G-Cloud framework suppliers for government, with services under consultancy, design, development, hostingsupport and training, and we are also an ISO 27001 certified service provider at every level (the only Drupal specialist with these credentials in G-Cloud, at time of sale). So we were an obvious invitee when it came to going out to tender for the project.

Because of the naturally flexible nature of our service - our "ask us anything support" and our "no one size fits all" belief when it comes to building out a new customer's service - and we are a perfect fit for an organisation (or organisations!) with demanding requirements and an ever-changing digital presense.

Although the consortium, known as Tri-Borough, decided to purchase one of our top of the line layouts, because the cost is split three ways it still represents a significant cost-saving for each borough individually. So not only did they save money overall, they also gained big with our service levels.

Firstly, there's our dedicated AWS backed setup, which provides 100% uptime guaranteed on both virtual hardware and network, by making use of the multiple "Availability Zones" that Amazon offer. Each Availability Zone (AZ) is an entirely separate datacenter, with its own Internet and power supply, and we configure services to operate across multiple AZs, so if we lose an AZ, the other AZ continues to provide the service. AWS also have multiple backbone providers and a dedicated 24/7/365 networking team keeping things going.

At a virtual machine level we have a multiple server layout to ensure there is no single point of failure anywhere in the system. This is important, because while we can effectively guarantee an individual server won't stop performing, we cannot offer the same assurance an application won't crash. For example, if your web server software crashes your server might still be up, but it won't be serving your website. By having multiple web servers, we ensure things keep running if one of them gets into difficulties.

And of course there's our rigorous monitoring. We use a system called Nagios, with multiple endpoints at different datacenters and providers, to monitor everything imaginable! Server clock, website pages, database response times, Drupal update status, number of connections, DNS capability, disk space, etc. etc. etc. all monitored 24/7/365 with realtime alerts going out to our engineers the moment there's a problem, by chat, SMS, email and smartphone push notifications. We also use a service called StatusCake to keep an eye on things for us, as it is outside of our networks and checks customer websites continuously from different endpoints around the world.

On top of all this, we're supporting three different sets of development teams. RBKC and Westminster both developed their websites internally, and Westminster still partner with another Drupal company, Ixis, for Drupal support. While LBHF are having their site built by another external agency, SwiftCircle, who work very closely with us on a number of delivery projects. So our flexible deployment tools and fully hosted version control, plus the support we give to these teams to help them continuously deliver improvements, is an important part of our work.

The icing on the cake? Westminster told us their site is a good deal quicker with Code Enigma than it ever was before (they've been measuring it ever since it launched). We like that!