Concern, a global humanitarian NGO, build its worldwide email platform on the cloud in order to reduce IT costs, and to insure efficient communication when providing disaster relief and support.
Cloud power: helping to save and transform lives in the world’s poorest countries
For more than 40 years, Concern Worldwide has brought vital disaster relief and support to the poorest people in the world’s poorest countries. Today, Concern is one of the world’s largest humanitarian NGOs, with almost 4,000 staff working in nearly 30 countries in Africa, Asia and Central America.
Technology is also an essential tool for program delivery in such a large organization. For example, when the devastating earthquake struck Haiti in January 2010, the first person that Concern sent to the country was one of its specialist network engineers to assess and report back on the technology needed to support the activation of Concern’s relief and recovery efforts.
Vincent Richardson commented, “We were able to mobilize our people and our resources based on real-time information and target our support to the situation on the ground. We could also factor in technology constraints and adaptations we could make to ensure our assistance made a difference.”
As part of its strategic focus on technology as an enabler of development and disaster recovery, Concern has begun migrating to cloud computing. “Email was our first priority, because it’s so critical to our daily operations.” says Vincent Richardson.
Five years ago, Concern built a standard global email platform with an email server connection from its Dublin headquarters to each of its 120 operations sites worldwide. Although this was broadly effective for city-based operations, it did not work well for remote field operations, which required using costly satellite-based connections. In addition, local servers were vulnerable to crashes caused by power surges, outages, or environment factors. They would take weeks to restore, causing delays and irregular gaps in business information systems as its staff had to use alternative means to communicate.
"Having a data center host our email – putting it in the cloud – helps us with all of these issues,” says Vincent Richardson. “Data centers are connected directly to the Internet backbone so even on a patchy Internet link, connectivity is better and faster than using our own servers."
Efficiency gains & cost savings
By adopting Office 365 for its email system, Concern is realizing significant efficiency gains and cost savings. Vincent Richardson says, “Calls to the help desk are reduced, staff feedback is positive and both overhead and repair costs are reduced. The aggregate cost is about 40 percent less than our previous email system, and our IT team has more time to focus on strategic issues."
"Our collaboration with Microsoft on cloud computing is about more than process efficiencies,” concludes Vincent Richardson. “It’s about using the technology to improve daily life for millions of very poor people. It’s also about getting the technology to work in very remote and extreme environments so that it can play its part in spurring sustainable development where it is most desperately needed.”