The American Red Cross and Akamai: Keeping Critical Web Infrastructure Available During Disasters

As one of many organizations providing humanitarian care, the American Red Cross distinguishes itself by aiding victims of natural disaster and by relieving the suffering caused by war, strife, and famine. The organization relies on donations of time, money, and blood to provide needed services. As part of that, its main website (www.redcross.org) serves a vital role in helping the American Red Cross accept donations and keeping the public informed about its needs and activities. On average, the American Red Cross invests 91 cents of every dollar donated in humanitarian services and programs.

It is critical for the Red Cross to maintain an online presence, most notably during a major crisis when surges in public donations occur due to heightened public awareness. The convenience and immediacy of online donations makes the process easy for donors and enables the American Red Cross to move resources more quickly to the people it helps. However, because disasters spur significant volumes of online traffic to redcross.org, the organization needed to take steps to ensure a smooth and uninterrupted online-giving experience. This issue was brought to the forefront in 2005, when Hurricane Katrina wreaked havoc across the Gulf Coast, and media outlets directed the public to the American Red Cross' main website for donations. The overwhelming public generosity flooded the organization's site with a 14X increase in traffic, effectively halting the flow of critically needed donations.

The American Red Cross has successfully leveraged its cloud-based strategy – underpinned by Akamai's solutions – to seamlessly scale on demand and remain available during other natural disasters as well. For example, when the California wild fires occurred in 2009, the organization saw a 15X increase in site traffic. And after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, the site experienced a 10X surge in traffic to its site. In both cases, the site performed flawlessly. By tapping into the Akamai network and cloud-based solutions, the Red Cross is able to handle these massive flash crowds without having to provisioni nfrastructure that remains unused most of the time. As a result, it can avoid unnecessary capital and operational expenditures and instead apply them to humanitarian efforts around the world. Equally important, it gains protection from malicious activity and unauthorized access.

" Using Akamai's cloud-based solutions to maintain our online presence fits with our strategy to right-size online delivery capabilities via a cost-effective, resilient, and highly scalable solution."
— C. Annette Gumm, Senior Director of IT Portfolio Management, American Red Cross

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