3 Things Your Tech Team Can Learn from The American Red Cross
Develop | Posted October 12, 2009

People across the world depend on the American Red Cross in times of crisis, and like most organizations, turn first to their Web site for critical, timely information. Especially in times of catastrophic disasters, like the devastating earthquakes, typhoon and tsunami in Indonesia, the Philippines, American Samoa and Samoa and ten major disasters in the United States, the Red Cross and disaster victims rely on the Internet to find out where they can find shelters, get emergency assistance, and locate missing loved ones after disasters.

But more than a dozen major disasters in eight countries spanning around the globe can lead to major bandwidth complications, as more people try to access resources online, and the Red Cross needs to coordinate volunteer and supply efforts around the world.

To ensure that it’s Web site, IT infrastructure and internal response sites for volunteers and employees are accessible and running efficiently enough to meet this need, the Red Cross has taken measures to prevent performance degradations and service disruptions including:

  1. Being proactive by assessing technology needs and addressing business requirements that are changing by the minute
  2. Strengthening their IT infrastructure for speed, reliability and availability
  3. Dedicating more server support to handle frequent communication with those impacted and the general public

A principal component of this effort is using AlertSite to monitor the availability and performance of the Red Cross’ internal SharePoint sites, which they use regularly to transfer information from volunteers and relief efforts “on the ground†during and after a disaster back to the Disaster Operations Center, the nerve-center of Red Cross in Washington, D.C. The Red Cross also closely monitors performance levels for the main Red Cross Web site and the Red Cross Newsroom, which serve as the primary online resources for up-to-the-minute information on relief efforts, support for locating missing loved ones and information on how the public can help.

Knowing that time is of the essence during disasters, and that the reliability of the Red Cross’ internal and external Web sites is critical to their global relief efforts, we were happy to support the organization by donating these Web monitoring services.

We spoke to Michael Spencer, Technical Lead of Infrastructure Services and Microsoft SharePoint for the American Red Cross National Headquarters, about this effort and he shared with us that, “our Newsroom is our way of communicating and getting information out to the disaster victims and their family and friends while also alerting the public about our relief efforts. Being able to ensure reliability of this site so it can be accessed at all times without complications is a huge benefit to the Red Cross and disaster victims who count on us to be there for them in their darkest hours. This is a great example of how technology is helping us take care of disaster victims.â€

The American Red Cross demonstrates how an organization is successfully using the real-time Web along with the real-time features of SharePoint, and the pivotal role of Web monitoring to ensure reliability and availability of these updates. People want information and want it fast. Just look at how much we rely on Twitter and Facebook feeds to stay on top of what’s happening as soon as it happens. ReadWriteWeb gives some great examples of other technologies that make use of the real-time Web. End user experience and uptime is paramount in each of these examples. The real-time Web is here to stay and will continue to evolve. It’s up to organizations to take the necessary measures to ensure accessibility.

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