Support of Umbraco websites hosted on Azure

Northampton Rugby Football Club (The Saints) is a professional rugby union club. Established in 1880, The Saints have gone on to become one of the biggest and most recognisable rugby clubs in the world.

Since 2008, The Saints have been at the top of English and European rugby, winning the Aviva Premiership (2014), European Challenge Cup twice (2009 and 2014) and the LV= Anglo-Welsh Cup (2010). They have reached the Aviva Premiership playoffs for seven consecutive seasons, and also reached the final of the Heineken European Cup in 2011, LV= Anglo-Welsh Cup in 2012 and 2014, and the English Premiership in 2013.

    Sector: Sport
    Users per month: 90,000

The Saints’ home at Franklin’s Gardens has been revolutionised in the past 15 years, and now is one of the most state-of-the-art dedicated rugby facilities anywhere in the country. The stadium regularly holds England age group and representative matches, as well as the final of the LV= Anglo-Welsh Cup in 2011 and 2015.

Organisational challenges and impacts

The Saints hold a number of websites that are imperative to the running of the business. The main Northampton Saints website is a central hub for the following: player and management profiles, upcoming matches, league tables and news and also provides access to the shop and ticket purchasing service. The Franklins Gardens website showcases the club’s venue and facilities which are available to host events, whether it is for parties, conferences, exhibitions or weddings.

Challenges Summary

  • Continuous availability of websites especially during match and event days
  • Small communications and marketing team with high demands to meet
  • Different websites built on different Content Management Systems
  • Need for solid support service
  • Website in need of refresh

The Saints’ recent on-field successes have see them go from strength to strength off the field, and this is reflected in the number visitors to the site averaging 90,000 per month.

As with any sports club, the focus of The Saints’ employees, supporters and players is match day, which is why the club launched SaintsLive, a dedicated website which provides live text commentary and social media interaction. This service allows supporters who are unable to attend match days to follow the live play online. On average during away matches, there are four times as many fans visiting the ‘Saints Live’ site as who have travelled to the match from Northampton.

Along with their content management system (CMS) websites, The Saints use an email sending solution for marketing campaigns to keep fans up to date with events and press releases.

Due to revenue generated and the importance of upholding their fan base, making sure the websites and campaign solution stay highly available and online was of upmost importance to the club. At the time, support was a challenge for The Saints as they wanted to ensure they received guaranteed support and a SLA. The club also wanted to ensure that their websites were kept up to date with refreshed design and functionality.

Considering the factors detailed, The Saints prioritised finding a robust hosting solution that could handle times of extremely increased traffic on match and event days along with the need to keep their websites and software up to date and easily editable by administrators.

The Chosen Solution

Fuse firstly wanted to ensure high availability of all the websites. Choosing a hosting solution suitable for The Saints’ requirements was straightforward.

Being a Microsoft Gold Partner in Cloud Platforms and having worked successfully with other customers on Azure, we found the reliability, features and flexibility surpass that of any hosting environment we had come across. A great feature of Microsoft Azure is the option to auto-scale. This means that during the websites busiest times, such as match days, Microsoft Azure will automatically increase the amount of servers to help cope with traffic visiting the website. Fuse also moved The Saints campaign mailer solution into Microsoft Azure to heighten availability. Finally Fuse implemented usage of the Azure CDN to offload traffic for static resources such as images and documents, further reducing the load on the site and improving site performance for users wherever they are in the world.

Benefits

  • Auto-scale (increase and decrease servers automatically) of websites during busy times
  • High availability of websites
  • Continuity and ease of editing using Umbraco
  • Website design refresh
  • Reliable support system in place including out of hours emergency support

With two of the three CMS websites built on Umbraco, Fuse decided that it would be more beneficial for all three websites to be built on the same content management system and therefore rebuilt the Franklins Gardens website on Umbraco and design refreshed their main websites.

Results Achieved

With all three CMS websites now on Umbraco (the content management system that the administration team are more familiar with), editing and implementing content is far easier and quicker for administrators. The team also feel that because of the change they have greater control over the websites.

With their websites now migrated to Azure, The Saints are confident of service continuity during busy periods due to Microsoft’s robust solution and features allowing for auto-scaling.

The Saints have peace of mind knowing they can rely on Fuse to provide a transparent and reliable support service during business hours and in the unlikely event of an emergency, out of hours. The Saints have found the support procedures and response times extremely beneficial to the business in terms of keeping them up to date with progress of tickets raised.

Saints fans can now benefit from a refreshed website design and highly available platform which continues running during its most important times of high traffic.

Although Northampton Saints is a high profile organisation we have a small communications and marketing team, which means that we have to be extremely efficient in meeting the demands placed upon us, whether by heads of department seeking profile for their products, supporters needing news, or governing bodies such as Premiership Rugby needing profile for their initiatives.

The solution presented by Fuse meets all of our objectives. Having all of our websites running from the same content management system simplifies training for staff and enables me as a head of communications to easily monitor what is being done and when.

Fuse has also tailored their support to our specific requirements, which see our heaviest traffic usage outside ‘normal’ office hours. I’ve found their approach to be very flexible, and they have been happy to take our idiosyncrasies into account when presenting solutions to our issues and development needs.

Chris Wearmouth
Head of Communications
Northampton Saints