Department of Health saves 96% on its web hosting with GDS and dxw

We’re very excited to be able to announce that the Department of Health’s WordPress sites are now being hosted by dxw. This was a complex migration and has been in the works for a while, so we’re delighted (and relieved!) that it’s all come off well.

DH came to us in the summer of 2012 seeking a proposal for the hosting of their WordPress sites. Their existing system was hosted by a large systems integrator, and suffered from the usual sorts of problems with contracts of that nature: it was expensive and not very flexible, which had led to considerable frustration. DH were keen to work with a company that could react flexibly to their needs, that embraced agile principles, were subject experts, and could offer better value for money (more on that later).

A few months on, we had been procured via G-Cloud and were keen to get started. From our perspective, this was a project raising some exciting challenges. Their existing WordPress installation was pretty complex, mostly because of an existing legacy system that had to be supported. This kind of technical debt is not uncommon, and we were keen to tackle it. Part of the migration process was therefore to unpick the complexity and risk, leaving DH with a simpler system that’s cheaper to maintain and easier to enhance.

Because the existing system had been live for a while, there was a proliferation of plugins as well as a large number of unused or deleted blogs, lots of user accounts and numerous undocumented code modifications. Early in the process, we did a light-touch audit of their system, identifying risky plugins, deleted or old sites, unused user accounts and bits of modified code.

The audit allowed us to cut the number of plugins in use on the site in half, and to identify the riskiest installed plugins and query their use. That process has allowed us to deploy a new system that’s tidied up, slimmed-down and up to date, which will be much easier to keep stable and secure. It also means that the sites are deployed “the WordPress way”, making them much easier to move to another supplier should DH wish to move away from dxw.

Finally, and perhaps most tangibly, the migration has realised a huge cost saving for the Department of Health. Their published costs for websites and hosting in 2011-12 were £1.3m, of which about £800k was for web hosting and maintenance. This cost included their legacy CMS as well as their WordPress installation. In the course of moving their corporate information to and the rest of their web estate to dxw, the Department for Health have cut that cost from £800k to about £25k – a saving of over 96%.

The future has arrived!