YPO is a publicly owned UK-based entity that supplies products and services to an array of non-profit and public sector organizations such as schools, local authorities, charities and emergency services in the UK. They leverage the purchasing power of buying en masse to negotiate the best prices on behalf of their customers without compromising on quality.
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Challenges: Safeguarding customer trust, and ensuring website uptime and availability
Over the past few years, YPO has evolved their e-commerce website from a rudimentary “bolted-on” CMS driven add-on to a fully integrated web platform that enables their customers to fulfil orders seamlessly through procurement. In 2014 they made the decision to move their digital infrastructure to a more robust and scalable cloud-based solution.
Once they completed this move, they started noticing anomalous traffic hitting their site, particularly IP addresses from foreign domains they don’t serve. YPO’s core focus is customer satisfaction, “We benchmark very highly with the Institute of Customer Service (ICS), and that’s why the availability and performance of our website matters so much to us” said Gavin Rimmington, Head of Business Change and IT. “Our customers need us to be there, and they need to trust that our website is secure, and always available, especially during peak and seasonal demand” he added.
Even though they never suffered a widespread DDoS attack or ransomware, YPO made the conscious decision to proactively implement security measures that would enable better protection of their digital infrastructure. Their process began with the search for a web application firewall (WAF) solution. “Our digital provider offered several third-party solutions, but they were overly complex, and required extensive configurations to deploy” said David O’Brien, Digital & E-Commerce Manager.
O’Brien also explained “While we were confident that our cloud provider had ample capacity to support increased traffic, we weren’t as confident in their capacity to protect our site from the vast number of unknowns and threats out there.”
Solution: An easy to deploy, integrated security solution
YPO explored various WAF solutions, but thought Cloudflare offered the best solution based on ease of onboarding, and the sheer scale and defense intelligence against new threats and attacks. “The fact that Cloudflare handles 10% of all Internet traffic, gives us the confidence that they’re able to handle attacks on our behalf that we don’t even know about” said Rimmington.
“The onboarding experience with Cloudflare was excellent and surprisingly easy. Compared to some of the other offerings we were considering, Cloudflare was the easiest to deploy and we were very pleased with our choice” he added.
Once YPO was able to deploy the WAF from Cloudflare, they were able to explore a range of other features and products that could help them improve user experience. “Cloudflare offers a an array of web optimization technologies that we would have never thought of sourcing as a standalone solution from disparate vendors.” said O’Brien. “Once we enabled features such as Brotli compression, Auto Minify, Polish and Mirage on Cloudflare for instance, we saw a dramatic improvement in our site performance. We are caching 80% of our traffic on Cloudflare, and saw page load times for both desktop and mobile clients decrease on average by 50% - which was amazing!”
YPO deploys multiple analytics tools such as pingdom to help them gauge site performance and improvements with Cloudflare. “Since deploying Cloudflare, the scoring for our site on yslow.org increased from around the low 70’s to mid 90’s out of 100” said O’Brien.
While the initial driver for deploying Cloudflare was for a Web Application Firewall, the value quickly expanded to better performance. This allowed YPO to not only ensure uptime for their services, but to also provide a better user experience for their customers and to ensure high customer satisfaction.
What’s next for YPO?
“Cloudflare has revolutionized our cyber security, and gives us peace of mind in safeguarding our site and customer trust” explained Rimmington. “We are beginning to deploy more performance enhancing features that we get as part of our enterprise contract, such as load balancing.” Cloudflare’s continued innovation, and expansion of its portfolio of services is a key factor for YPO. “These types of features are extremely beneficial, and Cloudflare’s innovation has helped inform our own roadmap, and ultimately future proof our infrastructure.”
1 We use pingdom for monitoring site speed, uptime and a few other items. (based on http://yslow.org/) went from around 70-71/100 to a score that rates our site now between 93 & 95 out of 100.
2 Mobile times via Google, times went from 7 seconds to 4.9 seconds (based on a 3G connection).