October 2, 2013, 3:59 PM

Saving endangered species with the help of a steady web site

Durrell.org’s site handles the traffic even when animal videos go viral.

Lead Photo

Kelly Barker

From the island of Jersey in the English Channel, Kelly Barker keeps an eye on more than 1,400 animals from some 130 endangered species gathered from around the world that the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust strives to protect and nourish. It’s a costly endeavor. As a relatively small and geographically isolated charitable organization, Durrell has turned to the Internet and digital marketing to help pay the bills. 

“We’re a small organization with our headquarters on a tiny island, but we need to reach the world for fundraising,” says Barker, who is Durrell’s head of marketing and commercial operations.

The organization’s main web site, Durrell.org, features intriguing content such as the birth of an endangered Orangutan and the baby with its doting mother. That video alone caused a spike in traffic to 200,000 views within a few days, Barker says.

To help grow Durrell’s online audience among families with young children, it launched in January of this year an online campaign titled “The Lonely Dodo,” which features a video narrated by U.K. actor and writer Stephen Fry of an animated and charismatic dodo bird who travels the world in vain looking for another dodo—a flightless bird species that in real life went extinct hundreds of years ago. The film explains that other animals face the same threat of becoming extinct, while some, such as the pink pidgeon—located on the same Indian Ocean island of Mauritius that was once home to the dodo—are starting to make a comeback with the help of organizations like Durrell.

Before launching The Lonely Dodo campaign through e-mail and posts in blogs and social media sites, Durrell decided to step up the site performance of TheLonelyDodo.com microsite by backing it up with a content delivery service from CDN.net, which is a service of U.K.-based OnApp. Expecting Fry alone to generate high traffic volumes by tweeting about the dodo video to his more than six million Twitter followers, Durrell wanted to maintain steady site performance through traffic spikes, Barker says. “If someone went to this site to watch the video and it crashed, we would be losing possible income there,” she says.

CDN.net enables Durrell to instantly scale up its web server capacity to handle spikes in traffic. When Fry tweeted to his followers, for example, The Lonely Dodo site received more than 137,000 extra visitors in a single day. With other spikes over the last several months, the microsite has not experienced any downtime, Durrell says.

OnApp, which provides Internet or “cloud-based” data storage and computing services, aggregates the spare capacity of its global network of web servers to accelerate delivery of content via some 160 web server locations in 40 countries, according to Kosten Metreweli, chief commercial officer of OnApp. CDN.net provides its content delivery services on a month-to-month basis; a typical price range for clients serving up web pages  across North America runs about $18.50 per terabyte, though some clients pay a flat monthly fee of about $50, the company says. There are no set-up fees.

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