Cancer Research UK: ‘We thought the #nomakeupselfie campaign was a DDoS attack’

The #nomakeupselfie campaign, which raised £8 million for Cancer Research in six days, sparked so much unexpected traffic to Cancer Research UK’s website that the head of IT believed it was under attack.


The #nomakeupselfie campaign, which raised £8 million for Cancer Research UK in six days, sparked so much unexpected traffic to Cancer Research UK’s website that the head of IT believed it was under attack.

Mick Briggs, Head of IT Service Delivery at Cancer Research UK said that the charity’s IT is “playing catch-up” with the fast-paced nature of digital data, spiked by outsider viral campaigns like the recent trend where women nominated each other to post pictures of themselves with no make-up on social media and send a text message donation to the charity. 

During the campaign, which was not started by the charity, social media drove over 25 times the average amount of traffic to its website.

His comments came during a discussion about how Cancer Research UK, which funds 4,000 different researchers, implemented its mobility strategy, something Briggs advised IT managers not to “over-think” and to just “do it”.

BYOD strategy

The charity has 1,200 virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) thin clients in its office in Angel, London. It is using the Citrix CloudGateway to extend its VDI through Citrix NetScaler and is about to embark on a full proof of concept for XenDesktop 7 to put Windows desktops on remote devices, it said this morning.

Citrix CloudGateway allows users to build an on-premise cloud to deliver web and SaaS applications.

Cancer Research has been using remote VDIs “for years” but realised it “was not enough anymore” to secure the “plethora of devices” in the workforce, Briggs said.

Now it is using Citrix’s Workspace Suite so employees can access business applications like email and file-sharing on their mobiles, allowing them to use their own smartphones for work.

The IT team also needed to secure the charity’s assets, which include crucial research papers compiled by external organisations.

“We were trying to deal with Dropbox and Box…We didn’t want it [files] to be over in the US” Anthony Nixon, Cancer Research UK’s Citrix technical consultant added.

Generating ‘millions’ in revenue through mobility

Briggs said that following a successful fundraising campaign where volunteers were equipped with iPads, business users asked the IT team to deploy internal business applications.

“He said if we could have our support relationship management (SRM) application [the charity’s version of a CRM] delivered to those mobile devices it could generate…Well I won’t say what but it was in terms of millions.”

Briggs added that this took the team just “ten minutes” to deploy.

Using IT to help cure cancer

Briggs said that the IT team’s main concern was increasing revenue and cutting costs.

“Our CEO said that forty years ago, one in four people survived cancer. Forty years and an awful lot of hard work later, two in four people survive cancer now. He wants to, in half the amount of time – twenty years – get that to three people in four, and that is a goal that drives us all.”

In order to achieve this goal the CEO has set out nine accelerators, one being technology.

“We’re like anyone else, with a chief financial officer that challenges us on our budgets”, Briggs added.

“We have a personal vision that we do not want to see a single penny that could be invested in scientist’s research wasted.”

Picture: Holly Willoughby

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