Human Rights Watch: Reporting for the Greater Good on Pantheon

Human Rights Watch trusts Pantheon to run their site and scale smoothly for frequent traffic spikes.

Summary

Human Rights Watch is a nonprofit, nongovernmental human rights organization that conducts research and advocacy on human rights. They trust Pantheon to run their site and scale smoothly for frequent traffic spikes.

Human Rights Watch is a nonprofit organization that conducts research and advocacy on human rights abuses around the world. It is vital to their mission that the Human Rights Watch website run smoothly, especially during the traffic spikes that occur when they publish reports.

Tired of spending valuable hours maintaining servers, Senior Digital Drupal Engineer Mihai Cuibus wanted a solution that could liberate his team from micromanaging infrastructure while also providing peace of mind during frequent spikes. He turned to Pantheon for its smooth scaling, built-in workflow, and its support of both Drupal and WordPress.

Thanks to Pantheon, I am no longer spending the majority of my time maintaining servers. I am confident that our site can keep up with pace of the organization.

Mihai Cuibus, Senior Digital Drupal Engineer

Since its inception in 1978, Human Rights Watch has worked tirelessly for human rights through investigative research, reporting, and informed advocacy. They produce hundreds of publications a year, covering human rights conditions in 90 countries. The media attention these reports receive makes it possible for Human Rights Watch to push for changes in policy and practice to promote justice around the world.  

Human Rights Watch’s power to effect change is dependent on their reports reaching the widest possible audience. New reports often cause traffic spikes to hrw.org, meaning the site is at risk of being inaccessible when it is needed most. Cuibus and the team trust Pantheon to keep their site up and running during such spikes, while also freeing them from maintenance tasks so that they can continue to innovate for the greater good.

Before Pantheon, Maintenance Took up 50% of the Work Week

Before Pantheon, Cuibus and his team were running two database servers for the site: one production server and two development servers. Their additional Drupal and WordPress sites required individual servers and therefore more manpower. The setup worked reasonably well, but maintenance was a big headache, eating up about 50% of his week. Traffic spikes were also a concern, as the team was always a little nervous about whether the site would scale appropriately for sudden and intense traffic.

“Our annual World Report always causes a great spike, and we have additional spikes that are unexpected throughout the year,” Cuibus said. “Pantheon could provide us peace of mind that the site would stay up during these times, while also freeing up our team to do more work.”

Cuibus and the team needed a platform that could manage all of their sites and support a great deal of content securely. Over 90 editors push content to the site on a regular basis, with Cuibus and another colleague working on backend features and development. They also needed a platform that could support a massive migration from Drupal 6 to Drupal 7. Pantheon’s infrastructure could easily support such a migration, with an experienced support team on standby.

Choosing Pantheon for a Complex Migration

Cuibus learned about Pantheon as a developer for the United Nations. He knew Pantheon had experience working with multilingual, massive sites like hrw.org, and could grow alongside the organization. After extensive research, Cuibus and the team chose Pantheon because of its user-friendly dashboard and ability to support their site in the long run.

We found great support from Pantheon—both the product and the team.

Pantheon and Cuibus worked together to migrate all Drupal 6, Drupal 7 and Wordpress sites from the old cloud infrastructure to Pantheon. Throughout the two-month onboarding process, Pantheon worked with Cuibus to create an ecosystem that met all of Human Rights Watch’s needs. Pantheon’s team was readily available and offered full support to find the best solutions for their custom workflow.

Having a solid infrastructure in place on Pantheon, Human Rights Watch embarked on a large scale redesign, development, and migration from Drupal 6 to Drupal 7 over a nine-month project. They used Pantheon’s Multidev feature to do so—spinning up cloud development environments so the team could work independently, merging the branches when ready.

“Pantheon’s leadership team devoted time to help us as well,” Cuibus said. “I was very impressed with the level of support throughout the onboarding and migration process. The migration went smoothly, even with the massive volume of files that needed to be moved over.”

Benefits: Scalability, Increased Uptime, Streamlined Workflow

When Human Rights Watch released their annual World Report this year, Pantheon’s scalability kept the site up and running throughout the ensuing traffic spike. The site’s new architecture offers higher security as well, fending off attacks that might have taken the site down in the past.

In addition, Cuibus and his small team have been able to reclaim hours of time spent on maintenance. With the additional time they have been able to improve hrw.org, adding features and enhancing the user experience.

Benefits

  • Both Drupal & WordPress support on a single platform

  • Built-in workflow and best practices

  • Easily able to scale for traffic spikes

  • Infrastructure as a service saves time and reduces headache

  • Able to support 90+ content editors

  • Seamlessly migrated D6 sites to D7