Leveraging CTI Digital's technical capabilities to deliver a sustainable, modern IT infrastructure for international organisation

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About the Client

The British Council, an international organisation based in the UK, aims to foster cultural relations and educational opportunities. It promotes friendly relations and understanding between the UK and other countries through its presence in over 100 countries across six continents. In recent years, the organisation has placed a strong emphasis on digital transformation in order to stay competitive in an increasingly digitised world. This has included a focus on offering more personalised services globally, as well as catering to the growing demand for English.

Business Challenge

With a long history of projects together, The British Council have worked with CTI Digital to help its digital transformation plans flourish. 

Due to the size of their portfolio, the British Council needed help in terms of stability and performance of the network of sites. This was making it difficult to add and manage content on individual sites. The existing private cloud infrastructure posed limitations in performance and scalability, hindering efficient operations and content management.

New feature deployments were also slow, impacting both development throughput and the ability of more than 1,000 content editors worldwide. With our previous work for the British Council and the Drupal platform up and running, attention turned to a second development phase.

The British Council was looking to rebuild its infrastructure, update individual sites to increase efficiency, and boost reliability and performance across its online estate.

Global Digital Transformation

The British Council central team tasked us to migrate their 120+ Drupal multisite setup to a container-based Platform as a Service (PaaS) setup. 

The British Council had over 116 country-based sites and several 'white label' sites which were used for specific projects such as Shakespeare Lives - celebrating 400 years after Shakespeare's death. Each country-based site was available in multiple languages, with over 50 languages supported across the portfolio.

The project came with a number of expectations and requirements, including:

  • Reducing page load times to under 2 seconds
  • Minimising downtime
  • Keeping deployment pipelines flowing to reduce team distractions away from testing and new feature building.

The British Council's current multisite setup was inefficient, deployment to one site meant all sites had to be deployed, taking over 4 hours in each instance. Whilst the deployments were long, they were also unreliable. Sites were experiencing long periods of downtime, which was affecting website visitors' experience and their 10,000+ editor's ability to upload content.

Finally, when a central update is required, which updates the database for the entire portfolio of sites, each website is updated in turn, meaning there's a disparity between the code and the site's ability to run it, which could cause fatal errors on the sites at the back of the queue. 

Working with Platform.sh, we led the migration of the entire British Council network of sites to containers hosted on infrastructure. These containers function as independent sections of an overall server, with each one dedicated to a particular site or aspect of a site. A fully formed migration plan, including testing from all parties and a rollback process, was developed.

This container-based hosting platform, for which we developed a bespoke Drupal deployment workflow for initial migration and future updates, allows the network to share common functionality and development where possible while allowing individual sites to be updated more timely through their separate containers.

Additional development work helped the British Council tailor the container infrastructure and set it up to suit their site requirements. This agile and bespoke approach means new products and services can be brought to market sooner while reducing costs and streamlining the overall development process.

Benefits of the container-based hosting platform also include added protection for site traffic spikes elsewhere on the network, with each container ring-fenced to protect its server resources, as well as increased utilisation of infrastructure hardware, with more sites now able to run on a single server. This project required us to migrate 116 sites in total. 

Leveraging Platform.sh with the infrastructure we built and grouping additional sites into the existing architecture has enhanced deployments and backups while ensuring a smooth pipeline flow for the British Council development team.

Using Platform.sh, we implemented parallel processing, enabling batches of sites to be deployed simultaneously. Platform.sh enables websites to be grouped using variables that organise sites based on the British Council’s needs. These groups meant that code could be split into installation profiles, mostly grouped by countries which were then moved onto Platform.sh’s system to deploy only those sites at a time. 

After a series of initial test migrations, a full schedule of migrations for the full estate was created and signed off by all parties.  We then worked with all stakeholders to manage the migrations, report on successes and any complications, and coordinate efforts to resolve any unforeseen issues encountered during the lengthy process.

As the migrations continued, the process and deployments were running so well that it was agreed that the pace of migrations should increase. All migrations were completed successfully prior to the project's cutoff date. Every site displayed a notable increase in response time following the move, which was considered a complete success by the British Council and Platform.sh.

All of these features provided by Platform.sh have had a significant impact on the British Council. 

  • Deployment time reduced from 4 hours to 35 minutes

  • No downtime during deployments

  • Daily backups reduced from 8 hours to 3 hours.

  • Page load speeds comfortably under 2 seconds

The project also won the ‘Infrastructure as an Enabler’ award at the Real IT Awards.

Hosting & Site Migration

The British Council Digital (BCD) estate, hosted on Platform.sh, was running on a private cloud region. We worked with them to migrate to a more feature-rich region. As this was a unique situation - a significant migration from a legacy environment to a modern solution - we spent time enabling BCD and Platform.sh to build a refined and effective process, seamlessly moving large numbers of projects with minimal disruption.

Quality Assurance (QA) Testing

All of our projects undergo rigorous testing throughout the software development process. In order to deliver the utmost quality for clients and their respective users, our in-house QA team ensure that all end products perform accurately and reliably under normal and abnormal conditions. Testing is followed by continual monitoring of software performance, to prevent reoccurrence of any issues and to ensure efficient ongoing operation.

As such, we were able to confidently deliver a well-designed, scalable and technically stable result.


The web infrastructure project has played such a critical part of our wider digital transformation. We recognise that the digital medium is the single most important source of innovation for organisations like ourselves and with the completion of the project we’ve experienced huge improvements across every KPI. Ultimately, this means that British Council employees around the world can continue to communicate our message and innovate with new services that create more international opportunities for the UK.

Nick Morgalla, Head of Digital Operations, British Council