The British Council is working on a £5.3m project to revamp its web strategy, replacing multiple systems with new content management software, a single data centre and a single ISP.
When complete the Council will have one web hosting location in Manchester, using 16 clustered HP ProLiant DL360 and DL380 servers with a huge database on a DL580.
The project, which began in 2001 and is due to be completed next summer, will begin to make a return on investment next year, and is intended to generate savings of £1.3m in 2005.
Tasked with promoting a positive image of the UK, the government agency was running 240 different websites with 200 HTML authors in 230 offices across 110 countries.
The sites were using around 80 ISPs and 50 new media companies, and came in languages from Cantonese to Azeri.
But research conducted by the British Council found that the sites had an unpopular, inward-looking format which was weakening its brand.
Ian Barnes, global web manager at the Council, told vnunet.com: "We can give lessons to other organisations with websites.
"We had to re-engineer our whole online presence to, for instance, define online education opportunities to young people around the world."
Barnes explained that it was very difficult for an organisation whose operations range from staging Shakespeare in the African bush to running a social security system in Romania.
The Council is using enterprise content management software from Obtree (now part of Ixos) to simplify the handling of content.
Barnes indicated that a major attraction of the software is the way it separates content management from display, and makes it easier for authors working on the same item in multiple languages.
"It's a piece of cake. You can edit in any number of languages, using different browsers and channels such as Wap phones," he said.
"It is clever enough so that you don't have to [substitute] a different image for a different language."
Ixos UK managing director Nick Ellis said: "The need was to split presentation from content. The software does that, rendering it for any type of device and, importantly, including government compliance for such things as disability."
Autonomy software is used for search and retrieval, including templates to call news feeds automatically, plus Verity Ultraseek spider search and Convera contextualisation software.
Currently 52 new sites are live, with a further 130 in progress. By May 2004 only 20 of the most difficult ones should remain to be implemented.
The UK site will be one of the last to go live. But www2.britishcouncil.org/ukinfocus will give a flavour of the British Council's new format.
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