The Challenge: AWS Elasticsearch was taking too much time
Oxfam America’s website drives millions of dollars in donations. Their website’s stories, fact sheets, press releases, and case studies explain why these donations are so critical in Oxfam’s fight against poverty. The small team at Oxfam needed an easy way to publish content on their site, and a reliable and fast way to search it. They realized that switching to the CMS Wagtail would make content creation easier. Unfortunately, they were struggling to get their search engine up and running. Like many web teams, the Oxfam America team didn’t have an Elasticsearch expert on hand.
Jessica Ingari, a Senior Web Designer at Oxfam, turned to AWS at first. “We had planned to use AWS Elasticsearch, but we are a small team with limited resources and we were struggling to get it set up in a cost effective and efficient way. We were able to get it up and running, but it was going to be way more expensive than we had anticipated,” recalls Jessica. “Being novice Elasticsearch users, I am sure there were things we were not optimizing correctly so we could have brought our AWS cost down. At the time we were rebuilding our entire CMS, and didn’t have the staff time to dedicate to figuring it out.”
The Solution: Wagtail and Bonsai make it easy to build a searchable site
Since AWS Elasticsearch was proving to be more work than it was worth, the team at Oxfam America turned elsewhere. Oxfam had never heard of Bonsai until they noticed that Wagtail integrated with it out of the box. She realized that unlike AWS, Bonsai was easy to optimize, and came with helpful support with every plan. “Bonsai was super quick and easy to get up and running with Elasticsearch,” recalls Jessica. “It required no prior Elasticsearch expertise, and we had our initial index up and running in a matter of minutes.”
Unlike many other open source CMSes, Wagtail also provides basic documentation to integrate their CMS with Elasticsearch, and makes integration simple. The team at Oxfam America leveraged their best practices guides to integrate Elasticsearch into the publishing process. “We are using the built-in Wagtail commands to update the index,” explains Jessica. “Additions and deletions are handled as part of the publishing process, then we additionally run an update index command once a week to ensure the index is up to date. This is all part of the built-in update_index command that is provided for in Wagtail.”
Elasticsearch has many versions, and Oxfam initially had to integrate with 5.3. “We had a unique situation with needing an older version of Elasticsearch to align with some of the code we were running,” says Jessica. Fortunately, the Bonsai staff was able to help with the migration with no issues.
“As I mentioned above, Bonsai support has been exceptional. They were very speedy to answer questions and help, even before we had set up our account. Bonsai provides some of the best customer support I have come across.”
The Results: Site search made simple
The Oxfam America was able to get Wagtail up, running, and searchable in a reasonable amount of time. Now that they no longer have to worry about sinking too much time and money into Elasticsearch, they can focus on optimizing their search experience. “Currently, we’re just using the best practices laid out by Wagtail, but we will be interested in leveraging the benefits Elasticsearch provides as time goes on,” explains Jessica.
Overall, the team at Oxfam America was happy with their decision to switch from AWS Elasticsearch.
“For us, it makes much more sense to use a service like Bonsai where the setup is straightforward, the cost structure simple (and reasonable!) and the support readily available.” Jessica Ingari, Senior Web Designer, Oxfam