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Security patching and maintenance for Victoria’s DHHS

Victoria’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) contracts Salsa Digital to support four of its websites.

The players

Victoria’s DHHS focuses on policies and services for Victorians’ health and wellbeing. It covers health, housing, disability, families, mental health, ageing, and sport and recreation.

The problem

The Digital Engagement and Strategy team at DHHS is responsible for a number of websites, including the main DHHS site at, the intranet, Sport and Recreation Victoria and Children and Youth Area Partnerships. The four Drupal sites were relatively new and needed support and maintenance. DHHS didn’t have the internal resources available to maintain and patch the sites.

Salsa Digital had built the Children and Youth Area Partnerships website and was already engaged to provide support. DHHS was happy with our services and wanted Salsa to take over maintenance of all four sites.

The solution

Salsa officially took over full support services for all four sites in June 2017. Our services cover monthly updates, security patching and other ad-hoc development. Initially the contract was set up with four distinct service areas and associated budgets:

  1. Support
  2. Releases
  3. Patching
  4. Automated testing

However, the contract was varied to pool all the contract monies and provide more targeted services in the area(s) the sites need the most.

Automated patching

Salsa recently designed a solution for automated patching. DHHS was keen to make the most of this new Salsa offering and we've on-boarded the Children and Youth Area Partnerships website, with the other three to follow shortly.

The Salsa automated patching solution monitors for available updates on a daily basis and automatically creates patched environments for manual review, running visual regression tests at the same time. Visual regression tests compare how website pages look before and after patching to make sure that patching doesn’t break any existing functionality. We automatically patch the site only if the specific tests we‘ve put in place pass. This ensures that the key functions/pages of the site look and work as expected.

“The automated service delivers a range of benefits, but at the end of the day they’re all related to faster turnaround,” said Damien Dempsey Head of Experience, Engagement and Innovation at DHHS. “In particular, turnaround on critical security patches is important to us – the solution reduces the time to below what’s in the SLA. It’s also a better way to pick up bugs and other issues that may come up when we run module updates and make other changes.”

The benefits

Salsa’s website support services deliver a variety of benefits to DHHS, including:

  • Freeing up internal resources

  • Peace of mind, knowing website support is being professionally handled and regularly monitored

  • Access to highly proficient Drupal professionals, with government experience

  • Consistent patching

  • Access to developers with a skill set not currently available within DHHS (e.g. patch automation skills)

Head of Experience, Engagement and Innovation Damien Dempsey also highlighted the benefits of effectively having a development agency on ‘retainer’ through the contract. “It means we have flexiblility and can easily get Salsa to respond quickly to our ad-hoc development needs. We can quickly log things and have them actioned by Salsa.”

Why Salsa Digital?

DHHS has worked with Salsa since 2014. Happy with the build and support services, the department was keen to bring us on board for the other three websites.

“We’re satisfied with Salsa, especially from an engineering and technology perspective. Salsa demonstrates a really solid grasp of Drupal and understands the Acquia CMS environment we’re hosted in and throughout the agreement has demonstrated really strong credentials in that kind of technology space.”
Damien Dempsey -Head of Experience, Engagement and Innovation

About Salsa Digital

Salsa is a highly specialised, enterprise-grade digital agency focused on open source for social good and innovation. We’re committed to the open government movement and to the many benefits this ethos provides including transparency, innovation, and sharing and improving problems and patterns solved by the pioneers before us.

The open source movement has played a key role in the evolution of Salsa. Over the years, as technology and practices have developed, this commitment to open source has grown to encompass a much broader base beyond open source content management systems (open CMS) — open data, open platform and open design. We contribute and deliver services in all these areas, with a strong involvement in specific open source initiatives such as Drupal, Wordpress, GovCMS, Single Digital Presence, Kubernetes/Lagoon and CKAN.

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