Delivering on our mission to promote a trusted internet for Canadians
A message from CIRA’s board chair:
Fiscal year 2020 (FY20) was an important one for CIRA. It marked the end of the organization’s FY17-FY20 strategic plan, and the completion of the new five-year strategic plan. The board is pleased with the objectives and strategic vision outlined for CIRA in the FY21-FY25 strategy. The delivery of the new strategic plan was a shared objective of management and the board. We believe it reflects a significant refinement of CIRA’s decision several years ago to build on our core mission of delivering .CA to Canadians while transforming CIRA into a multi-service, multi-product organization.
Of course, the board’s role is not to dictate CIRA’s strategic plan or specific activities, but rather, to ensure that the direction is right and consistent with CIRA’s mandate and values, that oversight mechanisms are appropriate and that key performance indicators are in place to enable the organization to manage risk and assess its progress in meeting the goals. Ultimately, the FY21-25 plan was led by management and the board was one of several consulted parties, alongside participants at member and stakeholder events, and our strategic and channel partners.
The future of CIRA remains bright, and I look forward to sharing more about the new strategic plan at CIRA's Canadians Connected annual general meeting in September. In the meantime, our annual Report to Members is the board’s opportunity to update members on all that the organization accomplished over the past fiscal year, including how it performed against the objectives of the FY17-FY20 strategic plan.
The first pillar of our outgoing strategic plan was “Innovate,” which focused CIRA’s attention on new ideas and approaches for future services. One of the key objectives was to diversify CIRA’s services and revenue streams outside of .CA. These services would build on CIRA’s infrastructure and cybersecurity strengths and directly or indirectly benefit Canadians. At the close of FY20, the board is satisfied with CIRA's efforts to increase the number of new services, including the launch of CIRA DNS Firewall in FY18, and CIRA Canadian Shield in FY20. This period also saw upgrades to strengthen the robustness of the underlying DNS infrastructure, including the addition of several Anycast DNS nodes in locations around the world.
The board is also satisfied with CIRA’s efforts to expand the reach of its services nationally and internationally by attracting new customers to its cybersecurity, DNS, and registry services. By the end of FY20, the organization was just shy of the FY17-FY20 strategic goal to generate $2 million in new service revenue by that time. The board recognizes the challenges of launching new services, and we appreciate the gains CIRA has made in both the international and domestic markets.
The second pillar of our outgoing strategic plan was “Operate,” which helped focus CIRA on operational excellence and the safe, stable, and secure operation of our highest priority, .CA. When writing the previous strategic plan more than five years ago, the board and management’s assumption was that .CA domains would plateau at 2.5 million registrations. We are very pleased to see that CIRA bucked the downward trend in the global domain and ccTLD market by achieving 2.87 million domains under management by the end of FY20.
The board is paying close attention to CIRA's brand advertising and marketing activities. FY20 marked the largest marketing expenditure in the history of the organization as Canadians were introduced to the Domain Squad for the first time. In the course of this work, the Finance, Audit, Investment and Risk Management (FAIR) Committee played a key role in ensuring that CIRA was tracking revenues, return on investment, and achieving its marketing targets. Overall, the board is satisfied with CIRA’s brand awareness efforts and its success in the face of slowing growth for country code top level domain (ccTLDs) operators around the world.
In light of the progress being made, and the goals of the new strategic plan, the board reviewed its oversight regime and made some changes in its committee structure and terms of reference. We broadened an existing committee to become our Services Strategy Committee. This new committee is designed to oversee the stable, efficient, and secure provision of CIRA's registry services and underlying infrastructure, as well as risk management practices in support of the diversification of services in Canadian and international markets. For example, this committee will ensure that CIRA applies best practices, including independent reviews of infrastructure security performance and client satisfaction, as this infrastructure supports both the core .CA registry mandate and diversified services.
FY17 to FY20 was a period marked by the safe, stable and secure operation of the .CA registry. The board was particularly pleased to see CIRA pursue ISO 27001 certification in FY20. This kind of independent, third-party validation should assure CIRA’s board, members, and customers, that the organization’s processes and infrastructure are robust, well thought out, and ready to satisfy users’ needs around the world.
The third and final pillar of our outgoing strategy was "Donate” which focused on CIRA’s community investment efforts, and commitment to give back a portion of the proceeds of every .CA domain to internet-related projects that benefit Canadians. The board wanted to ensure that the program was maximizing its impact. We worked with management, the board’s Community Investment Committee to deliver a renewed Community Investment Program strategy in FY20. The new strategy brings CIRA’s flagship granting program into closer alignment with CIRA's core services by defining four key funding priorities: community leadership, cybersecurity, digital literacy, and infrastructure. It also places greater emphasis on larger projects and significant investment, by adding a $250,000 funding tier. The board looks forward to seeing this new strategy come to life over the next few granting cycles.
The revised strategy also brings CIRA’s corporate-led Community Investment Program initiatives, such as Canadian Shield, the Internet Performance Test and the work to promote Internet Exchange Points, all under the same umbrella. We believe this strategic alignment across all of CIRA's efforts will enhance our effectiveness in promoting a trusted internet for Canadians.
The outgoing strategic plan also set a goal to increase CIRA’s national presence while maintaining consistent international involvement. The board supports CIRA staff engagement in various multi-stakeholder internet governance fora including ICANN, the Internet and Jurisdiction Forum, and the Internet Engineering Task Force. Consistent with the strategic plan, CIRA also broadened its engagement of strategic partners domestically. Multi-stakeholder community dialogue continues through initiatives like the Canadian Internet Governance Forum. In FY20, CIRA Canadian Shield was launched in partnership with the Canadian Center for Cyber Security. In the same fiscal year, CIRA also began a new collaboration with Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada to collect data from our Internet Performance Tool to inform the design of the forthcoming Universal Broadband Fund.
As CIRA heads into the first year of its new strategic plan, the organization is well positioned to continue its core mission of providing a safe, stable, and secure .CA domain space for Canadians, while bolstering its efforts to ensure financial stability. I would like to thank all CIRA staff, management, and members for their hard work and dedication. You should be proud of the organization you have helped build. The board and I look forward to seeing CIRA’s new strategic plan come to fruition beginning this next fiscal year.
Helen McDonald, Chair
Canadian Internet Registration Authority, Board of Directors
Success requires innovation, hard work, and thoughtful strategy
A message from CIRA's president and CEO:
Fiscal year 2020 (FY20) was a pivotal year for CIRA. As a not-for-profit with a mission to manage the .CA domain and deliver world-class registry, DNS and cybersecurity services to Canadians, I am pleased to say it was also a successful one. FY20 was marked by the high level of operational excellence that our community and users have come to expect of CIRA. The final year of our outgoing strategic plan saw the long-term investments in our people, technology, and new services bear fruit.
Of course, FY20 was not without its challenges. It’s no secret that growth in the global domain market has flattened from double-digit growth only a few years ago to single digits (or less) across the industry. In parallel, the number of cybersecurity risks have skyrocketed, putting individuals, businesses, and organizations of all size at risk. Despite this, CIRA managed to achieve several significant milestones that I am pleased to share with you today.
First, FY20 saw the completion of a new that will help CIRA navigate uncertain and rapidly changing waters across the sectors within which it operates. The new strategy, which will take us through to FY25, was built in conversation with a wide range of staff, board members, registrars, and, of course, our members at local member events.
At its core, the new strategy recognizes that while the domain industry is maturing, cybersecurity threats are growing, and CIRA is in a strong position to leverage its world-class DNS infrastructure and expertise to act on the opportunities before us. The result is a long-term strategic direction that will help the organization continue to deliver on its number one priority, the safe, stable, and secure operation of the .CA domain, while continuing to develop its flourishing cybersecurity, DNS, and registry services. We believe that doubling down on CIRA’s decision to become a multi-service organization is necessary to ensure the organization’s long-term prosperity.
As part of this, we have revised our primary goal, vision, mission and strategic pillars to better reflect our new strategy. While there is much more to say about the new strategic plan, our annual Report to Members is our opportunity to update CIRA’s community on all that we have accomplished across the last fiscal year. To that end, we invite you to save the date for CIRA’s Canadians Connected annual general meeting and symposium on September 23, where we will share more about how we plan to promote “a trusted internet for Canadians” over the next five years.
Second, to get ahead of a maturing global domain name market, CIRA embarked upon its most ambitious advertising campaign to date. In FY20, we introduced the Domain Squad, a comedic troupe of .CA domain name evangelists who made sure Canadians everywhere understood the importance of branding their businesses Canadian online. The multi-channel campaign ran across broadcast television, YouTube, Facebook, and other social media platforms. The campaign was bold, impactful, and provocative. Like all ccTLDs, CIRA faced strong headwinds in terms of growth for new domains under management (DUMs) in FY20. Despite this, our ad campaign and sustained marketing efforts helped CIRA move the needle and achieve a growth rate in new DUMs nearly three times higher than the average of our ccTLD peers. The CIRA management team is pleased with how the campaign performed for .CA.
Third, this past fiscal year was a landmark for CIRA’s revenue diversification strategy and commitment to improving the health of the Canadian and global internet. At the close of the fiscal year, we managed to hit 100 percent of our annual growth target for non-.CA services. Our cybersecurity, DNS, and registry services saw significant uptake despite the disruption brought by the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, CIRA Anycast DNS signed more than 100 new organizations and global top-level domains (TLDs) to help keep their domains safe, stable and secure. Our enterprise-grade CIRA DNS Firewall service added over 200 new organizations to its roster, helping protect their users against malware, phishing, ransomware, and other cyberattacks. Firewall now protects over 1.7 million users across Canada. Finally, the CIRA Registry Platform struck a new deal to provide registry management services for Ireland’s .IE TLD, and became one of three Emergency Back-end Registry Operator (EBERO) providers for ICANN’s generic TLD program. These are significant steps forward and the entire CIRA team should be very proud of the work they did to make it happen.
While these programs expanded, we also launched new services including CIRA’s Cybersecurity Awareness Training, which teaches core cybersecurity skills such as threat monitoring and best practices for digital hygiene, as well as CIRA Canadian Shield, a free DNS-based cybersecurity service that protects Canadian families against phishing, malware, and other cyberattacks. Both services saw significant uptake in FY20, with nearly 50 organizations signing up for our Cybersecurity Awareness Training services and approximately 70,000 users protected by CIRA Canadian Shield.
Finally, it’s easy to focus on the technology behind an organization like CIRA, but we are nothing without our people. The past fiscal year saw continued investment in our talented employees who made all of our FY20 achievements possible. CIRA takes its commitment to promoting a thriving, healthy, corporate culture very seriously, so we were pleased once again to be named a Best Employer in Canada by Kincentric (formerly AON), as well as a top employer in the National Capital Region by Canada’s Top Employers for the fifth year in row. Our Human Resources team was also awarded the MaxSys Staffing & Consulting Award for Most Effective Recruitment Strategy and shortlisted for the TalentEgg Award for Best Employer Branding at the Canadian HR Awards. The entire CIRA team was pleased to see all of this hard, mostly internal-facing work being recognized externally by our peers.
With FY20 now behind us, I’d encourage everyone who makes CIRA what it is – our staff, our members, our volunteers – to take a second and reflect on all that we accomplished over the past fiscal year. I would also like to thank the members of CIRA’s board, particularly our chair, Helen McDonald, for her support and leadership. As Helen noted, the board places a lot of effort into ensuring that CIRA is governed with sufficient oversight and the right tools in place to make sure we’re delivering on our strategic objectives.
At the time of writing, we are nearly a third of the way through the first year of our new strategic plan, and well on our way to another successful year. This is an incredibly exciting time for CIRA, and I look forward to sharing more about what lays ahead for the organization at our annual general meeting in September.
Byron Holland, president and CEO,
Canadian Internet Registration Authority
Operate: delivering on our core mission
.CA Performance in FY20
As the global domain name industry faced strong headwinds in fiscal year 2020 (FY20), CIRA managed to achieve a growth rate of 1.18% – nearly three times higher than the industry average for other country code top-level domain (ccTLD) operators (0.42%). At the close of FY20 there were 2.87 million .CA domains under management.
In FY20, CIRA introduced Canada to the Domain Squad -- the centrepiece for the largest advertising campaign in the history of the organization. The Domain Squad was seen across many platforms including broadcast TV, YouTube, and social media throughout the fall.
Innovate: creating new opportunities
CIRA continues to develop new cybersecurity technologies and services by leveraging its DNS knowledge and global infrastructure.
Users protected by CIRA
CIRA DNS Firewall
CIRA DNS Firewall is a cloud-based cybersecurity solution that protects organizations from malware, ransomware, phishing, and other cyberattacks. Organizations are recognizing the extra defence it provides to their existing technologies as it continues to show rapid adoption across the country.
Protected by CIRA DNS Firewall:
Health care institutions
Higher education and research networks
CIRA Canadian Shield
CIRA Canadian Shield is a free cybersecurity service that improves privacy by preventing commercial use of DNS data. It's built by Canadians, exclusively for Canadian households, to block viruses, ransomware, and other malware.
Blocks last month
CIRA Cybersecurity Awareness Training
CIRA Cybersecurity Awareness Training is an integrated courseware and phishing simulation platform that enables organizations to educate their staff to protect themselves from cyber risks like social engineering and ransomware. It was launched in August FY20 as a complementary service to our cybersecurity technologies as it focuses on people as the solution. The program continues to be quickly adopted by our existing customers across all sectors.
Organizations signed up
Municipalities and government
Small and medium sized businesses
DNS and Registry Services
CIRA continues to leverage its registry and DNS expertise to help organizations around the world manage and protect their domains.
CIRA Anycast DNS
CIRA Anycast DNS offers world-class global authoritative DNS infrastructure to help organizations keep their websites and domains safe, resilient, and high performing. A second version of this service, called CIRA Anycast TLD, is exported to registries around the world and is used by 11% of the world's country-code top level domains.
CIRA Anycast DNS queries per hour
The CIRA Registry Platform
The CIRA Registry Platform continued to grow through FY20. A number of security, stability and efficiency improvements were made to the Platform, which continues to manage .CA, .KIWI, .SX and .MLS registries.
In FY20, our Registry Platform was selected by ICANN to be one of three Emergency Back-end Registry Operator (EBERO) providers for the gTLD program. As an EBERO, CIRA will be required to sustain critical registry functions for any failing gTLD Registry.
In addition, the CIRA Registry Platform also saw the edition of new customers, including the IE Domain Registry (IEDR), the organization that administers and manages the .IE (Ireland) ccTLD Registry. This transition will occur during the FY21 timeframe and will provide IEDR the features and flexibility to power their future long-term growth.
Donate: investing in Canada's internet
CIRA’s Community Investment Program granting initiative gives back to the Canadian internet by funding innovative community projects to build a stronger, safer and more accessible internet for all Canadians.
Invested since 2014
The Community Investment Program builds a better online Canada through these types of projects:
Proof of concept prototypes
Teacher training guides
Training sessions (individuals and groups)
- Frameworks/educational content
- Device distribution
- Academic papers
- New apps
- Training course materials
- Internet Exchange Points
- Internet service/infrastructure
- Engagement activities
- Upgrades to existing tools
- Media lab
The Labs team is also continuing development of its Secure Home Gateway project, an IoT framework that will help secure conventional home networks and establish a new trust framework for connected devices. Towards the close of FY20 the team achieved a major milestone: they performed a succesful demo of the Secure Home Gateway's IoT device permission management at our internal Showcase event. The next phase of the project is focused on completing a functional prototype that will be ready for alpha testing in FY21.
Internet Performance Test
CIRA’s Internet Performance Test is one of the most advanced tests of Internet speed and quality available. In FY20, CIRA supported 18 Canadian municipalities with city-specific Internet Performance Test portals called City Landers to help local leaders assess gaps in local connectivity. We also started a new partnership with Innovation, Science, and Economic Development Canada to collect tests that will specifcally help them design the Universal Broadband Fund and identify low service areas.
Internet Exchange Points
CIRA continued its investment in internet exchange points (IXPs) by supporting the growth and governance of individual IXPs. We hired a fulltime IXP Program Manager to support individual IXPs and encourage network operators of all stripes, including governments, enterprises, ISPs, and content providers to peer at local exchange points and keep internet traffic in Canada. In FY21, we will launch a new, interactive dashboard that will provide users with real-time data on the role IXPs play in Canada's internet. We will also encourage peering with IXPs, as the COVID-19 pandemic makes network resiliency more important than ever.
Contact your local IXP to find out how to get connected.
Canada's Internet Exchange Points (IXPs)
Organizational foundation: a CIRA built to succeed
For five consecutive years CIRA has been named a top employer in the National Capital Region by Canada’s Top Employers.
In FY20 CIRA was once again recognized as a Best Employer in Canada by Kincentric (formerly AON).
Average annual member satisfaction score
of CIRA members actively participating in CIRA governance
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