COMPANY: Atlantic Relocation Services Atlanta, Ga.
OPERATION: Household goods mover Julie Johnson MIS director
Problem: Atlantic Relocation Services is the largest agency in the Atlas Van Line affiliation, with ten branch locations in addition to the headquarters office. About two-and-a-half years ago, the Y2K compliance issue forced the company to a decision point about their computers. "We had legacy systems that would have been very expensive to bring into compliance," recalls Julie Johnson. "The household goods transportation industry is marginally profitable - 10-12% is considered doing well - so cost was a big concern, whether we tried to upgrade or replace our existing systems.
"We were also worried about what it would take to implement a new network. For example, we had software programs we did not really want to replace right away," she adds.
"Maintenance of a new system was also an issue," Johnson notes. "With a two-person IT department, we had turned to maintenance contracts with outside suppliers to service our existing PCs in the various locations. What would it take to de-bug a new system and then keep it running smoothly? Would we need to hire more staff? Finding and implementing the right solution sometimes seemed like a pretty intimidating task."
Solution: Atlantic's requirements led them to consider what seemed like a radical solution at the time, according to Johnson - replacing most of their personal computers with thin clients. They chose Wyse Technology's Windows-based terminals, and the benefits have exceeded all expectations.
"Today we have about 280 users across our 11-city system," Johnson says, "and only about 20% of the workstations are PCs. Thanks to the lower cost, we've been able to put a terminal on every desk, and most of our users do not even really notice that they're not on a PC. Instead, they're just delighted with the ease of access and the very user-friendly interface.
"We were able to keep some of our old software and add some new, which gave our users a level of comfort right from the beginning," she adds. "There's also plenty of storage space on the network for password-protected personal files, and the Wyse system backs up all files every night automatically, which is a huge plus for us. The system really allows our employees to focus on their job duties and responsibilities instead of dealing with all the individual PC problems we used to have. We were even able to recreate our peer-to-peer work groups on the network by utilizing the file-sharing capability.
"Maintenance has also become a non-issue. The thin client technology means no hard drives and no local data or applications. This not only makes the terminals secure and virus-proof, but it enables centralized control of updating and routine maintenance," Johnson explains. "It makes it possible for our two-person staff to handle 220-plus workstations as though we had only one hard drive to maintain."