Anglia Co-operative Society

Anglia Co-operative Society

Started almost 130 years ago, the Anglia Regional Cooperative Society (ARCS) has grown to become the sixth largest in the country. With headquaters in Peterborough, the society’s diverse portfolio of over 100 stores now sell in excess £300m of goods per year and provide jobs for over 3,400 employees.

Sector: financial services

“The Itona thin client meets all of our desktop requirements and they have proved to be extremely reliable.” - Mark Kelby, IT Infrastructure Manager, ARCS.

Started almost 130 years ago, the Anglia Regional Cooperative Society (ARCS) has grown to become the sixth largest in the country. With headquaters in Peterborough, the society’s diverse portfolio of over 100 stores now sell in excess £300m of goods per year and provide jobs for over 3,400 employees.

Its food stores serve the community through a combination of 'Local' convenience, 'Rainbow' Supermarkets and petrol filling stations. In all cases, they deliver quality products at exceptional value. The 'Westgate' department stores are conveniently located in town and provide a wide range of products with a strong emphasis on service. The furniture and electrical stores provide specialist ranges and services for their respective markets.

The problem

As a organisation operating from over 100 separate locations, the company faced a number of challenges regarding the effective movement of information to the point of need. Whilst the Society had an efficient AS/400 environment, it recognised the need to move away from expensive, unreliable and insecure PC’s as the desktop client. These were proving to be a major drain on scarce I.T. resource as reconfiguring or relocation required an on-site visit.

The solution

ARCS Infrastructure Manager Mark Kelby, had recently introduced a wireless infrastructure into many of the society’s outlets for use with wireless hand-heldterminals, primarily for stocktaking purposes. He decided to take advantage of the efficiencies offered by the wireless infrastructure and combine this with the low cost and security benefits of thin clients by choosing a wireless thin client as the desktop client of choice. By working with the Society’s I.T. procurement partner, Symitry IT (North), a list of key requirements was established for the ideal thin client:

  • Wireless connectivity (802.11b)
  • Fully featured Internet Explorer browser
  • Fully featured AS400 5250 emulator
  • Small footprint
  • Capacity to allow third party software installation
  • Reliable
  • Cost effective

Following an exhaustive review of all the major thin client manufacturers including Wyse, Hewlett-Packard and Igel, the decision was made to choose VXL Instruments. “In the end, the VXL Itona was a clear winner” explained Kelby. “The unit is reasonably priced, has no moving parts and has a powerful inbuilt wireless adapter.” At this point Anglia, Symitry and VXL worked closely together to identify a specification of machine that satisfied all of the requirements. Processing power, storage capacity and memory were all reviewed and a custom configuration created.

The decision has proved to be most satisfactory for all concerned. As Mark Kelby says “The Itona thin client meets all of our desktop requirements and we have deployed them in all areas of our business from central administration and retail outlets through to warehouses and funeral homes. We continue to replace ageing equipment with the Itona and users really like them because, if they need to relocate a desk, customer service point etc, they simply need a power supply at the new location. This suits everyone as they do not have to wait for an IT representative to visit their site to carry out re-cabling or re-patching. We now have an estate of over 150 VXL Itona thin clients which have proved to be very reliable but in the event of a failure we simply load an image onto a replacement and courier direct to site for the user to swap for themselves. What could be simpler?”