South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue

South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue (SYFR) is a Metropolitan Fire Brigade, encompassing 4 districts in the South of the County. With Head Quarters based in the Centre of Sheffield, England, it manages 17 ‘Whole Time’ Fire Stations and 5 ‘Retained’ (part time) stations throughout the region, employing over 1000 staff.

Sector: government and pulic sector

“The VXL Itona outperformed all the others and we particularly liked the ease of configuration” – David Alton, IT Support Technician, South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue.

In common with many public sector organisations, SYFR relies heavily upon its I.T. infrastructure to deliver services to the public. Five years ago the decision was made to adopt thin client technology within the organisation to both improve performance and reduce operating costs.
Recently, a number of performance issues in the thin client estate had arisen and therefore, SYFR management undertook a thorough performance review to identify issues and possible solutions.

The challenge

SYFR has been using thin client terminals in all of its stations for the past five years, but many of the existing units were proving to be slow when running applications. Printing from the units was also proving problematic, as most new printers use USB connections and the majority of the existing terminals would only accept parallel connections.

The organisation had also faced issues when using Dosimeters. These are devices worn by fire-fighters for checking radiation levels and the speed and accuracy of the information they provide is vital when dealing with incidents. These were ‘timing out’ when used around the older terminals, a serious issue that needed to be resolved. David Alton, ICT Support Technician for the organisation explains, “We thought the problem was down to the network connection, which on Retained Stations is only an ISDN line, but it proved to be down to the performance of many of the existing, thin client terminals”.

The solution

It was noted that, of SYFR’s existing thin clients, the only unit to have performed without any problems was an older VXL terminal. A number of other thin clients were also trialled at this time as well as a new VXL Itona TC4341 model with the Windows CE operating system. “The VXL model outperformed all the others on price & performance and we particularly liked the ease of configuring the unit on our network”, added David Alton. As a result of the product trial, VXL Instruments was chosen as the preferred supplier of thin clients.

With the trial completed SYFR embarked on the project in earnest with Axess Systems as its technology partner. Axess Systems liaised closely with SYFR to ascertain its objectives and requirements. “Our experience of using Axess Systems was extremely positive. They were very professional and answered all of our questions”, stated David.

An initial batch of 50 VXL Itona TC4341 terminals were supplied to SYFR, chosen for their high specifications at low cost and of course, the quality that was identified in previous VXL models. All Whole Time Fire Stations now have two of the units and all Retained Stations house one unit as their sole terminal. The benefits were immediately evident to both system users and administrators. Firefighters ‘on station’ commented that the VXL units were noticeably faster and in addition, that the problem with the Dosimeter devices had been eradicated.