Our client’s issues
Ainsworths sell homeopathic products from a store in central London, as well as via the web, telephone and mail order. With 30 users split between the London location and a site in Surrey, they also planned a third site.
While their existing software solution tracked orders, stock and invoices, they were fast outgrowing it. The two offices operated the software independently, using overnight batch processing via an ISDN link to synchronise the systems with each other. Their existing file server was also showing signs of age and was struggling to keep up with day-to-day operations. At the same time, the client had identified the need to introduce a company-wide email system. It seemed like an ideal opportunity to install new hardware and software that would help to streamline the business.
We had been recommended to Ainsworths by an existing client with a similar business, who had recently installed Khaos Control from Keystone Software. Ainsworths decided to install the same software, in order to better integrate the sales process between the telephone, mail order and shop operations. The aim was to get staff across the sites interacting in realtime via Khaos Control, eliminating the need for batch updates overnight.
We recommended the client introduce a computer room at their new London office and a new server to run with their file and print service, application database and email server. We also proposed a terminal server which would allow staff from the other London office and the Surrey office to connect with – and run – the new application software. Because of the need for maximum uptime, we suggested two broadband circuits at each main office as a fallback in event of failure. Finally, a small file and logon server was proposed for Surrey to minimise traffic between the offices.
IT project implementation
We installed a fully structured Cat5e network into Ainsworths’ main London office. Their secondary office had existing cabling which was modified due to renovations that were taking place at the time. The dual broadband circuits (an SDSL and ADSL) were installed at the main office in London and the office in Surrey, with a single SDSL circuit at the London shop. ZyXEL ZyWALL 35 firewalls were installed to ensure that broadband availability remained constant.
The servers were purchased, configured and then installed at the new London office location along with a cabinet for network patch panels, switches, routers, phone system and UPS battery backup system.
The terminal server was locked down using Group Policy settings to ensure users could not access any applications other than the ones required for work, and could not install or reconfigure anything on the server. This provided a stable platform for the staff outside the main office to run the new Khaos Control software and local users connected to the software directly from their desktop computers.
Existing computers were updated alongside new computers which were installed in the Surrey office and company-wide email was introduced using Microsoft Exchange. The company directors were able to access the email remotely, using Outlook or Outlook Web Access via a satellite broadband link in rural Hertfordshire.
We had to overcome a number of challenges: directing the various printers from the Khaos Control application, for instance, and optimising the usability of the electronic point-of-sale component on the PC-based till. We worked alongside Keystone Software throughout to resolve any issues.
The project was a success and the client has been able to enjoy extra functionality, as well as live data sharing between sites. The new servers provide faster access speeds and increased data storage capacity, allowing them to expand seamlessly.
SCS continues to work closely with Ainsworths and have completed several projects with them since this initial undertaking. More recently, given the advancements in broadband technology, the ADSL and SDSL circuits have been replaced with ADSL2+ technology, including using dual bonded ADSL2+ circuits at the main London office to give much increased bandwidth. The main server and terminal server have been replaced with new models (purely due to the age of the servers and the inability to extend the warranty any further) and a move has been made from onsite to hosted Exchange.