Case study: Hotel chain reap benefits by running thin clients
When Choice Hotels Australasia made the decision to move away from a traditional PC network, Systems Administrator Boban Lukic found huge savings in energy, maintenance costs and work-hours. Computing power bills have dropped by as much as 80 per cent, and the IT department no longer works overtime on a regular basis.
Choice Hotels Australasia is part of Choice Hotels International, one of the largest accommodation franchisors in the world. Choice Hotels Australasia, representing the Econo Lodge, Comfort, Quality, Clarion and Ascend brands, has more than 280 hotels, inns, suites and resorts across Australia, New Zealand, and Singapore.
With about 50 employees at head office and another 25 at remote locations throughout the region, the company is now almost 100 percent virtualised, with IGEL thin clients connected to Citrix servers. This allows for a more efficient use of the company’s hardware resources, and the thin clients provide a streamlined, cost-effective alternative to PCs.
A thin client is basically a small, solid state computer that connects to the cloud or a bank of servers, and is managed centrally by the manufacturer’s operating software. With no user-accessible storage on board, thin clients are naturally cheaper to buy than most PCs. Removing the storage from a device means that there are no moving parts, since there is no need for a fan to cool things down. Therefore they run cooler, use less energy and break down less.
Choice Hotels decided to make the move to improve hardware costs, reduce maintenance and centralise the company’s desktop management and infrastructure. The previous environment ran on older desktop PCs, which the team at Choice Hotels found hard and expensive to maintain. The department responsible for keeping the computers running found themselves under increasing pressure, and working overtime on a regular basis.
The process began with IT Manager Boban Lukic and his team implementing the necessary server infrastructure, a process that took two months to complete. During the server deployment the IT team began to trial and evaluate all brands of thin client that were available in Australia at the time, and quickly decided that IGEL Technology offered the best package for Choice Hotel’s needs.
“We considered and tested all current vendors in the market, but they were all blown away with a passion by what IGEL had to offer,” said Boban.
The team at Choice Hotels relied on the advice and support offered by IGEL’s Australian team and partners.
“They played a great role in explaining the unlimited possibilities of IGEL thin clients and in connecting me to more technical staff who were even better at resolving all the unusual demands that we placed in front of them,” said Boban.
Once the servers were in place, it took less than a week for Choice Hotels to roll out fifty IGEL UD3-730 LX models, which Boban describes as taking just a matter of minutes to set up.
The benefits began to manifest themselves immediately after the deployment, with administration time and costs dropping significantly.
“After implementing thin clients in the way that we did, we ended up with only a few virtual servers maintaining every user on the network. Now if we need a patch or an update, it only has to be actioned in a few places rather than on every individual PC. Also, I hardly need to mention that thin clients require very little maintenance once they are set up. We have only had one thin client die in four years, and that took about five minutes to replace, rather than the four or five hours it takes to install a new desktop,” he said.
Following the deployment, power consumption at Choice Hotels has been the biggest single benefit for the company. Prior to deploying thin clients, the power bill ran to around $10,000 per month. Now that figure has dropped to an “unbelievable” $1800 per month, reports Boban.
Information security has also improved under the new conditions. Since Choice Hotels deals with a large amount of credit card activity, Boban and his team restricted the access of peripheral devices such as USB drives, to ensure that the information could not tampered with. As a thin client environment centralises data at the servers, security can be maintained at the one level, with each individual device locked down by the central management software.
“Again, locking down each device was a breeze,” he explained. “Other tasks performed by our IT staff have simplified as well. We have almost entirely discarded the need for desktop support staff, and in cases where support is required it can be done remotely, leaving our staff with a lot more time for more important tasks.”
The workplace environment is also positively affected by the introduction of thin clients. Machines boot up faster than traditional PCs, as well as running cooler and more quietly. As the machines do not have internal fans collecting dust, air quality in the office space improves.
Physical office space is another factor – since thin clients are smaller than PCs, they can easily fit next to or under a monitor, leaving space free that would otherwise have been used for a much larger, heavier machine.
Boban reports that staff are much happier using the thin clients, the IT team are more productive and that management are very happy with the reduced power bills.