Retail manager dumps DIY service, scores big

Task Retail reduces downtime by eliminating return to base contracts

Point-of-Sale (POS) vendor Task Retail has cut days of data centre downtime by replacing its return-to-base support contract with an on-site service agreement.

The company provides real-time reports on sales and stock levels for companies across Australia and New Zealand. These companies include the Foodco Group which encompasses Muffin Break, Doughnut King, and Jamaicablue. Task Retail’s core product, Exchangexec, centralises all POS (point of sale) devices into a single terminal and allows reports to be generated to managers.

Backend processing is done in a Sydney datacentre on about 20 Dell servers, including PowerEdge 2950s and the bigger R900s, in both co-location and dedicated environments. A new server is added every few months to support its growing base of about 1300 stores.

The company also has its eye on the US and plans to soon open a duplicate data centre in China, which will likely be supported by the same Dell premium support contract.

CTO Daniel Houden is the son of managing director Kym and the technical brains behind the creation of Exchangexec. He said the company for seven years used a return-to-base support where problematic servers were shipped off site for repairs that could total almost a week.

“We're a small team of 13 software developers and while we're technical, we can't afford to spend time fixing servers,” Houden said.

“Some dedicated servers are processing 100 million transactions a week.”

Houden said IT staff have not set foot its datacentre since swapping from the old DIY support system about three years ago.

Since then the company has more than tripled its customers, according to Kim Houden. “There is no way we could support the amount of clients with the number of staff that we have,” he said.

Under the support contract, Task Retail has visibility into the performance of all networked devices: “we can see if a printer in Alice Springs runs out paper,” according to Kim Houden.

The company deactivated the automatic update service on its customer Windows XP machines and is now pushing patches out centrally. Kym Houden said the company has no plans to update to Vista or Windows 7.

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