Fire Brigade makes big savings with thin client

The replacement of PCs in favour of NCD Windows terminals has cut support costs

The replacement of PCs in favour of NCD Windows terminals has cut support costs

Lindsay Clark

The London Fire Brigade is saving between 15% and 20% on supporting its office applications with its move to server-based computing. The support saving will be ploughed back into improving the IT service provided to 120 sites across London.

Just under a year ago, Computer Weekly reported the fire service was implementing NCD Windows-based terminals to replace PCs in a project justified by a reduced upgrade cost.

Gordon Stutely, head of IT with the London Fire Brigade said, "I have raided everybody's IT budget for this project and managed to get a £100,000 saving, which allows us to deliver better support to end users with the same money as before. We also have better equipment."

Stutely said the massive reduction in desktop complexity, together with eased software distribution, made Windows terminals an attractive option.

However, the transition was not all plain sailing. Because achieving millennium compliance was part of the project, IT staff were working to tight deadlines, which caused some glitches.

Three thousand user profiles needed to be logged, each allocated into groups that determined access to applications. Some mistakes were made here and not enough time was allowed to resolve them, Stutely said.

Organisations attempting a thin-client transition should put more time into this work, he said. "Try to get enough time to make sure you can get every user on the system and also follow up to sort out any snags."

Critics of the thin-client model say users object to having the freedom of the PC taken away. Stutely said objections from those that like to play with PCs have been the most vociferous. "But these are the people that cause PCs to fail in the first place by putting on their own software," he added.

Analyst organisation Bloor Research has independently validated the saving made by Stutely's department. Dale Vile, Bloor's senior analyst, said London Fire Brigade had made savings well within the reach of most corporate PC installations.

However, political, as well as technical issues, can make the move to the server-based model difficult. "Company politics often means that money for PCs comes from departments, where as server-based computing in its very nature requires central funding," said Vile.

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