Europcar aims to save 60% with move to VPN

Car rental company Europcar is close to completing a two-year revamp of its network, which it expects will slash communication...

Car rental company Europcar is close to completing a two-year revamp of its network, which it expects will slash communication costs by 60%.

The upgrade is key to Europcar's business plans to deliver new services to its customers. The company wants to distinguish its service from its rivals by offering rental offices nearer to its corporate customers' offices, in addition to outlets at airports.

The existing X.25 network is being replaced by an ADSL-based IP virtual private network operated by Vanco.

Stefan Ostrowski, chief information officer at Europcar, said, "Europcar can only survive if it has competitive IT." He said the cost savings would release money to improve other areas of the business.

In its new rental outlets Europcar uses PCs configured as Linux-based thin clients to access the company's Oracle-based central reservation system. "We needed to react quickly to change," said Ostrowski.

The firm said it ran into difficulties in Europe with network operators which were unable to meet Europcar's business requirements because they had difficulties operating efficiently across geographic boundaries using ADSL.

Part of the problem, according to Ostrowski, was a lack of engineers at the telcos and differences in the ADSL specification in some regions. The company would have required expensive integration consulting to overcome these differences, he said.

Europcar chose to connect its car rental outlets with ADSL and use an IP VPN secured using the IPSec standard to send and receive corporate network traffic over the internet.

Vanco provides a virtual network service across 230 locations, allowing Europcar to deal with a single network provider across its wide area network.

Each rental outlet uses Citrix software to access the centrally run reservation system and Microsoft Office. PCs in the outlets also run the open source Mozilla web browser.

Along with the Linux thin-client PC, the stations are equipped with a Wi-Fi link and a handheld terminal to log damage to rental cars.

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