Company: MicrosoftCustomer: ntlSubmitted by: Shandwickntl is the UK and Ireland’s leading cable TV, telephone and internet company and a world leader in the development of digital broadcast systems and networks.
As technologies converge, ntl is leading the way into a new era of integrated communications and provides more products and services than any other communications company.ntl is a NASDAQ and EASDAQ listed public company, with an annual turnover of over US$1bn. ntl has over 12,000 employees and has its head office in Hampshire, United Kingdom. The present and near future are exciting times for ntl. The company has a national cable modem service and has recently launched a digital cable service to its domestic cable customers.
Two years ago a third of ntl’s 10,000 PCs were laptops. While the purchase price is also much higher than a desktop machine, the maintenance and upgrade of the at-times unreliable laptops are far more costly.As part of the desktop rationalisation programme, ntl decided it had to cut its laptop numbers. Mark Leonard, IT infrastructure development director, ntl, comments: “We had to reduce the number of laptops in the company because the costs involved were just not practical.”We decided to perform a needs assessment on each case and discuss requirements with every user. At the end of the day, many see laptops as something to strive for in the business, as a symbol of success, but we had to look at needs first.
ntl has recently finished implementing its new mobile working solution to the great satisfaction of both users and IT support. Laptop users can now choose one of four mobile working solutions. The main solution is based on Microsoft Windows CE and thin client technology, but users also have the option of choosing hot-desking, full-blown laptops if necessary, or borrowing laptops from a ‘loan-pool’ if they need to work from home occasionally.ntl’s new solution is based on HP Jornada 820 Windows Powered Handheld PCs (running Windows CE Pro 3.0). The Windows Powered mobile device proved popular due to its screen, keyboard and VGA port, as well as its purchase price.
The mobile devices connect via a built-in 56k modem and a landline to the Citrix Metaframe server and the Microsoft Windows NT 4.0 Terminal Server Edition. Some basic add-on software and hardware was added to the package to improve synchronisation, such as a hot-sync box from Extended Systems, to create a truly customised system. Over 400 Windows Powered mobile devices are currently in use, with about 30 of these deployed in the field, and the number is growing.Security was a major factor in the implemen-tation, even though the solution was relatively secure in its own right. Firewalls were utilised at every stage of remote access and SecureID tokens were issued.
As ntl’s main desktop systems are already based on Microsoft Windows, very little extra training was required to implement and support the Windows Powered mobile devices. Many support engineers are already Microsoft Certified Systems Engineers (MCSE) but the company has an ongoing training programme to improve the skill-sets of its employees, particularly to improve the exploitation of the range of unique features offered by the Windows CE environment.There are several technologies coming into play that promise to revolutionise even this new solution. A major factor is Universal Mobile Telephone System (UMTS) which promises very high bandwidth to mobile telephony devices, enabling speeds well in excess of LAN speeds over terminal services from any geographic location. Another major factor is Windows 2000 and all of the benefits it delivers, particularly with regard to the improved functionality of Terminal Services. The enhancements to the client and server mean that deploying applications to remote thin clients is easier than ever and something that ntl will certainly be taking advantage of.
“The major benefits of this system are the massive cost savings it provides, while still giving the performance that is necessary for our users. We’ve already been able to reduce our laptop count by over a third and this figure should continue to drop as our Windows CE user base grows. The TCO of our mobile computing solutions has fallen significantly since we introduced Windows Powered mobile devices. Our figures show that our mobile computing solutions now cost us some 45 per cent less thanks to the new systems,” explains Leonard.The major benefit of adopting Windows CE technology has been the cost savings that it has brought.
A Windows Powered mobile device is inexpensive, fast and highly stable, meaning that support and purchase costs are low, without a compromise in performance.The company is far more flexible with the new systems in place as it allows quick and easy access to email and standard Office applications from anywhere, allowing users to keep up to date and productive on the move. When users are back in the office, it allows fast synchronisation of calendar, contacts, tasks and notes. The Windows Powered mobile devices are easy to use and robust enough for field engineers, and if things do go wrong the devices are quick and easy to repair.
“Windows 2000 is going to change a lot of things, and the benefits it brings in terms of thin client technology are naturally very exciting to us,” says Leonard. He continues: “The other major change that we are looking forward to is UMTS and the ability to deliver high bandwidth via a mobile telephony device.
“We are also very excited about the next generation of Windows CE, the Pocket PC, and are currently working on how we can integrate it into our corporate environment,” says Leonard. “We are hoping to build a better corporate solution on the Pocket PC using hardware such as GSM cards, and to offer a more functional and supportable solution than is possible using ad-hoc Palm Pilots.”The company has thought long and hard about how it can address the problems it has, and come up with a solution that fits the brief perfectly. The Windows Powered mobile devices that have been implemented provide that degree of functionality to give an engineer or executive on the move access to email, contacts and critical applications from anywhere.