Magazine Article | March 1, 2002

Just Push Play, Walk Away

Source: Innovative Retail Technologies

Movie Gallery uses remote systems management software to keep its 1,420 stores running the same software and collecting the same information.

Integrated Solutions For Retailers, March 2002

One of the most annoying things about the telephone is the busy signal. We have devised all sorts of ways to eliminate the incessant beeping, even if it is only by diverting a call to voice mail. Movie Gallery found busy signals to be more than just an annoyance. The signal prevented the stores from transferring important sales and payroll information to headquarters on a daily basis. At closing time, the retailer's 1,420 stores had to dial into Movie Gallery's Dothan, AL, headquarters at the same time. "Sometimes it would take a couple of hours for a store to get through, that is, if it didn't stop trying first," said Richard Langford, senior VP and CIO at Movie Gallery. "This caused inaccuracies in sales, rental, and payroll figures. And those stores that never did connect weren't receiving vital information from our headquarters, such as updated pricing."

The software solution that Movie Gallery used to gather daily figures from its stores could not keep up with the company's 10% yearly growth and increasing information volume. To combat this problem, the retailer installed RemoteWare, a remote systems management solution from XcelleNet (Alpharetta, GA). The Movie Gallery polls daily information over 40 modems rather than just one as before. Other benefits of the software include scheduled data transfers, software distributions, and remote maintenance between all Movie Gallery stores and its headquarters.

Initiate Automatic Data Transfer
Since headquarters initiates the poll through a scheduled session, there are no problems with the connection. "Now, we don't have to wait for stores to send us the information. RemoteWare lets us go straight to each store and get or send information whenever we need to," Langford said. "All of the stores receive the same information, and the centralized control over communications means we don't have security breaches from unauthorized parties." In the future, Langford will consider IP (Internet Protocol) connectivity. This would save the retailer three hours of polling a night by multicasting a RemoteWare session over the Internet rather than through modems.

Hire A Virtual IT Department
In addition to busy signals, Movie Gallery's growth posed another connectivity dilemma that RemoteWare was able to solve. Much of the retailer's growth has come from buying smaller video store chains. The most recent purchase resulted in 320 new stores. With the new stores comes a range of software and network configurations that Movie Gallery converts to match the corporate system. "At one point, we had 35 different POS (point of sale) systems that we were able to convert to one PC-based POS in less than two years," Langford said. As Movie Gallery worked toward one system, RemoteWare supported the stores' disparate systems and helped the company migrate to one consistent platform. "RemoteWare made it possible to get all of our stores on the same system with an average of 17 implementations a week. It also saved us the time and money of sending our IT staff out to do it manually," Langford said. Movie Gallery's IT department was able to use RemoteWare to create a session containing the new POS software, dial into each store's LAN, and install the software on the store's server without leaving the Alabama office. Since then, Movie Gallery uses the remote management software to update its POS systems four times a year without relying on store personnel. If a store reports a problem with a system, Movie Gallery's help desk staff can dial into that store's LAN to diagnose and fix the problem remotely. "It's like having a virtual IT person at each location," Langford said.