Batteries Plus gets a Charge from Ericom's PowerTerm WebConnect
Customers

Batteries Plus gets a Charge from Ericom's® PowerTerm WebConnect for a Secure Connection Along with Secure Printing for its POS System

Industry

Retail

Customer

Batteries Plus LLC.


Solution

        PowerTerm® WebConnect

WebConnect Server

        IBM X345

WebConnect Server OS

        Windows 2003

Application Server

        IBM X360

Application Server OS

        Red Hat Enterprise Linux Version 3

Emulation

        SCO ANSI

Desktop

        IBM ThinkCentre A50P

Number of Users

        ~700

Challenge

        To provide their independent store owners and franchisees with secure web-based access and printing to mission-critical host information residing on the company's central Linux back-end system.

Result

        PowerTerm WebConnect provides a secure connection, along with secure printing, to 230+ retail stores over a broadband connection to a WAN POS system.


Benefits

  • Smooth access to information from front- and back-office computers
  • Screen mapping enables standardized interface for accessing data
  • Provides secure LPD printing to multiple printers
  • Centralized administration and management tool saves support time and money
  • Easy deployment enables uniform system changes to be implemented across a franchise organization

"Overall, Ericom has been very accommodating in responding to our needs. We have secure terminal emulation along with secure printing in an environment that provides easy to use functionality."
Michael Lehman, CIO, Batteries Plus

Background

Batteries Plus is the nation's largest retail chain focused on the expanding $20+ billion battery category. It provides a comprehensive selection of batteries including national and control brands, battery-related products, and technical support. Stores also provide value-added services to both retail and commercial customers, including an on-site Tech Center equipped to design, assemble, rebuild, and test custom battery packs. Currently Batteries Plus has 232 franchised and corporately-owned stores in 40 states and Puerto Rico.

Batteries Plus, headquartered in Hartland, Wisconsin, uses the Synchronics CounterPoint POS system for storing all its mission critical information, including inventory control, purchasing, receiving, pricing, accounting transactions, time reporting, etc. The system is located at the company’s hosting facility, Berbee Information Systems, in Madison, Wisconsin.

Batteries Plus had initially installed the CounterPoint POS system in pilot mode with their Windows version, utilizing Citrix in a WAN environment for remote, secure connections. However, the Windows performance of CounterPoint was insufficient for their needs. “We decided to convert to the Linux version of CounterPoint, but to do so required a connectivity tool. That’s when we started looking at several vendor products, and we ultimately selected Ericom’s PowerTerm WebConnect,” recalled Michael Lehman, CIO of Batteries Plus.

Security The Number One Issue

Batteries Plus needed a solution that met three main requirements: secure SSH connectivity, screen mapping functionality, and secure, remote printing to multiple printers.

Michael worked with consultant Mark Simmons of Diversified Computer Solutions in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. It was Mark who brought Ericom’s PowerTerm WebConnect to the attention of Batteries Plus. “There were other vendors who offered a web-based solution for Linux,” explained Michael, “but they didn’t have the secure printing capability. It was Ericom’s ability to supply us with a solution that incorporated secure printing at a good price that sold us on PowerTerm.” With each store having approximately three printers, all data printed from the central server had to be encrypted and secured. “This was a major issue for us. Ericom was the only vendor that was able to provide us with this feature,” recalled Michael.

PowerTerm WebConnect serves as middleware between Batteries Plus’ stores and the POS system, which reside on two server systems: The CounterPoint POS application resides on two Red Hat Enterprise Linux Version 3 advanced servers, running on an IBM X360, with Quad Xeon processors and 6 GB RAM. The PowerTerm WebConnect servers use three IBM X345, with Dual Xeon 2.8 GHz and 2 GB RAM, running on Windows 2003. Employees throughout the company’s 230 stores access CounterPoint via Internet Explorer from Windows on IBM ThinkCentre A50P desktops running 512 MB RAM. PowerTerm WebConnect provides the secure connectivity with SSH. “CounterPoint is a live, real-time system,” explained Michael. “If our users can’t get secure connectivity, they can’t run the POS system, meaning they can’t run the store. PowerTerm gives us the secure connectivity needed to run this mission critical application”.

Usability and Functionality

Screen functionality was also a concern. PowerTerm WebConnect was able to provide flexible screen mapping for clear presentation and easy to use functionality. “Some terminal emulation packages are more flexible than others, presenting screens in different size fonts or background colors. PowerTerm WebConnect presented our screens clearly, in an easy to use user interface that enabled consistent screen display throughout all our stores.”

Batteries Plus was under a tight deadline to find a solution. Deployment took about one year and was accomplished while Batteries Plus rolled out its pilot stores converting to the CounterPoint POS application. Although a few minor configuration issues were encountered, Ericom’s technical support staff was quick to find a solution. “We had hiccups at the beginning, but Ericom stepped up to the plate and showed a sincere effort. Together we worked with Ericom’s developers to get over the hump,” said Michael. “Overall, Ericom has been very accommodating in responding to our needs. We have secure terminal emulation along with secure printing in an environment that provides easy to use functionality.”

Deployment Made Easy

PowerTerm WebConnect’s centralized administration tool has helped minimized the number of variables that affect user connectivity. “When it comes to the upgrade capabilities, the benefits are huge. With more than 230 stores running independently, we were never sure what software version each store was using. With PowerTerm WebConnect, I know they are all using the same version of the product because there’s only one installation on the server,” explained Michael. “When a new version is released, Ericom gives us the upgrade and we download it to the client. The time we have to travel to stores to install the product is cut dramatically. That’s a huge time and money saver.”

PowerTerm WebConnect’s centralized management tool also saves Batteries Plus time and resources. They are able to monitor who is signed onto the system, as well as when and how they signed into the system. PowerTerm WebConnect’s SupportView feature enables the system administrators to remotely take over a user’s desktop to see what’s going on at store level. “If the user can’t articulate the problem, I can view the user’s screen to see exactly what they see - if necessary, I can take control of the screen and use as a training tool to show the user what to do. From a support standpoint, we get a better understanding of the problem so we can help the user on the spot so they can do their job,” said Michael. “PowerTerm WebConnect has made our job a lot easier.”