Ericom enables Swinton to extend the life of 2,500 thin client terminals;

Swinton improves application performance for 2,500 sales advisors




The UK's largest insurance group, Swinton needed to improve application performance for 2,500 employees based at branches all over the country.


   PowerTerm® WebConnect RemoteView


  • Optimize the performance of a new revenue-generating application
  • Extend life of 2,500 existing thin client terminals
  • Minimise IT expenditure


  • Deploy Ericom's PowerTerm WebConnect Remote View to centrally deliver applications to the existing thin clients


  • Response time for revenue-generating application improved from 7.3 seconds to 0.5 seconds
  • Life of existing thin client terminals doubled
  • Investment in Ericom solution saved over £400,000


With 442 branches and two call centres, Swinton is the largest high street insurance chain in the UK. Around 2,500 of its 3,000 employees are based in branches and call centres. These agents use thin client terminals with embedded web browsers to access insurer policy information, contact lists and a direct debit application via the company's intranet.

Swinton wanted to make better use of its customer information to track policy renewal due dates and then present this information to the branches as leads. An in-house development team therefore created a new lead management system using and Ajax technologies. However, when deployed, this new solution consumed most of the available bandwidth in the company's existing lines to the branches. In addition, the solution overloaded the company's thin client devices, which were already three to four years old and did not have powerful processors. "The thin client devices that we had across our entire branch network effectively became end-of-life because of this new application," explains Rob Davidson, Head of IT infrastructure at Swinton.

Due to the poor performance issues, Swinton's sales advisors didn't use the new lead management application as much as they should have. "The system was virtually unusable because it took so long to display the list of leads and refresh the pages," says Davidson. "As a result, we weren't optimising our leads and making the most of our opportunity to win more business."

A cost-effective option

Swinton recognised that it had to resolve this situation and investigated several possible solutions. At first, the company considered replacing its existing Wyse thin terminals with new thin terminals that incorporated faster processors and Internet Explorer version 6. "We found, however, that this option didn't give us a massive improvement in performance," recalls Davidson. "Our Java-based application was still too much for the thin clients to handle. The deployment of 2,500 new thin clients nationwide would also have been very costly and disruptive to the business."

Next, Swinton investigated a solution based on Citrix technology, but this option was quickly ruled out on the basis of price. "The per-connection license cost was very expensive for a company of our size. I don't think that I would ever have got the budget approved!" says Davidson. "Citrix would have cost four times more than our investment in Ericom Solutions."

Swinton also ruled out other Terminal Server solutions. "We wanted a solution that would present users with a seamless window and carry out load balancing across a number of servers at the back end," explains Davidson. "Ericom met these requirements and was the most cost-effective option. It cost around one third of the amount that we would otherwise have had to have spent on replacing our existing thin clients and saved us more than £400,000."

A significant performance spike

Swinton selected Ericom's PowerTerm WebConnect RemoteView, a server-based computing solution that provides flexible and secure access to applications via thin clients and personal computers. The implementation of PowerTerm Web Connect was carried out centrally using Swinton's existing terminal management software.

At the time, Swinton had two different types of thin terminals in its estate, one of which Ericom supported and the other which it didn't. Ericom therefore developed the required client software specifically for Swinton.

As soon as PowerTerm WebConnect went live, the company's new lead management system started to deliver the sub-second response times that users needed. "Performance improved from 7.3 seconds to display a screen to just 0.5 seconds," reports Davidson. "That kind of performance improvement doesn't go unnoticed by users."

A stronger sales position

Employees in Swinton's branches all around the country now use the new lead management system as a part of their daily routine. As a result, the company has a far greater opportunity to increase revenues from sales activities.

"Sales advisors can make sure that they are contacting the customer at the right time, when they know that an existing policy is about to expire, and they can capitalise on opportunities to cross sell other insurance products," says Davidson. "We are now in a much stronger position to prioritise leads and optimise sales."

PowerTerm WebConnect is used by every one of Swinton's 2,500 branch and call centre employees to access central applications and vital sales documentation. In addition, all of the company's direct debit transactions are set up using an intranet-based application that is delivered via the Ericom solution.

An higher return on investment

By deploying PowerTerm WebConnect, Swinton has managed to defer the replacement of all its thin clients. "This would have been a fairly massive investment and a big logistics exercise," says Davidson. "Nearly two years after implementing Ericom, we still have the same thin client devices in the branches, and I estimate that they have another 18 months of life left in them yet. The Ericom software has more than doubled the life of our thin clients, significantly increasing the return on the original investment made in them."

Swinton has recently completely overhauled its intranet and upgraded many of its intranet-based applications to include more content, graphics and calculator tools. "If we didn't have PowerTerm WebConnect, the intranet improvements that we could have made would have been very limited," believes Davidson. "We are now able to deliver richer centralised services with a consistent and predictable use of bandwidth."

He concludes: "The Ericom solution doesn't cause us any headaches; it just sits there and keeps going."

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