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House of Travel in NZ takes flight from Windows XP in style

Sathya Mithra Ashok | Nov. 20, 2013
The OS update was part of the firm's five-year infrastructure refresh across its divisions.

Home grown travel services provider, House of Travel, is focused on delivering great experiences to all Kiwis. The company has always considered ICT as a critical part of the tools necessary to provide great travel experiences to customers.

"The business is split into retail stores, corporate or wholesale sales, the online e-commerce element and the main holdings company. We have got around 1150 people spread across 80 sites. The 40 full-time IT staff support all of these channels, all the users and the infrastructure related to them. We also support 400 people in Australia," says House of Travel CIO Dave Veronese.

A large portion of the IT staff work out of Christchurch, with some placed in Wellington and Nelson. The company has two datacentres hosted by Revera in Auckland and Christchurch, and most of its systems are centralised.

"This month we have got some new packaged sales systems that went live. We are migrating our Australian wholesale-corporate users to that system. We are doing a website refresh as well. There are always projects going on," says Veronese.

PleX Travel Suite is one of the major back-end apps run by the firm. House of Travel also uses Amadeus global distribution system, which is hosted out of a datacentre in Germany.

Making the move
Earlier this year, the company moved all NZ users to Office 365 for email and SharePoint. Between July and September this year, the group also moved its users off the existing Windows XP environment to Windows 8 and Office 2013.

"We are a Microsoft shop. Our 1050 PCs were running XP, and we had around 200 laptops that were working on Windows 7. We have a five year hardware refresh cycle, and 2013 was the fifth year in that cycle. The period between July to September was when we did the refresh. We wouldn't have updated the OS without upgrading the hardware," says Veronese.

As part of the refresh, the firm switched over to new PCs, got in around 100 new switches, and installed around half-a-dozen servers, mostly for local phone systems — all provided by Dell. The refresh was conducted over a ten week period, starting with beta or pilot sites, leading onto rollouts that had the team moving two stores every weekday night.

Bigger sites, including offices in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, were moved over weekends. This was the time the firm shifted its users to the new desktop environment as well.

"In the past, whenever we needed new PCs to be added, we chose to downgrade them to the Windows XP platform for the last five years. This is so we could keep the same image across the group and ensure system compatibility. It also helped us lower the maintenance cost and keep training to a minimum.


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