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Non-Stop Networking for Business Continuity

BY CSA STAFF

If a big-box retailer lost its network—whether due to a minor electrical failure in the neighborhood or a major event such as a hurricane or earthquake—lost revenue and productivity could reach up to $10,000 per hour of downtime, warned David Myers, senior VP of marketing and corporate development for Spacenet Inc., McLean, Va., during the session “Non-Stop Networking for All Your Retail Applications” at TOPSS in Las Vegas in October. TOPSS, the Technology & Operations Store Summit, is produced by Chain Store Age and Retail Technology Quarterly.

“For the CIO of a large retailer, the important question to ask is not ‘How much can I afford for disaster-recovery communications systems?’ but rather, ‘How long can my business afford to go without critical data communications?’” Myers told attendees.

Spacenet Inc. provides equipment, service, installation and maintenance, and can serve as an outsource provider for many of the client’s IT and telecommunications needs. The company specializes in VSAT-based solutions for disaster recovery, business continuity, and remote- and mobile-communications needs.

With today’s focus on corporate accountability, it’s not just the IT department that has to consider the requirements for business-continuity communications.

“Protecting shareholder value by ensuring that a company can continue operations in spite of an unforeseen event is part of the fiduciary responsibility of every corporate executive and board member,” Myers said.

A hybrid solution ensures maximum uptime for retail applications, including point-of-sale (POS) systems, back-office applications, and emerging digital-signage and media solutions, by combining wireline and satellite technologies.

The challenge for many IT departments in retail is to justify the expense of a business-continuity communications system, Myers said. To help meet that challenge, there are a variety of cost-effective programs that enable the retailer to benefit from its “back-up” communications systems, while operating in normal mode.

Under this program, applications such as digital-content distribution or IPTV are broadcast over the satellite, while Internet access and POS transactions traverse the terrestrial lines. In the event of a terrestrial outage, the digital content and IPTV applications go offline and the more business-critical traffic switches over to the satellite.

There are also part-time “on demand” programs, where the retailer pays a nominal fee to have the network set up and online. It then pays only for the bandwidth it uses, if and when the back-up system is used. Either program enables a retailer to benefit from a highly secure and high-availability network that combines the best of both satellite and terrestrial technologies, while at the same time meeting the ROI objectives of the CFO.

“The key is planning far in advance and incorporating a disaster-recovery communications solution into the company’s overall operating plan,” Myers said.

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CompUSA may get a new look

BY CSA STAFF

ADDISON, Tx. After opening a new format store last month, CompUSA may be changing the format of its other stores, depending on customer demand and product interest.

According to reports, the elements found in the prototype store, located in Texas, will be incorporated into other CompUSA locations across the United States.

The nearly 7,700 square-ft. relocation site includes an Apple shop featuring Mac computers, iPods and Apple accessories, and a full-length LCD TV wall.

Additional expansions include extended gaming, which includes an entire wall devoted to the Nintendo Wii, PlayStation3 and Xbox 360 gaming platforms, plus a PC gaming setup to test equipment and play new titles.

While businesses can get their share of support with a specialized services section, all consumers can visit the store’s redesigned IT support area.

“This new store aligns CompUSA’s vision to better serve its three core customers, the technology enthusiast, educated professional and small and medium businesses,” said Gabriela Villalobos, the retailer’s sales and operations evp.

CompUSA announced in April that it would narrow its focus to three core customer groups rather than try to serve a mass audience.

The move was part of a comprehensive restructuring, initiated last February, that included an overhaul of senior management and the closure of half its store base as the privately held chain looked to improve sales and profitability.

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Walgreens withdraws from CVS provider plans

BY CSA STAFF

DEERFIELD, Ill. After many months of talks over low and below-market payment rates by CVS Caremark for four prescription plans, Walgreens has withdrawn as a pharmacy provider from the plans.

Patients affected include members of prescription benefit plans managed by CVS Caremark for ArcelorMittal, Johnson Controls, Progressive Casualty Insurance and Wisconsin Education Association Trust.

Most of the affected members live in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin.

Trent Taylor, president of Walgreens Health Services, the managed care division of Walgreens, released the following statement:

“This is not where we wanted negotiations to lead,” he said. “We’re sorry that our pharmacy patients and CVS Caremark’s clients are caught in the middle, and we’ll do all we can to ensure a smooth transition for our patients to another pharmacy. Meanwhile, we’ll continue to work on resolving this issue with CVS Caremark.

“Leaving a benefits plan is an extraordinary step for us, but it demonstrates how extraordinarily low our payments were from CVS Caremark. We can’t continue accepting reimbursement rates that are drastically below market, while offering patients needed special services such as 24-hour pharmacy access and drive-thru pharmacies.”

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