VPN scores savings in shop with no Rejects

Installing a virtual private network (VPN) at retailer The Reject Shop was more about competitive advantage than ROI, but savings soon followed.

The rollout to 3500 staff across 100 stores, which was completed last month, has improved stock control allowing the retailer to make more effective ordering decisions.

The Reject Shop CIO Darren O’Connor initially considered a Frame Relay, Private IP network but decided there weren’t enough cost efficiency benefits to make the investment worthwhile.

Previously, each Reject shop communicated to head office via its own individual ISDN connection which O’Connor described as “unreliable, expensive to operate and time consuming for staff and slow to digest large volumes of data”.

He said having only nine simultaneous connections possible at any one time to its Melbourne head office hindered the company, because it made the transfer of daily sales figures too slow for competitive advantage.

Rosser Communications was awarded the $100,000 plus contract to build the VPN.

Each store now has a Cisco SOHO 837 ADSL router which includes an ADSL WAN port with a four-port 10/100 Ethernet LAN switch for connecting multiple PCs and network devices.

“This new hardware is simple to manage and consumes less space owing to the lack of requirement for a separate DSL modem and VPN firewall,” O’Connor said.

The VPN connection from each shop terminates on a new Cisco 2621XM router running firewall features that enable data to be sent and received across the Internet.

“The existing Cisco 2600 is configured as a backup; also our loss prevention managers can access the network via the use of digital certificate technology,” O’Connor said.

There were a few challenges during implementation but patches and methodologies were used to troubleshoot issues.

“In fact Rosser provided Cisco with some of the very first feedback in Australia on the product and the necessary patches; we achieved pretty good synergy to implement cutting-edge technology,” O’Connor said.

During the trial and testing phase, The Reject Shop exploited the Cisco feature set, developing the VPN as a management tool and using the routers to manage its POS (point of sale) network.

“This now gives us insight into what is selling at any particular time in any given store so we can maintain lower levels of unsold stock; in the future we plan to utilise the VPN for our Eftpos transactions to reduce costs even further,” O’Connor said.

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