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Pilot Travel Centers

"RemoteWare has made our help desk operations so efficient and so reliable, we were able to reduce our help desk staff by 20 percent. iAnywhere saves us money, time, manpower and headaches."

Jeff Scott
Manager
Network Management

With 238 Travel Centers in 38 states around the country and 68 convenience stores in Tennessee and Virginia, Pilot is the nation's largest supplier of diesel fuel for over-the-road trucks, as well as one of Forbes Magazine's top 500 privately-owned companies. Pilot didn't have an automated way to handle problems, leaving its help desk to react to situations after they became more serious. Worse, when proactive steps like updating software and anti-virus programs came time, the IT staff was further burdened with extra work that kept them from managing critical network issues for the entire enterprise. Pilot deployed RemoteWare to improve help desk operations and distribute and install new software and files.

Business Advantage

Key Benefits

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Industry

Refueling IT Management
If you've ever driven cross-country, chances are you've seen the bright, red and yellow Pilot signs inviting you to stop in and refuel at one of its locations lining America's highways. Found in 38 states throughout the country, Pilot Travel Centers and convenience stores are familiar and welcome sites to millions of weary travelers and truckers heading along the interstate. Offering customers a break from the monotony of driving, the privately-owned company provides fuel for both automobiles and the people in them, with food from national food chains such as Arby's, Subway, Taco Bell and Wendy's, and fuel islands large enough to serve several automobiles and 18-wheelers at the same time.

Pilot Travel Centers sprang from humble beginnings in 1958 when James Haslam II opened up the first Pilot gas station in Gate City, Virginia, selling gasoline, cigarettes and soft drinks. Since then, the company has expanded its business from gasoline stations to convenience stores and full-fledged Travel Centers. Today, Pilot, headquartered in Knoxville, Tennessee, employs more than 12,000 employees and operates 68 convenience stores and 238 Travel Centers around the country.

Pilot relies on traditional business values such as hard work and good customer service. The company employs the latest in technological advancements to keep operations running smoothly. At the core of those systems is RemoteWare.

Running on Empty
Pilot had been using RemoteWare to manage e-mail connectivity and to exchange data between its headquarters in Knoxville and its hundreds of stores around the country. A distributed enterprise management system, RemoteWare allows companies with dispersed systems such as satellite offices, stores, kiosks, laptops and mobile devices to control and manage all IT operations throughout the enterprise from one location. Initially, Pilot was only using one small feature of RemoteWare and not taking full advantage of its potential. Pilot set out to implement a better management infrastructure that would give it greater control over its IT operations, particularly with managing the company's fatigued help desk. Responsible for technical support and software rollouts, Pilot's help desk was continually in a state of reaction, putting out fires just long enough for another one to begin. The group never had the time to proactively plan for issues that might arise as it was always reacting to a problem that was already in existence. Software and antivirus updates and new software rollouts only complicated matters, requiring help desk personnel's physical appearance at each computer to install the solution.

"It was like a waking nightmare," recalls Jeff Scott, Pilot's manager of network management. "Just when we'd think we'd have issues under control, some new problem would pop up and we'd spend days trying to fix it. We really needed something that would give us greater control and let us manage our system instead of it managing us."

High-Grade Performance
Looking to find a solution that would remedy some of their problems, Scott and his team began evaluating support systems from a range of different vendors. Having witnessed a RemoteWare product demonstration at his previous employer, Scott knew Pilot wasn't harnessing the full power of RemoteWare in its current operations and wanted to see how it would rate when compared with other products. Put head-to-head against the competition, RemoteWare proved to be the most cost effective and easy-to-use solution of all of the contending vendors, including Microsoft's SMS and IBM's Tivoli.

"My previous exposure to RemoteWare gave me the confidence to enter it into the evaluation process because I knew it had the capabilities we were looking for. What I didn't know was that it would outperform the other systems, both in functionality and in total cost of ownership," says Scott.

"iAnywhere's technical support personnel were incredibly efficient and knowledgeable-one of the other vendors wouldn't even send tech support, and some couldn't get their products working after several weeks," he explains. "iAnywhere had its solution up and running in our help desk within one day and easily performing the functions we wanted. And because about half of our Travel Centers and most of our convenience stores already had RemoteWare installed, it meant we wouldn't have to piecemeal different solutions together. RemoteWare gave us one system to standardize and manage all of our operations easily and cost-effectively, clearly proving itself the winner."

Pilot planned to regionally upgrade its stores and migrate each location from the old OS2 server to the new Windows NT server. After a few months, Pilot had RemoteWare up and running on its servers and its 1100 clients at headquarters and all of its Travel Centers, convenience stores and mobile workforce's laptops. Either via the company's local area or wide networks (LAN and WAN) or via a dial-up connection through the company's virtual private network (VPN), every one of Pilot's computers is directly connected to Pilot's centralized IT management team and help desk. As a result, Scott and his team's reach is extended beyond their Knoxville headquarters, giving them control over all IT operations without leaving home base.

Turbo-Charge
Today, when Pilot's help desk discovers a problem, it can usually be resolved within a matter of minutes. For example, if one of the Travel Centers reports that its systems aren't working properly, the help desk can connect directly to the malfunctioning machine and perform critical diagnostic tests to determine the problem and immediately send and install a patch or reinstall file, all without any intervention from the end user. The problem is quickly eradicated before it can wreak any major havoc on the store's operation, or worse, on the entire Pilot system.

Pilot's help desk also uses RemoteWare to distribute and install new software, anti-virus updates or other files to computers on its network. The software deployment processes that used to take the company weeks to rollout now happen overnight. Scott says that his team or help desk simply creates a RemoteWare session containing the new software or anti-virus, uploads it onto the servers and distributes it to all the clients where the programs are automatically installed. RemoteWare allows them to create work objects that specify which computers are to receive which updates, seamlessly distributing the new software to the appropriate computers and drastically reducing the time and man-hours it takes to get the job done.

"We're back in control of our IT operations, and we're more proactive. We don't spend our time running around putting out fires anymore. We can eliminate issues before they become major catastrophes, and concentrate our efforts on projects that are going to make our operations run more effectively," Scott states.

"RemoteWare has made our help desk operations so efficient and so reliable, we were able to reduce our help desk staff by 20 percent. RemoteWare saves us money, time, manpower and headaches."

Clean Lines
As with any retail operation, timely communications between stores and headquarters are essential to the profitability of the company. Pilot relies heavily on the daily sales figures of its Travel Centers and convenience stores; other information such as employee timesheets, vacation and sick hours are vital to Pilot's human resources and payroll operations.

Data is automatically uploaded into the appropriate databases in Pilot's mainframe for processing. For the Travel Centers, Pilot communicates with them three or four times a day, pulling information back as it becomes available. This frequent reporting not only allows Pilot's management team to have real-time "progress reports," it also allows Scott and his team to maintain back-up copies of all files at headquarters in the event of a system crash at one of the stores.

"Our success as a company relies extensively on RemoteWare. It is a vital part of our entire infrastructure, both from a technological perspective and a business model," summarizes Scott. "It not only allows us to maintain a high level of communication with all of our locations and mobile warriors, it also lets us maintain a level of control we didn't think was possible in such an easy-to-use, easy-to-manage software solution. RemoteWare is a sophisticated product that doesn't require high levels of sophistication to run."



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