Automated endpoint and software asset management help the cinema chain run smoothly.
“When you’re in a retail environment that’s as busy as the film industry, it’s reassuring to know that our Point of Sale (PoS) and other systems are all in good shape,” says Mike Rozwadowski, architecture manager at Vue Entertainment.
Vue Entertainment is part of Vue International, one of the world’s leading cinema operators. It has 86 cinemas in the UK and Ireland, and in leading positions in Germany, Poland, Italy and the Netherlands. As Rozwadowski explains: “We’ve been growing aggressively over the past ten years, and it’s important that we have the right tools to help the guys on the ground – those running the individual cinemas. Then, when they are really busy – showing a new blockbuster, for example – they can feel confident that their systems won’t let them down.”
The imperative to move from spreadsheets to automation
Rozwadowski recalls that around 18 months ago he started looking for an endpoint and software asset management system. At the time the IT infrastructure for the entire business, including the 86 cinemas, was managed using Excel spreadsheets.
“If we wanted to check if our PoS hardware was suitable for future applications, we relied on the spreadsheet for this information, which took significant time to maintain. It was very inefficient and time-consuming,” he says.” We were always so busy with the day-to-day upkeep. By automating the majority of this allow process, we could concentrate more on overall strategy and forward-thinking projects.”
There was also no quick and easy reporting system, so decision-making and planning involved some guess work.
Rozwadowski had heard of Kaseya – but a timely call from one of its sales team convinced him that Kaseya’s VSA endpoint monitoring and management system would be worth a trial. “We kicked off using just the asset management functionality, but pretty quickly we realised that the product had a lot more to offer than we first thought,” he recalls.
A solution with ‘many powerful features under the hood’
Now the team uses VSA for almost any task that can be automated and controlled via a central dashboard including software deployments, running regular maintenance checks on tills, kiosk management, monitoring disk space and patch management. “Having a product which can detect a problem, log a ticket and then resolve it automatically is one of many powerful features under the hood,” says Rozwadowski.
Kaseya VSA is already being used across head office workstations and all the cinemas – on the tills, ATMs, retail systems, staff clocking in and on the managers’ PCs. Deployment to Vue’s data centres will soon be completed.
Vue outsources its first-line helpdesk for cinema staff to a third party provider who is now also in the process of adopting Kaseya VSA. The provider currently uses Excel spreadsheets extensively, and so automation will transform their operations too.
“We’ve spent significant time embedding VSA here at head office so that we would be totally comfortable with the product. We dedicated the appropriate time to set up all the right policies and procedures to manage our environment. A key feature is VSA’s powerful remote control – for example, if we need to remote onto a till, a kiosk or a manager’s PC to fix something behind the scenes we use Kaseya Live Connect to do this. With Live Connect, we can easily troubleshoot issues without having to disrupt our end users. The modern UI and dashboard means we have the tools to detect and resolve issues much faster. We are in the process of passing this over to our third party helpdesk,” says Rozwadowski.
The end of break-fix, and new era of automation
Now Kaseya VSA monitors and maintains Vue’s systems in a proactive way, delivering advance warnings of any risk of failure to enable remediation before users are impacted. For example, if the system detects something wrong with the PoS system, it will automatically run through a number of pre-defined scripts and policies to remove any possible errors, and allow IT admins to more quickly and effectively pinpoint the root cause of problems.
Typically, in the past something needed to stop working before it was fixed. Now with the help of VSA, Vue takes a proactive approach to IT maintenance and management. For instance, when disk space gets to a certain percentage, an email goes out to alert the team to the problem. Based on predefined procedures, VSA will resolve the issue by emptying a cache, for example, and then automatically email the team again saying, “don’t worry, it’s been solved.”
“We are able to see the current status of all our devices both hardware and software. Automation has not only saved us time, but helps us utilise our resources more productively. Upgrading one of our key applications within the business used to be done manually with someone connecting to each cinema remotely and running a series of packages. With the automation in VSA, we have now reduced a 2-3 month rollout plan to a matter of weeks. We now have more time to focus on impactful projects and be forward thinking, rather than constantly playing catch up with day-to-day operations,” says Rozwadowski.
He also appreciates how easy it is to run customised reports, if, for example, the company wants to quickly find out which devices still run Windows XP, what their hardware configuration looks like or what is their patch status. “We can go back to the business with accurate information to help form their decisions – how many PoS do we need to upgrade? How many devices are at end of life? Which servers are at the end of their warranty? In minutes, we have the reports we need at the ready to effectively assess our business needs. Previously this would be carried out by pulling data from a variety of sources, which would take time to collate.”
Above all, he says that automation gives him: “Peace of mind… it’s all about clearing out the old files and defragging the hard disks so that everything is up-to-date, tidy and ready for when you do have those large bursts of volume sales.”
He adds that Vue is now trialling Kaseya VSA in the Netherlands with a view to rolling it out later in the year.
Talking to Rozwadowski, it’s clear that Kaseya VSA has made a significant difference to Vue. “It has so much functionality in one solution with an intuitive, centralised console that allows us to control all of our IT. Whether it’s using the remote control function to troubleshoot issues, writing scripts and procedures to automate time consuming tasks, or simply installing Google Chrome onto a laptop, VSA provides a robust set of features that enable us to stay on top of our IT management needs in the fast paced world of retail. All in all, it’s pretty exciting to use,” he concludes.