by Hamish Barwick

Smooth sailing with secure backup

Apr 09, 20144 mins
Technology Industry

A 10-year-old IT system meant staff at Perth-based Rottnest Express could not access sales or financial data remotely.

The cruise company operates four vessels which travel between Rottnest Island, Perth and Fremantle in Western Australia. The island is located 19 kilometres off mainland Australia.

Rottnest Express IT and business development manager, Kenny Terasawa, said it had a “very manual” backup procedure which involved changing USB hard drives every day to ensure data was backed up properly.

“These manual processes were taking IT staff a long time and were very inefficient,” he said. “We only had two hard drives for the entire company’s data.”

Working with IT partner, Datamerge, Terasawa implemented Netgear’s ReadyData storage virtualisation and primary backup storage. The backup system is based out of the company’s Fremantle head office.

Data including ticket sales and financial information can now be accessed by staff on their iPhone, Panasonic Toughbook or Windows 8 tablet.

“Each vessel has a Toughbook used to manage the customer boarding process. On a good day, 1500 bookings are entered into the system,” he said. “Ferry staff can access ticket sales data seamlessly in real time. They didn’t have access to this information beforehand.”

According to Terasawa, productivity has increased as staff no longer need to be in the office to access sales or financial information. If something goes wrong and Datamerge needs to do a backup and restore, saved data can still be accessed.

Rottnest Express partnered with an IT provider that had experience in backups so its small IT team could concentrate on other projects. For example, Terasawa said it was looking to install a free Wi-Fi service on all four vessels by December 2014.

“We want the system to be similar to the free Wi-Fi offered by airports. Visitors come to the ferry terminal and when they connect to the free service it will take them to a homepage,” he said. “They will need to answer five short questions about customer service before getting access to two hours of free Internet.”

The free Wi-Fi would help keep visitors entertained on the 25-minute ferry crossing as well as provide tourists with more information about the island’s attractions which include ship wrecks, fur seals and biking tours.

There are also plans to make it easier for customers to pay for their ferry crossing. Terasawa is investigating a smartcard system for use on the Rottnest ferries, similar to the Opal card in Sydney which can be used on trains, ferries, buses and light rail.

He said it was looking at introducing an electronic ticketing system because many of its passengers are repeat customers who visit Rottnest Island every summer. Information collected from customers would include names and addresses.

“Passengers will be able to swipe or tap their card before entering the ferry. If they need to top up their card, they could visit a Web portal or pay machine to do this,” he said.

In addition, there are plans to install Internet protocol (IP) cameras on all four ferries to improve security and worker accountability. Camera data will be stored at head office with the camera rollout due to begin in May.

“The vessels are another office for us,” Terasawa said. “But our directors and managers in the Fremantle office can’t see what is happening on the vessels.”

Rottnest Express is also looking to redevelop its e-commerce website later in 2014. The `one-stop shop’ approach would be in partnership with other tourism operators on the island, meaning customers only had to visit one website.

“Our current site only offers customers ferry bookings so we want to establish a website with a shopping cart function. Customers could purchase other services such as tours of the island or book accommodation,” he said.

Rottnest Express

Problem: Ticket sales and financial data contained on Rottnest Express’s ageing IT system could not be accessed remotely by staff

Solution: Implementation of a new backup system has improved data access and business continuity

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