SAS Global Communications completes new network to help the Caravan Club meet seasonal rush

London - SAS Global Communications, an international provider of managed and professional network services, today announced it has completed a wide area network (WAN) upgrade for the Caravan Club, the largest touring organisation of its kind in Europe, and the biggest caravan insurer in the UK. The extended network, which links almost all of the Caravan Club’s 200 sites across the UK to its headquarters in East Grinstead, West Sussex, has given all site managers access to the club’s IT systems, including its booking and email applications, to streamline business operations. As part of the project SAS has installed a private DSL network, which delivers flexible bandwidth, enabling the company to effectively support its heavy annual peak in booking requests each December.

The Caravan Club, which celebrated its centenary year in 2007, provides services to more than one million caravan, motor caravan and trailer tent owners across the UK and Ireland. Available online and via the club’s customer call centre, these services include site and ferry bookings as well as insurance services. In the first week of December, the Caravan Club experiences a pronounced spike in bookings, particularly via its website.

In December 2007, with the new communications infrastructure in place, the Caravan Club was able to divert bandwidth from its WAN to its website, thereby supporting a record number of bookings – 19,600 – in just one day; 75% more bookings than at its peak in December 2006. After the initial rush subsided, bandwidth was reassigned to the WAN, once again providing site staff with full access to network resources. Previously, the Caravan Club had relied on a basic dial-up ISDN network for connectivity, which could not effectively support this seasonal peak in demand and was proving very expensive to manage.

SAS was initially introduced to the club by BT, when it carried out a troubleshooting clinic on the Caravan Club’s communications estate. Following this session, SAS became the natural choice to complete the WAN upgrade.

“The flexible infrastructure that SAS has put in place for us, ensures that we can maximise the potential of the huge December rush, rather than worry about missing out on bookings,” said John Franklin, infrastructure development manager at the Caravan Club. “SAS took care of everything and we trusted them to get it right. With our new infrastructure in place, our web customers and employees can place and process bookings in a timely manner, giving us the confidence that our IT infrastructure is supporting our growth, rather than impeding it. I can categorically say that it was money well spent.”

SAS completed the installation of BT’s MPLS network, IP Clear, and activated the connection at the majority of the Caravan Club’s 200 sites, except for a small number of rural locations where DSL is not yet available. It has also implemented BT NetFlex, which enables the company to temporarily increase bandwidth when necessary. For example, in December, SAS increased the Caravan Club’s bandwidth from 10 MB to 30 MB to support the seasonal rush of bookings.

“Running a company using ISDN is simply not a viable option these days, especially for those firms that depend on the Internet to do businesses,” said Charles Davis, CEO of SAS Global Communications “Customers won’t tolerate slow connections and are likely to give up on websites that can’t immediately process their orders. By opting for a dedicated network, the Caravan Club has taken an important step in ensuring that no customers are left frustrated or disappointed when attempting to make reservations online, especially when traffic to the website is at its heaviest. This investment also means that the company itself can realise its full sales potential.”

SAS has also installed a back up connection at the Caravan Club’s distribution centre, also in East Grinstead, West Sussex. , Previously, there had been just a single Internet connection to this site, but SAS has added a second line to avert any potential problems in the event of network failure.

In line with SAS’s dedication to equipping all of its customers with technical know-how, the company provides educational webcasts designed for IT and telecoms managers who would like advice and expert recommendations on implementing converged networks. Future topics include 'How to implement IPT on a global network’. These webcasts are available free-of-charge and can be accessed on-demand once the live webcast has been presented.

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