Cloud Best Practices

11 Strategic Questions for Hoteliers Considering Moving to the Cloud

By Bernard Ellis Vice President of Industry Strategy, Infor Hospitality | May 25, 2014

The benefits for hoteliers of moving business applications to the cloud are numerous. Initial costs are lower because there is no need to purchase additional hardware or expand IT headcount. Systems can be deployed faster, changes can be easily made as business needs expand over time, and the long-term return on investment is higher because the technology vendor will handle potentially costly system upgrades and enhancements. Disaster recovery of data is also easier, as information is backed up in the cloud rather than on physical servers.

Additionally, selecting a solution that delivers the same robust, hospitality-specific functionality as an on premise system supports globalization for hotels, resorts and casinos. With access via the cloud, users, partners and suppliers at locations across multiple continents can share real-time data on everything from guests to revenue. Information flows more freely and managing daily operations becomes easier as teams are able to connect from different properties and departments. This also enables better-informed decision making, as hotel managers have visibility into comprehensive data and an enterprise-wide view of how their organization is performing and operating.

Many information-critical industries, including pharmaceuticals and manufacturing, must weigh the potential pros and cons associated with moving to the cloud. But hoteliers are in a unique position because guest satisfaction, not the delivery of a physical product to market, is the top priority. Compromised guest data including contact and credit card information would mean a serious blow to revenue for a hotel chain or casino, as guests would no longer feel that their identities were safe while staying at the property. With more ways than ever for customers to voice feedback, including social media and online rating sites, news of a security breach would travel faster than ever before.

Because of the guestís distinctive control over hoteliersí success, it is even more important for companies to vet a vendorís approach to cloud security before selecting a provider for their cloud technology. Hotels own and manage the data, but it is the technology vendorís job to protect that data. Technology providers should instill confidence in customers that best-practice protocols and a thorough, continuous improvement approach will be utilized for any cloud-related projects.

However, many hoteliers are hesitant about moving to the cloud because with 24/7 guest interaction, a back-end system glitch could have negative implications on customer satisfaction. Compromising guest profiles or credit card information could be disastrous, making many hospitality companies uncertain about cloud deployment. In order to ensure security when utilizing SaaS-based business applications, hoteliers should focus on vendor selection and best practices for network safety. Selecting the right technology provider who employs these practices and is transparent on how and where data will be stored is critical in minimizing any risks associated with utilizing cloud technology.

Ensuring security in the cloud is a two part endeavor. Hoteliers must take steps internally to safely store and transfer data, but software vendors must also take measures to assess potential threats and implement effective security controls. A detailed look at the vendorís security approach is essential to confirm that a company will be thorough and follow necessary protocols. Effective security also begins with development and the proper training of staff. It should include a multiple layer strategy, as well as physical and operational processes that support protection. Knowing what type of monitoring processes and infrastructure-related measures will be taken to minimize safety risks is essential to when running business applications in the cloud. Vendors are the direct source for each of these security measures. Hoteliers should view technology providers as a partner in facilitating data safety in the cloud, and as such should carefully examine answers to the questions above when moving to a SaaS-based system.

Coming up in February 2018...

Social Media: Engagement is Key

There are currently 2.3 billion active users of social media networks and savvy hotel operators have incorporated social media into their marketing mix. There are a few Goliath channels on which one must have a presence (Facebook & Twitter) but there are also several newer upstart channels (Instagram, Snapchat &WeChat, for example) that merit consideration. With its 1.86 billion users, Facebook is a dominant platform where operators can drive brand awareness, facilitate bookings, offer incentives and collect sought-after reviews. Twitter's 284 million users generate 500 million tweets per day, and operators can use its platform for lead generation, building loyalty, and guest interaction. Instagram was originally a small photo-sharing site but it has blown up into a massive photo and video channel. The site can be used to post photos of the hotel property, as well as creating Instagram Stories - personal videos that disappear from the channel after 24 hours. In this regard, Instagram and Snapchat are now in direct competition. WeChat is a Chinese company whose aim is to be the App for Everything - instant messaging, social media, shopping and payment services - all in a single platform. In addition to these channels, blogging continues to be a popular method to establish leadership, enhance reputations, and engage with customers in a direct and personal way. The key to effective use of all social media is to find out where your customers are and then, to the fullest extent possible, engage with them on a personal level. This engagement is what creates a personal connection and sustains brand loyalty. The February Hotel Business Review will explore these issues and examine how some hotels are successfully integrating social media into their operations.