Cloud Best Practices

11 Strategic Questions for Hoteliers Considering Moving to the Cloud

By Bernard Ellis President & Founder, Lodgital Insights LLC | 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 guest's distinctive control over hoteliers' success, it is even more important for companies to vet a vendor's approach to cloud security before selecting a provider for their cloud technology. Hotels own and manage the data, but it is the technology vendor's 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 vendor's 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.

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Coming up in January 2019...

Mobile Technology: The Future is Now

Mobile Technology continues to advance at a relentless pace and the hotel industry continues to adapt. Hotel guests have shown a strong preference for mobile self-service - from checking-in/out at a hotel kiosk, to ordering room service, making dinner reservations, booking spa treatments, and managing laundry/dry cleaning services. And they also enjoy the convenience of paying for these services with smart phone mobile payments. In addition, some hotels have adopted a “concierge in your pocket” concept. Through a proprietary hotel app, guests can access useful information such as local entertainment venues, tourist attractions, event calendars, and medical facilities and services. In-room entertainment continues to be a key factor, as guests insist on the capacity to plug in their own mobile devices to customize their entertainment choices. Mobile technology also allows for greater marketing opportunities. For example, many hotels have adopted the use of “push notifications” - sending promotions, discounts and special event messages to guests based on their property location, purchase history, profiles, etc. Near field communication (NFC) technology is also being utilized to support applications such as opening room doors, earning loyalty points, renting a bike, accessing a rental car, and more. Finally, some hotels have adopted more futuristic technology. Robots are in use that have the ability to move between floors to deliver room service requests for all kinds of items - food, beverages, towels, toothbrushes, chargers and snacks. And infrared scanners are being used by housekeeping staff that can detect body heat within a room, alerting staff that the room is occupied and they should come back at a later time. The January Hotel Business Review will report on what some hotels are doing to maximize their opportunities in this exciting mobile technology space.