May 08 2014

As the need for mobile explodes…your hotel needs a cloud infrastructure!

Many (probably most) hotels still have their most critical software systems installed on property. Most likely in a small dark room, with little ventilation and no proper backup system in place. I cannot recall the number of times I got involved with a frantic call from a client, who’s PMS servers failed, who’s network failed, who’s power failed, and all of that unfortunately without a proper backup procedure in place. As a result the client lost usually multiple days of transactions, sometimes all was lost, and was out of a systems sometimes for more than 24 hours.

When I was SVP of Product development at MICROS, I was often faced with the question “Is hosting reliable?” To answer that question with some real data, I reviewed the uptime of a chain client who had roughly 100 properties, 50 hosted, and 50 still with a PMS system installed at the property. The results revealed that a hosted solution is at least 20 times more reliable (on average) versus those installed at the property, and when things do go wrong due to good IT processes a backup …..is actually available to restore from.

Rather than hosting, the buzz word for centrally installed and managed applications is now Cloud Computing. Let’s review why hotels can benefit from Cloud Computing, especially the small to mid size hotels from both a technology and service perspective:

From a Technology view point:

Cloud computing is more cost effective, especially for smaller hotels, pay as you go, can help the bottom line in good and in bad times. Getting access to “big chain functionality”. Large hotel companies have the resources to create their own custom functionality. Smaller hotels and chains do not, but when in the cloud they can leverage development, maintenance and upgrades across many small hotels. For smaller hotels, cloud computing means complete cloud-based SaaS hotel systems. No IT required, reducing cost of ownership. As for legacy systems, small to mid size hotels have less legacy systems to deal with and do not need to throw out much when they switch to a cloud based hotel software service. Security problems: Security is important, and for larger hotel chains security might still be a little shaky by their standards, it is almost always much better than what small to mid size hotels can provide for themselves. Lastly; the cloud is more reliable than most think. Yes, it’s big news when Amazon or Windows Azure are down, but when push comes to shuffle, the cloud is probably more reliable than what small hotels can afford to provide for themselves (remember the lack of backup procedures I mentioned earlier?

From a Service view point:

In my opinion more important than the technology reasons. As mentioned in a post earlier this week, more and more guests and staff will bring their own device to the hotels they will be staying in or working at. They will expect to be able to use their own smartphone or iPad to interact and request services from the hotel. Things such as self service using an iPhone will become a requirement. In order for guests to interact through their own smartphone with the hotel for example to checkin or order room service, the device needs to connect to the hotels PMS. If the PMS is installed at the property the added complexity and security requirements (you are allowing none hotel staff access to your system) are impossible to manage for the individual hotels.

Guests and staff will also want to interact with hotel software when they are not in the hotel. When the PMS is installed at the property this is difficult, however when it’s in the cloud, it can easily be accessed from anywhere on any device.

If you add it all up, cloud computing is made for small to mid size hotels. It’s a great way to get large chain class – consumer class – features, without having to pay a large amount of cash up front. For hotel software cloud computing is mature, its remaining issues simply carry less importance when viewed from the perspective of a small to mid size hotel. Hotels should look for a hotel software vendor that has build a system “from the ground up” in the cloud, and verify the processes the hotel software cloud vendor has in place as it relates to up-time and security. Once implemented hotels have a great base in place to expand technology services for many years to come.

If moving your PMS is to much right now, or you can’t find the right cloud PMS, look into partnering with mobile vendors that complement your on premise PMS with great new mobile functions, all run from the cloud. Get a taste, I can assure you’ll like it!

When are you moving?

By Jos Schaap, CEO – Founder at StayNTouch