July 02 2015

Mobile First Design & The Cloud

In a recent HT Magazine piece about Cloud based PMS several options are covered for converting your installed PMS into a hosted solution. Thing is, enabling remote access to your installed system isn’t a cloud solution. So what is the cloud? Everyone seems to have their own definition of what makes a platform cloud based. In order to define the nebulous Cloud once and for all, let’s step outside the bounds of hospitality and hotel system providers and find some prime examples of cloud-based platforms in other vertical markets and consumer facing platforms:

  • Reddit.com

  • MindbodyOnline.com

  • docs.google.com

  • Salesforce.com

  • evernote.com

So what do the above, diverse platforms share in common that makes them all cloud based?

1. Multitenant

Multitenancy refers to a software architecture in which a single instance of an application serves multiple clients and their users. For example, when you sign up for Reddit, a script does not install your instance of the karma app. There’s no way that would be feasible for their 36 Million users. Each account is another table in a database just another log in to the same application that thousands of users also access.

Why does this matter? Whether an instance of application is running locally or hosted remotely, the same issues apply. Fail over. Data redundancy. Updates. Remember managing 100 installs of Office on 100 Dell Inspiron desktops in 1999? Updates had to be run locally, so Microsoft built management tools into Windows Server to alleviate the version consistency issues across clients (the tech equivalent of swallowing a bird to catch a fly).

Conversely, when a subreddit is added to the millions of existing subs, it’s just that. It’s added. When a link or comment is posted, it’s just there. When an update is rolled out, or a button is added, every user experiences the benefit.

But if multitenency is a core tenet of cloud based platforms, why would someone build a hotel management platform that isn’t multitenant? Mostly, because it’s not easy. Just look at what you’ve gotta go through to build one if you’re stuck using Azure. If your Hotel PMS provider’s cloud solution is not multitenant, then one of the main benefits of the cloud is forgone. Unless, of course, you like purchasing licenses, scheduling install dates, or knowing that your PMS is version 6.0.09.12b patch 5.

2. Browser based, nothing to download, install or maintain.

Ask your cloud based hotel PMS provider, in which browsers does their product work. If they start off with ‘Internet Explorer,’ or ‘a custom browser built for…” then it’s not cloud. If local services or instances of an application are running on your user’s computers, then you’ve got not only increased security risk, but versions to manage. For example, MindbodyOnline, a fitness management and booking tool for providers and customers can be accessed from iPads, Android, linux browsers, you name it. Any true cloud based hotel management platform must be accessible on any browser, anywhere, at anytime on…

3. Any device – Responsive Design.

The cloud has been around longer than you think. Salesforce.com disrupted PeopleSoft and other server-based CRMs in the late 90’s. But quite a bit has changed since then. Cloud isn’t just desktop. One could argue that desktops won’t matter in 5 years, let alone that they matter now. In fact, the Wall Street Journal is arguing just that.

Back to the HT Magazine Article. La Quinta CIO Vivek Shaiva said of most systems today, “the mobility portion is an afterthought, not the core user interface, which results in a less-than-optimal user interface” .

The cloud today is about accessibility, but multi device. Accessible from a mobile device doesn’t mean it’s optimized for mobile. A great web application designed for a 13 inch screen with keyboard and mouse becomes a hassle and frustration on a 4 inch screen. Right click? Mouse over? A file system? All valid use cases on a laptop, but impossible from a phone.

In 2015 and beyond, if it’s not mobile, it’s not cloud.

By Bryn Williams, Director of Strategic Accounts, StayNTouch