Hotel Group Saves Thousands with Secure Cloud-Based Network

| May 22, 2014

While travelers flock to Tanoa properties for a relaxing South-Pacific getaway, managing these hotels over such a vast geography presents its own challenges. The distance between Tanoa’s locations in New Zealand and Samoa, for example, is roughly the same as New York to Los Angeles. That makes it impractical to send a technician to visit each site every time there’s an IT issue or a requirement to update hardware. Tanoa needs to centralize its IT management and remotely access its network settings across the group.

Moreover, with so many guests coming and going on hotel properties and wanting to connect to the hotel network, Group IT Manager Dhaval Pandya is left with some unique challenges in configuring and maintaining the connections between hotel locations.  A year ago, he set out to change the IT infrastructure at Tanoa in order to improve management across the facilities and reduce costs through more efficient network configuration.

Tanoa uses a unique mesh Virtual Private Network (VPN) configuration, where all properties are each interconnected to each other, rather than to a central hub. This mesh network carries all voice, data, and central hotel management and application information across the hotel group.

Dhaval’s IT system overhaul had three main goals: implement content filtering and capabilities to redirect users to hotel webpages; monitor total data usage across hotel locations; and report on individual user access.

To get some expert opinion, Dhaval contacted Teddy Lim of Prestige IT in Auckland for assistance in finding the right solution. Teddy and Dhaval considered several solutions, but ultimately Mako’s capabilities and centralized management through the cloud won them over. Today the Tanoa Hotel Group enjoys significant cost savings from an overall simpler and more secure network using 11 Mako 6500 appliances across its locations, with plans for several more once Dhaval brings a new site online later this year.

Controls, Data and Security Yield Big Benefits
The Tanoa Hotel Group enjoys significant cost savings from an overall simpler and more secure network.

Because the Mako System is managed through the cloud, Dhaval no longer has to travel between far-flung islands and locations when a network issue crops up. “I hardly have to visit the individual sites to solve problems with my network; I can do that from anywhere with Mako. I just log onto the Central Management System (CMS) and look at my reports and status display. That makes it easy to diagnose and resolve issues,” Dhaval says.

One of the key goals of the IT overhaul was to put content filtering controls in place. Now, administrators can block access to non-work-related websites like social media from back office and staff computers to help keep productivity levels high.

Other solutions would have required separate equipment and licensing to accomplish the same levels of control. One solution was estimated to cost FJD$11,000 in hardware alone, plus another FJD$5,000 for blacklisting (content filtering) capability.

Mako’s simple and secure VPNs work extremely well for Dhaval and his unique network configuration. “Mako site-to-site VPNs are very easy to set up. It just takes a few clicks and the VPNs are up straight away. To set up a mesh network like ours with another system would take much longer. You’d have to query each step and know your IP schema, et cetera. In Mako, it’s as easy as three clicks,” he says.

A significant portion of Tanoa’s cost savings come from removing the leased lines it was using to connect locations. While leased lines are a secure means of directly connecting remote sites over geographic distances, they carry substantial costs. Using Mako, Dhaval and Tanoa can easily form secure VPN connections over public broadband, eliminating the need for a costly private network. Each leased line removed saves an estimated FJD$1,000 per month.
Tanoa provides unlimited Wi-Fi access to its guests in Fiji, but in other countries like Samoa and New Zealand, Internet access is capped at a specific amount of bandwidth per day. In many Pacific countries, it’s far more common for most Internet Service Providers to cap their broadband plans due to the cost of data transmission to these remote nations.

With Mako, Dhaval has total control over individual usage, and can monitor and report on bandwidth consumption on the individual or hotel level. All he has to do is log into the CMS, select the site, date range and Mako provides an easy to read chart with further details.

While many of the adjustments for Tanoa were around operational efficiency, the peace of mind in knowing he has a properly secured network is another added benefit for Dhaval in choosing Mako. “Security is a primary concern for any IT manager. You have to keep the hackers and others out, while also keeping in mind that your IT needs to be useful to employees,” says Dharval. “Mako helps me by sending alerts for things like possible worms and blocking suspicious activity. The reports are especially useful to me. It’s like someone is watching your network.”

The Mako System has provided a comprehensive solution that helps Dhaval and the Tanoa Group manage a distributed network more efficiently, and for lower cost. “If I didn’t have mesh with Mako I would be paying huge money for a leased line. We’re saving easily $8,000-10,000 per month because we made the switch.”
 

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