Picture this; a guest calls the front desk agent with the complaint, "Why is the hotel's Internet so slow?" If this sounds familiar to you, then rest assured that you are not alone. High speed Internet access (HSIA) and the ability to manage hotel bandwidth is a common problem that hoteliers face, leading operators to ask the question: what do we need to do in order to offer guests a high-quality Internet experience that will deliver?
There are a number of common concerns associated with hotel bandwidth, the first of which, is the ability to keep up with the growing bandwidth demands that will satisfy guests' Internet experience. In addition to that, operators are faced with having enough bandwidth ready to support new applications and services as they become available, having a backup solution should the bandwidth provider experience an outage, finding a solution that is not only cost effective but is easily manage, and the task of determining who and what is using up all of the bandwidth in the hotel.
With these concerns in mind, there are three main areas for consideration that hotels should explore when looking to ensure a high-quality Internet experience: reliability, knowledge, and management.
Tips to ensure reliability
- Connection Redundancy: The addition of multiple low cost Internet circuits (DSL and Cable) will ensure that if one circuit fails the other circuits will continue carrying Internet traffic to ensure "always on" Internet access.
- Aggregation: Combining the bandwidth of your hotel's multiple low cost Internet circuits allows you to increase Internet speeds for common Internet browsing (http/ftp). For example, if you have 3 circuits, T-1 (1.5mb), DSL (512kbps) and a Cable (3.0mb) you can create a 5mb connection to the Internet.
- AUP and Landing Page Backup: Should your provider's HSIA gateway fail, a backup AUP (authorized use page) and Landing Page (your branded landing page) ensures your hotel brand continues to be presented to the guest.
Knowledge is power:
- Reporting: Do you know how your Internet access is being used? Can you tell if one guest or one administrative user or application is using all of your bandwidth? A solution that generates automated reports such as, "Bandwidth Usage", "Top Users", "Top Applications", and "Top URL Access" reports, can tell you how, how much, and who is using bandwidth. Armed with this knowledge you can make proper decisions about how to manage bandwidth, when to purchase additional bandwidth, and where to look for and how to prevent abuse of your hotel's bandwidth.
- Monitoring and alerting: Do you know when an Internet connection (T-1, DSL, Cable), wireless access point, business center computer, set top box, minibar or critical application server fails? If one of these resources does fail, do you wait for a guest to call and tell you? Proactive monitoring and alerting notifies you automatically if and when a guest service or resource fails and gives you the opportunity to repair it before a guest is aware of a problem. Proactive monitoring, results in fewer guest calls which can lead to higher guest satisfaction.
- Peer to Peer (P2P) Management: One guest using a P2P application like BitTorrent, Kazaa, Gnutella, or others can take up all your hotels bandwidth if P2P management is not implemented. P2P management can stop use of these applications or limit the amount of bandwidth they can use. Limiting these applications ensures more bandwidth for all users.
- Traffic Shaping: Assign priority to your critical administrative applications such as CRS for Reservations, email, back office, VOIP or even hosted PMS and POS systems to ensure they have the bandwidth they need for "always on" availability. Assign designated guests or groups the bandwidth they require and provide tiered bandwidth offerings.
- VPN: Ensure your administrative applications and data are secure when traversing the Internet. Appliances like those from XRoads Networks can help you meet high speed Internet demands.
Leonard Vasquez is a technology consultant with over 20 years of information technology experience. His company, The BITS Group Inc., specializes in strategic planning and the provision of innovative technology products and services to the hospitality, retail, healthcare and MDU markets.