Early this year, news broke of a data breach at White Lodging, a company that maintains multiple popular hotel franchises including Hilton, Sheraton and Marriott. The breach, which actually took place in 2013, resulted in hundreds of cases of credit card fraud for customers who had previously stayed at White Lodging-managed hotels. As writers hurried to draft stories with the latest updates and worried customers checked their bills for unusual activity, White Lodging, along with the major hotels it manages, were tasked with locating the hack, securing their remaining data and cleaning up this PR mess. It was a costly undertaking in terms of time, resources and reputation.
Hospitality is plagued by many of the same IT challenges that face most other industries. Hotels must store, secure and manage vast amounts of data, and the amount of data that needs protection is growing exponentially year-over-year. But unlike many other industries, a majority of the data hotels hold is not strictly their own. The multi-billion dollar industry handles millions of customers annually, all of whom share their personal and financial information and trust that information isn’t liable to loss. While we don’t often put the words “hospitality” and “IT management” in the same sentence, data is data no matter where it is, what it looks like and who’s tasked with managing it, and like any industry, businesses in the hospitality industry are not immune to catastrophic data loss. White Lodging is not the first, nor will it be the last company to fall victim to a major data debacle.
While there are many methods companies undertake to prevent data loss, it’s inevitable for every business at some point. Businesses in hospitality, with their millions of customers and infinite amounts of private data, are not immune to data loss, but they can prepare themselves for the “big one” by investing in a complete and cohesive disaster recovery solution that ensures that lost data won’t result in lost reputations.
IT managers in hospitality must oversee three main data challenges: growth, storage and backup. The volume of data that each company must manage grows every second. For hospitality, this means corporate, staff and guest information needs to be stored in a location that can be easily accessed by multiple touch points across an organization. This massive data growth also heightens the need for secure storage options, ideally in on- and off-site locations for maximum protection. Lastly, all that data must be routinely backed up. For the most secure backup, I recommend following a simple “3-2-1 rule.” What this means is that every business should make three copies of every piece of important data, store that data in two different formats and keep one copy offsite. This ensures complete data protection in the event of a disaster or breach loss.
To tackle these challenges, IT managers in hospitality sector should look for a solution that provides:
Secure backup - Full-service image backup of the complete operating system to allow immediate data restoration; as stated above, this information should be stored in two different locations, with one backup stored in the cloud.
Device management - Data migration support between new devices, to seamlessly restore a system regardless of the device’s make or model at any time.
Encryption - Solution that adheres to the Advanced Encryption Standard and provides a personal key, unique and only disclosed to individual users.
This multi-tiered approach ensures that all aspects of data security and recovery are addressed while minimizing cost.
Technology has rapidly changed the hospitality industry, making booking, payments and a host of other vital tasks easier, but without the proper protection, it can do more harm than good. A hotel’s reputation and success is built on customer service and most properties already have their hands full dealing with run-of-the-mill complaints like lost reservations and noisy rooms without dealing with catastrophes like data breaches. While these issues certainly have a strong impact on those in the hospitality industry, they pale in comparison to the very-real threat of major data loss. A proper data protection and recovery solution has become not a suggestion, but a requirement for IT managers to successfully protect customers -- and their bottom line.
Les Spielman is president of Hospitality Automation Consultants Ltd., an independent consulting firm. With more than 34 years of experience in the lodging business, he provides assistance with automation tasks on a personalized basis. Hospitality Automation Consultants Ltd. has successfully completed over 3,400 consulting projects throughout the world. He was just reelected to his third consecutive term to the Board of Directors of the Society of Telecommunications Consultants. His practice is global, with offices in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Singapore, Sydney Australia, Frankfurt Germany, and London England. In addition Spielman has been keynote speaker and lecturer on numerous hospitality issues throughout the world. He has over spoken at over 150 global events. His mantra has been data security and data backup.
Spielman welcomes inquiries via e-mail to HACL