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Calif. Hotel Reverses Negative Guest Feedback Trend by Installing Access Points

When I joined the Boutique Hotel Collection (BHC) as the hotel management group’s lead IT manager, it was immediately apparent that some challenges existed with the technology deployments at some of our key properties.
BHC, located in San Luis Obispo County, Calif., employs roughly 875 people and runs 4 properties (with a total of 600 rooms) located along the Golden State’s scenic central coast. Our properties, known for offering guests gorgeous ocean views and fantastic amenities, were experiencing regular complaints about poor wireless connectivity in guest rooms — including at our flagship hotel, The Cliffs Resort.
After investigating the wireless onsite, I found that each site was using a different vendor and consumer-grade service, with no centralized management or reporting. Not only was this making it difficult and intensive to troubleshoot for myself and my IT teams, but a mess in terms of both maintenance man-hours and guest satisfaction.
In addition to the issues arising from a mixed-vendor, consumer-grade wireless deployment, The Cliffs Resort — built in the 1970s — also presented physical constraints: thick, concrete walls and metal studding which absorbed much of the RF signal being emitted from the wireless access points (APs) in place. These issues resulted in frequent equipment failure, which led to guest complaints — but there were no easy ways to know the health or connectivity status of the network until someone called us (IT) to come check it out. Management was beginning to be concerned because the growing negative reviews concerning guest WiFi were unacceptable. So, we began to evaluate solutions.
I had followed Cisco Meraki’s progress since its early beginning as an MIT project, so I was already aware of the benefits Meraki’s cloud management solution brings to the table: scalability, simplicity, centralized control. After evaluating our options, I decided to install Meraki MR access points across BHC’s properties to see if this could be the solution to our problem.
Initially, I was somewhat concerned about deployment. With a lean, three person IT team, I thought it would take more time and resources than we were prepared for. However, I was pleasantly surprised as we deployed 200 Meraki APs across 13 sites in hundreds of hours less than what installation has taken with other networks. The key was the ability to pre-configure network and AP settings remotely, before Meraki equipment is ever plugged into power or the Internet. This pre-configuration allowed us a smooth, plug-and-play experience when physically hooking up our APs.
Meraki’s intuitive, web-based dashboard which provided me with visibility into, and control over, all of the access points, connected client devices and all applications consuming bandwidth from one accessible interface was also very important to me. 
Longevity is key for us, as we (along with almost all other IT departments in this industry) can’t afford to refresh our network every 18 months. Our refresh cycle needs to be stretched over a longer period of time. With Meraki, we don’t need to worry. With a cloud-managed solution, Meraki is able to provide constant product improvement and stability upgrades to lengthen the lifetime of our network. And, an update can be pushed to all 13 of our sites without us physically configuring anything. Knowing that we won’t have to refresh every 18 months or so and that we’re going to continue to have support for the products for their entire lifecycle is really what helped us sell it to our leadership team.
Deploying Meraki across BHC’s properties saved my team significant time and troubleshooting headaches. The Cliffs Resort now boasts robust, stable guest wireless and is no longer receiving complaints or poor reviews from guests about their technology experience. And, I have more visibility and control over my geographically dispersed networks than I ever had before. A true win-win. 
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