To Cloud Or Not To Cloud: What Are Your Options?


Independent operators in 2020 have a decision to make. Many have older property management systems (PMS) that are fully depreciated and due for an upgrade. But in many cases, their vendor’s hotel software upgrade does not leverage current technologies like a full-function cloud platform, or mobile and browser self-hosted versions. So, what is the best system for their operation, a cloud platform or an on-premise system? What are their options and what factors impact their decision?

Some operators feel that staying with their current provider is the easiest decision. However, an incumbent provider’s mandated upgrade may force operators into an on-premise or cloud-hosted option that is not the best platform for their property. Plus, upgrade-path systems may not support the newest mobile guest-experience and text communication requirements. Many legacy systems lack the flexibility to interface easily through APIs with the hundreds of emerging 3rd party systems used today.

Deployment flexibility must be a driving factor for hotel software decisions.  Other factors shaping system platform decisions may be based on Wi-Fi communications reliability, security in where hotel data is stored, or the need to use a property’s existing network infrastructure versus the extra cost associated with a full platform change.

With today’s concerns about security, data privacy, and system obsolescence, an operator’s decision is not ‘whether to upgrade,’ but what system and platform, cloud or on-premise, they should go with.

All platforms have advantages, and all properties have unique needs. Here are some factors that influenced some independent operators to move their operations to the cloud or stay on-premise.

  1. Hotel Type: Multi-Property Operations With Reliable Wi-Fi

The 1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa, and the Basin Park Hotel in Eureka Springs, Arkansas installed a multi-property cloud PMS in 2015. Jack Moyer, Vice President and General Manager for both properties said, “We run each hotel as a separate independent brand on one cloud PMS with one database. A major benefit of cloud operation is that our PMS provider hosts our system so we don’t have to worry about servers, backups, or system maintenance.”  Moyer said another cloud benefit is that he can operate his two hotels as one business with one call center, one sales office, and one accounting office without complex infrastructure. “Managing both properties in the Cloud simplifies our entire operation.”

But a cloud platform may not be right for every operator.

  1. Rural Destination Resort: Multi-Property Operations on a Centralized On-Premise Corporate Server

The Canadian Rockies of Alberta Canada may not have the same high-speed internet reliability as other areas. “Banff Lodging Company uses a multi-property centralized on-premise single-image database system,” said Arjun Gersoppe, General Manager at Banff Lodging Company. “We operate and self-host 11 properties on one on-premise multi-property hotel software database. This enables us to have one local call center for all our properties, which simplifies cross-selling and lets us book larger groups. Our networked on-premise single-image database lets us recognize guests at any property whether they are with a group or on vacation, and deliver personalized service when they return. We do not have to rely on an internet connection to run our properties.”  The on-premise solution also delivers a browser based system in tandem with their windows version, mobile apps for staff and guests, all accessible from within and outside their network, giving them truly the best of both worlds and not limiting their staff productivity and guest engagement.

  1. Where Cloud Is Best: Mobile Operations Across a Large Property

“We are on 723 acres with six separate lodging buildings, each with its own amenities,” said Dace Starkweather, General Manager of Glen Eyrie Castle & Conference Center. “We wanted a cloud system that would make it easy for us to provide the highest level of guest service with an efficient operation.” Many of Glen Eyrie’s buildings are separated by long distances, many have their own front desk. Remote check-in across the property was essential. Wi-Fi communication between each check-in point and the property’s central database was reliable, so Glen Eyre went with a cloud platform.  “We installed a cloud system because it made more sense than deploying an on-premise system. It reduced our overall IT requirements and ensured that all data was securely managed and backed up in the cloud. The cloud platform simplifies our processes. I can remotely monitor property operations from anywhere on my mobile device which saves time. Plus, we are able to offer guests more personalized service from our many buildings and provide online communication so they rely less on the telephone.”

To Cloud or Not to Cloud: Business requirements will determine your platform decision   

It is important to have options when you make a crucial property management system decision. Do your homework and focus on tech companies with experience in both cloud-based and on-premise property software systems.  Evaluate the feature capabilities and services each company offers to ensure it’s the right tool for your operation now, and that it will meet your future guest and staff mobility needs. If a property does not have a reliable high-speed Internet connection, an on-premise system will be best. Ideally, find a company that provides a flexible PMS with cloud capability and a browser user interface option that will also run on a property’s on-premise network. Verify that the company’s cloud system delivers full-featured PMS functionality. Some providers offer a limited ‘lite’ PMS that does not have the features, integrations or expansion capabilities you may need in the future. Also, make sure your provider has a proven track record of deploying on either platform, and has the infrastructure to support you with the requisite services.  Equally important, verify the system’s security and credit card service processes are compliant with your GDPR and PCI obligations.

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