Despite the lockdowns and travel restrictions these past two years, hospitality underwent a considerable digital transformation. With customer experience top-of-mind, hospitality-based enterprises constantly seek new ways to gain a competitive edge technologically while attempting to streamline operations. Since 1997, technology service providers have leveraged hospitality technology for hotel and restaurant operators to improve performance and foster meaningful relationships with similar businesses. Today, 70% of hotels have active IoT projects positioned around operating more efficiently, modernizing and adding new capabilities. Primarily, these IoT innovations will create a better customer experience while also reducing operating costs and asset management.
However, adding new technologies to aging, legacy systems and provisioning new, distributed sites, the more challenging it becomes to ensure that all network systems are operating at peak performance. Moreover, the greater the strain placed on the network, the higher the likelihood of disruption. To effectively and safely utilize new technologies on these complex networks, hospitality-focused businesses must simplify network management and guarantee connectivity via a resilient, always-on independent management plane.
The Causes and Costs of Network Outages
As networks become more complicated to manage, IT staff must oversee widely dispersed properties; larger brands might have thousands of hotels across the globe. Plus, customers, no matter how exotic, remote or far-flung the location, still expect reliable connectivity. Nevertheless, distributed infrastructure and disparate systems pose threats to uptime. Additionally, IoT innovations and virtualization may cause networks to be more vulnerable to breakdown. Things like ISP carrier issues and human error can also cause outages. And despite security enhancements, hotels are becoming the targets of cyberattacks, as their databases have massive amounts of personal and sensitive information from clients.
The consequences of network outages can be ruinous, operationally, financially and reputationally. Research shows that the cost of downtime is $260,000 per hour - with one comprehensive survey of 500 senior IT decision-makers revealing that 31% of enterprises lost more than $1 million, and 17% lost $6 million or more in the past 12 months. The survey also found that over half of respondents had four or more outages that lasted more than thirty minutes within the past year. Almost one in five participants experienced seven or more outages. Even more troubling was that close to two-thirds said that the prevalence of outages had gradually increased over the past five years. Although this survey represents a broad swath of industries, hotels are just as if not more susceptible and will require a resilient solution that provides always-on access.
What is Network Resiliency and How Can Hotels Achieve it?
Since customer service is the bedrock of hospitality, hotels must provide and maintain an acceptable level of usability during faults – especially now that people are so dependent on internet access in hotels, whether watching Netflix or checking emails. Measuring network resilience is quite simple, as it is the speed at which a business can return to normal capacity after an outage. But it goes beyond refining uptime and building redundancy as it adds a layer of intelligence to the very backbone of an organization, right down to the daily operations. The network supports everything from the guest experience and staff communications to facility management and security.
Network engineers can achieve true resilience by accessing a secure independent management plane, separate from the control plane. With an out-of-band network, hospitality companies can separate and containerize the functions of the management plane. This secure and independent management plane can operate free from the primary in-band network. When combined with always-on connectivity and failover to cellular, hotels can maintain visibility of the entire network during an outage and failover to an alternative cellular interface. Moreover, by deploying smart out-of-band – which adds automated intelligence – hotels will have the power to spot and remediate issues quickly and automatically; simultaneously, critical applications can leverage router bandwidth so that operations aren’t disturbed when the primary network goes down.
IoT Innovations Supported by Network Resilience
Hotels can use a resilient, always-on out-of-band network independent of the production network to provide an even greater digital experience for guests. Various IoT innovations hotels utilize to enhance the customer experience include:
- Self-Service Check-Ins: Offering guests self-service options through secure kiosks and mobile apps streamlines the check-in process and will eliminate long wait lines.
- Electronic Room Cards: Providing electronic keycards to guests’ phones enables a contactless experience that is more secure and allows for a more consistent experience when they stay in the future.
- Smart Room Features: From the television to the lighting and thermostat, guests have control over their rooms via the convenience of their phones.
From an operations perspective, hotels can use IoT sensors to improve efficiency.
- Proactive Maintenance: Sensors can be set with thresholds for moisture, airflow and vibration, alerting engineers to changes and allowing for proactive treatment.
- Sustainability Solutions: Hotels spend just over 5% of operating expenses on energy, and by automating occupancy sensors, they can track room activity and shut down unnecessary features when guests leave.
- Resource Management: Automatically monitoring inventory on housecleaning carts will enable the staff to see which rooms are available.
An Out-of-Band Solution Ready for the Future
As the hospitality industry undergoes a significant digital transformation, enterprises must consider scalable solutions to ensure new properties stay connected and meet network demands. And although there are various out-of-band network solutions available, not every product or vendor is created equal. Keeping network resilience as the priority, hotel brands must look for out-of-band solutions architected to exceed the demands of IoT infrastructure and built with automatic responses and repair capabilities - so that network faults don’t become failures.