Companies of all sizes, most notably in the hospitality and multi-family markets are realizing that in order to stay competitive, attract the right residents, create sustainable revenue machines for their properties and eliminate the ancillary expenditures and general headaches of managing new technologies and the ever changing stream of internet service providers - managed network service providers are a necessity...who's yours?
From guest services and operations to conference space and poolside dining, the need for a complex, connected and dependable network is critical to the success of any hotel or multifamily property. But without the proper planning, installation and maintenance, your network may be under-performing and not capable of handling the demand that is increasing exponentially by the day.
Networks are no longer used only for pay-per-view movies, phone service and wired computer connections. These days, guests check-in and expect seamless services from the minute they enter the property to check-out; and everywhere and every minute in between. Not only do business travelers come armed with an average of three wireless devices, but now leisure and family travelers are well-equipped with smartphones, tablets, eReaders and wearables as well. People want to stream games, shows and movies while wearing a personal fitness device and accessing social media. All at the same time. Multiply this by hundreds of guests and we begin to see where our networks can fail, and where suddenly a bad connection becomes one negative review after another. Excellent connectivity for all technologies is no longer an option - it is a requirement.
It isn't just the hotel guests who need reliable connections. Property owners and managers are utilizing devices and Location Based Services (LBS) to increase revenues and reward guests with loyalty programs, targeted offers and personalized service - all delivered on a network to their in-room video service, smart phone, email account, social media and e-commerce sites. The back end systems that run hotels rely on robust networks to keep business booming. For example, by connecting employees via handheld devices, managers can streamline communication so properties can optimize their daily operations and create efficiencies. New software and services are creating the opportunity for sales and guest interactions where none existed before. From security and operations to housekeeping and room service - each element of a guests' stay and an employee's day is touched in some way by technology.
In the golden olden days of implementing cable TV or a simple phone or computer system, multiple networks were managed by disparate vendors without anyone really looking at the big picture. But there is a growing trend these days towards a more integrated model that enables properties to add new services and functionality in a more cost effective way. Unlike even a few years ago, the hospitality industry is being taxed with understanding and implementing all of the security, technology and network services required to accommodate the proliferation of connected devices.
Miraculously, networks can now be configured and monitored from a single common infrastructure- onsite, or off, streamlining the entire network for efficiency and scalability. The network provides the backbone for all technologies to function. For IPTV, VoIP, data systems, PMS, HSIA and other technologies all ride on the network. Cabling once for all your technology systems can mean significant cost savings. By utilizing the same equipment and space for multiple systems you eliminate redundancy and optimize the delivery of all services. This is commonly referred to as "Converged Networking" and for new properties who are looking to start fresh, this type of execution makes a good deal of sense. For hotels and MDU properties converged networks include everything from VoIP and in-room entertainment to PMS and IPTV integration.
But when new properties design a network from the ground up or an older property adds network services to accommodate every system in one unified network, the process can be labor intensive - particularly when managing multiple vendors with disparate and often competing technologies.
A growing trend to help achieve the best network with the least amount of cost and hassle is by administering all technology through managed network services.
Managed network services providers streamline the entire process of networking, alleviating a great deal of stress and cost and researching the most efficient grouping of technologies and services to meet your budget and return the best ROI. Managed network service providers undertake the overall network design and implementation of all of the cabling, infrastructure, technology vendors, service contracts, testing and ongoing support for all systems together. By helping you define your technology and network requirements and illustrating how they will work together, you can ensure your network can support your services for your current needs, as well as anticipate your growth needs for the next 10-15 years.
Without the help of managed network services, property owners and managers need to intimately understand the inner-workings of a full wired and wireless network, how every technology from the security system to the PMS to in-room entertainment will work, how they will access the network and the implications for performance, as well as deal with multiple vendors, service contracts and implementations. Even with a full IT staff, these responsibilities are taxing, expensive and overwhelming.
All of these disparate technology systems are interdependent and can all be negatively affected by infrastructure issues, installation delays and technical complications. Projects that are handled with managed network services benefit from working with a team that can see the bigger picture and coordinate the procedures, installations and testing of systems in terms of timing, scheduling and cost management. By providing a single point of contact for all communications with all stakeholders and by utilizing overall network and technology expertise, you now have a translator between each participant.
In the planning phase, certified project managers will help develop the overall network for a property, confirming all technology integrations and costs, scheduling installations and finding the solutions that will work together for the best result. With the expertise to evaluate building layout and construction materials to anticipate any installation difficulties, your network manager can oversee optimal access point placement to ensure consistent coverage and minimize interference.
For example: Wi-Fi networks are a critical component of any property. With new 802.11 AC Wi-Fi standards, properties will see a stronger shift to utilization of 5.0GHz Wi-Fi spectrum, and a migration away from the legacy 2.4GHz spectrum . A managed network services provider can help you determine best practices and when and where to use each for optimal coverage and reliability. Based on the current device environment, a combination of 2.4 and 5.0 is still required today and included in all enterprise Wi-Fi access points. It's very important that your network service provider has strong Wi-Fi implementation experience, so that your network delivers fast and reliable coverage to all the devices on the network. If overlooked, it could be disruptive and costly within the coming months and years.
Another example: you may need cabling for multiple services simultaneously, and will need to work with a vendor who understands where the technologies on your property will "live" to make sure the right pipes go to the right places. Just like a good plumber, a network provider who understands end use, flow and capacity is the best judge of how to get the job done right, without having to go back and fix things that weren't "piped" right the first time. A project manager can work with any other vendors to ensure the right cable is run where needed, to support all of the technology at your property, now and in the future. This helps lower the risk of costly last minute cabling changes by addressing all of your technology needs upfront and designing with a scalable infrastructure to accommodate everyone.
In the delivery phase, a managed network team will work in conjunction with all vendors in order to incorporate each technology with a phased approach to eliminate timing delays and last minute changes. For example, by helping to onboard each vendor, scheduling services at the right time for the overall project, working at each stage to analyze traffic and optimize network resources you can ensure uptime and capacity requirements are met at every stage. All components like: network configurations, installations or upgrades, hardware and software implementations, security and PMS to integrated voice, data and HSIA implementations are managed simultaneously.
Having oversight of the entire network can also help mitigate internal conflicts and cost overruns by ensuring compatibility of all systems in advance, and testing network performance with each new service to confirm optimal performance and to make adjustments where necessary. Without this, you could be adding weeks and even months to a delivery schedule due to miscommunication and mismanagement of network resources. Hotels can also rest assured that network specialists have the future in mind when designing and implementing a network by ensuring infrastructure is easily accessible for maintenance and repair, making it easier and more cost effective to add services - regardless of the vendor.
It takes a great deal of organization to make sure your property opens on time with all of your technologies working together, the way they should - on time. When looking for a managed network services provider, make sure you are working with a company who offers certified project managers. Certified project managers are professionals who can leverage experience with existing systems and infrastructure and can advise on the best way to integrate both for time and cost savings. They can also facilitate compliance with industry and brand standards. Look for a company that has the agility and flexibility to adapt to changes to improve the guest experience, but the focus to keep you within scope and on schedule. Your vendor should be able to manage all of your network components and stakeholders for all 3rd party technology services, helping to anticipate issues, reduce costs and streamline all technology operations.
On top of all of that - one of the most important elements is IT services and support. With cloud-based technologies, skilled providers are able to monitor, analyze and fix network issues remotely in real time, ensuring smaller issues don't become bigger headaches. With 24/7/365 help desk, ISP management, remote monitoring and support that includes all vendors on the network, owners and managers can reduce costs and simplify the upkeep and maintenance of complex systems.
As the pace of technology quickens and new devices are released each year, hotels and MDU's can no longer rely on traditional network design to accommodate today's technologies. Each piece of the puzzle is critical to network security, redundancy, reliability and capacity. With the right collaboration, insight and planning, your property can have the best network for all the technologies, guests, tenants, employees and services that rely on it.
(*Citation: Scott Morrison, 2016 Deep Blue Communications)