Unreliable Wi-Fi remains an issue for both hotel guests and staff. Here, managed network service provider Transbeam provides advice for hotels looking to upgrade.
This is a guest post by Transbeam freelance writer and content curator Autumn Haile.
These days, access to the internet is as essential to the hospitality industry as providing comfortable beds. Yet, unreliable Wi-Fi remains one of the most common complaints guests have when they walk away from a hotel experience. But, connectivity isn’t only an issue for guests. A faulty connection can impede everything from internal staff communications to hosted events, making it a fundamental utility for staff and guests alike. A few simple infrastructure considerations made at the get-go can make a world of difference to the guests' and staff's Wi-Fi experience down the line.
A huge part of the problem is the way the hospitality industry designs their networks – back when they assumed there would only be one device per guest and hotel staff did not need WiFi to run their technology. Clearly, that’s not the case anymore. We live in a world in which each guest has an estimated three devices that connect to Wi-Fi, and many staff solutions are now mobile. Factor in the growth of cloud applications for guests and staff and streaming services, it’s no wonder that hotel’s struggle to provide the proper bandwidth.
However, the cost for re-designing infrastructure can be upwards of three million dollars. It’s no simple task, a lot of questions need to be answered, and a lot of time invested. Trying to take the cheap way out with a DIY approach can result in networks that frequently go down or remain sluggish. There are a number of factors to consider when implementing a new network design that many properties don’t take into consideration, resulting in shoddily done job that doesn’t solve major problems.
Small, medium, or large – every hotel has a different set of requirements. One of the most important aspects of designing a well-functioning network infrastructure is considering what the guest and staff needs are. What kind of applications will the staff be using? How many devices (computers, cell phones, tablets, etc.) will be connected to the network? Does the property host frequent events?
Answering specific questions will determine whether you need dedicated Wi-Fi for separate uses. For instance, you can set custom priorities, setting aside portions of bandwidth for staff use only. Checking guests in, taking reservations, and inputting room orders can exist on a completely separate line that’s not bogged down by guests streaming videos or downloading attachments.
Additionally, it’s important to have dedicated bandwidth for event spaces. This includes convention halls, meeting spaces, and ballrooms. Taking the risk of hosting a major event without dedicated bandwidth for guests will drastically cut into the strength of the network for anyone else trying to access it. More than that, it’s essential that hotel staff work with their event planners to ensure they have the right amount of bandwidth, access points, and infrastructure in place to avoid any outages or downtime. Sometimes, even the dedicated line a venue provides isn’t enough, and more access points need to be temporarily added.
Hosting a large event at a hotel without the proper set-up in place will drain your bandwidth faster than anything else. It will cause frustration, not only for attendees and exhibitors, but also for your guests and staff who expect an uninterrupted connection. No property wants to lose out on the revenue they would generate from a returning conference due to a poor Wi-Fi experience.
Furthermore, there’s no point in investing money in a new network and setting your priorities if you don’t have anyone to police it. Sure, some companies are willing to shell out money for network monitoring services that alert management when an issue arises, but if you don’t know how to handle them, it’s not going to help you solve the problem. When disaster strikes, having an IT team in place to field guest questions, handle technical problems on-site, and keep a watchful eye on the network is imperative.
These days there are plenty of options, from outsourcing help to having IT staff on hand. A good IT Director should have a backup plan in place for most known issues. The plan should be a clear cut outline of what the procedure is and who should be involved in the event of a problem. Disaster plans can cut downtime, prevent sluggish connections, and keep staff and guest information safe at the same time.
Security should be a top priority with every network design. Most hotels think password protection is enough. It’s not. With the rise of security attacks and hacks, building a solid security system to protect everyone on the network is imperative. When purchasing equipment, double check that it offers peer-to-peer blocking, firewall protection, failover, and client isolation.
Teaming up with an industry professionals that specialize in network infrastructure, IT management, and new technologies will guarantee successful end results. Before moving forward with any one company, make certain they not only know how to implement a flawless Wi-Fi experience for your guests, but that they understand the inner workings of your staff. For hospitality staff, having a consistent and reliable network in place can increase productivity and encourage a stress-free atmosphere.
Building a better Wi-Fi network is a work-in-progress, and while the hospitality industry is beginning to see the value in the investment, there is still a long way to go before staff and guests get the ideal experience. Staying on top of technology innovations and consistently aiming to provide the highest quality of service is the best investment any property can make.
About the author: Over the span of her 12 year career as a freelance writer and content curator, Autumn Haile has worked in a variety of fields including telecommunications, entertainment, culinary, and literature. Through her work with companies like Universal Music Group, Lonely Planet, and Transbeamshe’s taken part in large scale social media campaigns, copywriting, and the curation of marketing content. She’s written for a variety of different mediums including NKD Magazine, Rare Country, and Word of Mouth Conversations.