It's an unfortunate truth that hotels are sometimes behind the curve when it comes to adopting the latest techology. This makes sense, as hoteliers are first and foremost focused on the human side of the business: taking care of guests. After all, it is called the hospitality industry. In the end, this delayed adoption of new tools can work in favor of hoteliers, as new tech is tested by other more adventurous users before being adopted by the wider hospitality industry. Yet, hoteliers who wait too long miss out on innovative new ways to increase guest satisfaction and revenue.
Thankfully, it's safe to say today that one of those new technologies, cloud computing, is both revolutionary and reliable. Cloud computing (AKA cloud tech) is really quite a simple concept. Your computer, POS, or other operational system sends data over the internet to data centers in other locations. The digital heavy lifting is done elsewhere on far more powerful computers, rather than all on the computer at your desk. (You can learn more about cloud computing on IBM's great explainer page.)
While the cloud is an amazing innovation, it doesn't mean it works for every hotelier, and implementing it has repercussions across your business. So before you jump into the deep end of the cloud, lets take a closer look at what cloud technology means for hotels: the pros, cons, workarounds, and opportunities.
Pros of the Cloud
For a technology this revolutionary, there are certainly many advantages to it. These are the reasons hotels should consider cloud-based technology.
Available on any device, anywhere
The most immediate positive of cloud computing is If you implement a cloud-based software for your hotel, it can be accessed from any computer you'd like– your software and data is no longer limited to one back office computer. In fact, many cloud-based solutions offer mobile and tablet versions of their apps, and allow access anywhere that you have internet access. This means you can use a cloud-based PMS, like protel Air for example, to check tomorrow's on-the-books from the back office, walking the hotel grounds with a tablet, or while at a conference 2,000 kilometers away on your smartphone.
One of the most immediate, positive aspects of cloud computing is that the actual computing, or processing, is much faster. Cloud computing utilizes many powerful computers to do things that just weren't previously possible on a single computer. When we talk about exponential growth in computing technology, this is a great example, and it makes things like real-time tracking of Big Data, eg: flight data, possible.
Easier to connect with other systems
This might be the most important of positive aspects of cloud computing for hotels. When you use locally hosted software, integrations almost always require complicated manual work. Scripts must be installed on servers, backends must be forced to communicate... This is often quite a challenge, if not a disaster. But when you have something sitting in the cloud, there is usually a respective API that will allow for different software to communicate and exchange date as needed. This lowers the I.T. requirements exponentially, not to mention makes it easier for future expansion upon the software.
No compatibility issues on hardware
That leads us to the next pro. If your software is in the cloud, you won't have to worry about it being compatible with your computer. All updates to cloud-based web apps can be done by the developer directly within the software, meaning even members of your staff with different laptops or mobile devices are more likely able to use cloud-based software.
Hardware fails are easy to remedy
And if your hardware does in fact not work properly or malfunctions, it's easier to fix, because the developer can quickly push through a bug fix or patch to mend the problem. And if that isn't fast enough, just log in on another computer!
Cloud-based tech just takes up less space on computers. Save that storage space for other files you're sure to accumulate over the daily operations of your hotel.
Cons of the Cloud
But this isn't necessarily a sales pitch for why everyone in the hotel industry should go out and buy cloud-based technology for all their operations. These are some things to consider before making the switch, even incrementally.
Security must be maintained
If not safeguarded properly, cloud-based tech can be vulnerable to external infiltration. Because it uses the internet to send and receive data, cunning hackers and bad guys can look for ways into your system to access your data. Fortunately, the cloud computing world is severely aware of this potential vulnerability and is generally extremely effective in protecting your data and privacy. Though, it never hurts to be extra careful and use various anti-virus/anti-malware and security solutions.
Speed depends on your internet connection
Your cloud-based tech can only go as fast as your internet speed. In many parts of the world, this doesn't matter, but if you're in a part of the world where internet connections can be slow or even spotty, it may not be reliable enough for you to consider cloud computing. Afterall, you want a sturdy lifeline to which to tie your operations. Which brings us to our next point...
You'll need backup connectivity
Imagine this: You're using a cloud-based PMS and a once-in-twenty-years storm hits. You lose your internet connection. What do you do? While it's most likely a pretty rare occurance, you can lose your internet. That's why it makes sense to have a backup plan. We recommend this trick we've seen some hotels employ: Purchase an external data card or dongle from your local cellular carrier and keep it handy as a backup. Yes, it may have a monthly fee, but that's a small price to pay to ensure you data is available at all times.
If fails centrally, all users are down
If there's a technological failure not on your end, but on the software provider or hosts' end, things become a little darker. Obviously your processing is either paused or severely limited. But you also probably won't be able to share data with other users, or even have them continue working. On the flip side, almost all downtime is planned and announced in advance, so in all reality this is not a realistic issue to worry about. Just keep it in mind, and have an emergency backup plan in place.
To cloud or not to cloud?
So what does it all mean for hotels? Cloud computing isn't a slam dunk solution for hoteliers. There are some technical hurdles or at least some things to consider when deciding to use cloud-based technology for your hotel. If you're in the developing world where internet connections can less than reliable, you'll have to think hard about whether it's for you.
But for most hoteliers, cloud-based technology is a major win. It provides far more powerful software that is also more flexible and adaptable. Like any product, it pays off to understand how it works, and have backups in place in case of the rare chance where something doesn't work as it's supposed to. But all in all, cloud technology offers so many pros, they vastly outweigh the cons. Now the question is: Which of the hundreds of cloud-based solutions out there will you choose for your hotel?