Alan Stewart-Brown, VP EMEA at Opengear says resilient network access is key to hospitality success.

Improving the customer experience is a key goal for many businesses, but’s it’s especially important in the competitive hospitality industry. As such, hospitality-based enterprises are continuously on the lookout for new, innovative ways to gain a streamlined and technological edge. Since 1997, technology service providers have utilised the likes of online booking systems, electronic key cards, and customer-friendly features such as touch screen interfaces and virtual keyboards for hotel and restaurant operators to improve performance, develop meaningful relationships with similar businesses, and drive success.

The industry has continued to build on these digital foundations by incorporating smart, connected capabilities into their customer interactions. Today, 70% of hotels are leveraging active Internet of Things (IoT) processes arranged around working more effectively, creating an enhanced customer experience while simultaneously reducing operating costs and asset management and driving efficiency.

However, adding new technologies to aging, legacy systems and provisioning new, distributed sites, makes it harder for network systems to operate at peak performance. The greater the strain on the network means the more likely network disruption will occur, leading to unplanned downtime which could result in loss of revenue and damage to the organisation’s reputation.

Causes and costs of network outages

No matter how much the hospitality industry automates and virtualises its systems, it is still reliant on the physical network infrastructure that underpins it all to remain resilient. As networks become more complex and complicated to manage, businesses need to oversee widely dispersed properties within a much more distributed infrastructure.

This becomes highly problematic when congestion or an outage occurs. Opengear research reveals that almost two-thirds of enterprises have seen outages gradually increase in frequency over the past five years, with over half experiencing four or more outages lasting over 30 minutes within the past year alone. Furthermore, the average cost of downtime has hit $260,000 per hour – with 31% of enterprises losing more than $1 million in recent months.

While this survey represents organisations across various industries, the hospitality sector is particularly susceptible to outages, with networks expanding and becoming more complex as new systems are continuously tied in. For hospitality-focused businesses – especially hotels - the consequences of network outages often extend beyond the financial. Customer service is the backbone of the industry, so any impacts to operations can jeopardise customer trust and loyalty, potentially causing long-term reputational damage. After all, customers have come to expect reliable, always-on connectivity, whether they are based in their own country or in far-flung locations.

On top of this, IoT innovations and virtualisation can render hospitality networks more vulnerable to overload or breakdown if they are not correctly managed. Human error is also a common factor. Simultaneously, hotels continue to become more frequent targets of cyber attacks, due to the wealth of personal and sensitive client information held within hospitality systems.

Bolstering network resiliency

As the hospitality industry continues its digital transformation journey, it requires smart solutions to meet growing demands and ensure always-on access. Network resiliency is essential. When faults do occur, businesses need to provide and maintain an acceptable level of usability whilst putting the measures in place to return to normal capacity as quickly as possible.

Going beyond just refining uptime or building in redundancy, network resiliency adds a layer of intelligence to the very backbone of the organisation, right down to the daily operations. This ensures that everything is supported, from food and beverage services and guest experiences to financial control systems, staff communications, and facility management.

Businesses in the hospitality sector can achieve this resiliency by implementing a secure independent management plane, separate from the control plane. Out-of-band network solutions provide hospitality companies with separate access to the production network, enabling them to monitor and manage all devices so that an outage does not affect primary operations. When blended with always-on connectivity and failover to cellular, network engineers can achieve true visibility over the entire network at every stage. This empowers businesses to overcome the growing strain on networks by simplifying network management with guaranteed connectivity and resilience.

Furthermore, smart out-of-band networks add automated intelligence, giving organisations the power to identify and remediate issues quickly and automatically. Critical applications can also leverage router bandwidth, which ensures that operations are not disrupted when the primary network goes down.

Supporting IoT innovations

Customers want great digital experiences. Therefore, businesses in the hospitality industry are increasingly leveraging IoT innovations to ensure more seamless customer interactions with tech. This, in turn, benefits the organisations themselves, with 47% of hotel executives embracing new technologies to reduce operating costs.

A resilient, always-on out-of-band network can support IoT to provide memorable digital experiences for guests. For example, self-service check-ins at hotels offer guests more control over their stay, securely streamlining the arrivals process and eliminating long queues at the reception desk. Similarly, IoT-enabled smart room features empower guests to personalise their rooms via the convenience of their phones. On the operations side, hotels can also use IoT sensors to improve efficiency through proactive maintenance and automated resource management.

Even in today’s complex and challenging virtualised environments, the hospitality industry can build the network resiliency that enables businesses to keep mission-critical networks up and running. To achieve this, organisations need to find the right out-of-band network solution. With secure, reliable out-of-band management access that also supports innovations in IoT, hospitality companies can start to build the visibility needed to implement and maintain a truly resilient hospitality network.