What Should You Look for In the Best Hotel WiFi Solutions?
Nearly every article about hospitality WiFi solutions on the internet begins with something like, “Get our WiFi solution or your hotel will get bad reviews and you’ll go out of business.”
Does that kind of over-the-top fear mongering convince someone like you to buy their product?
What I’d like to do today is to give you the information you need to make an informed decision about your next hotel WiFi upgrade. I’ll try to keep the technical jargon to a minimum, but still give you the insight and facts you’ll need when evaluating WiFi design, installation, and management quotes from IT services providers.
Whether you are looking to implement a WiFi system into a motel under construction or you need to upgrade to meet the growing demands of your operation and clients, the questions to which you need answers are nearly identical.
What Is The Best Hotel WiFi Solution From A Guest’s Perspective?
The simple answer is – the WiFi solution that WORKS without hassle, downtime, or time lag.
But the answer is, of course, more complex than that.
The optimal guest experience is provided when the following questions are answered within the design process.
- Is the WiFi going to be professionally managed?
- How many devices will be on the network at any given time?
- Will the hotel be offering tiered internet plans or one internet option for all guests?
- How does the network address the increasing data demands of devices?
- How are access codes delivered, managed, and revoked?
- What is the failover strategy?
- Is there a plan for redundancy in internet service?
- Is the hotel offering guests security upsells or is security the same for everyone?
- Is the hotel leveraging WiFi to deliver services, communication with staff, IT support, and marketing messages?
The answers to each of these questions will determine the WiFi guest experience. The average guest’s internet usage and their technology expectations must be addressed in the design phase.
How Does the Prospective WiFi Solution Handle the Challenge of Security?
At the very least, your new WiFi system is going to need:
- Business-Class Firewall Solution – These firewalls can be remotely configured, updated, and monitored to ensure security and performance.
- Role-Based Access Control – Role-based access control makes it possible to give different network access to guests, employees, and management. Role-based access controls the behaviour of the computers, tablets, or smartphones while on the network. It allows them to have access to only the parts of the network that they need, provides more optimal performance/bandwidth usage, and gives granular visibility to network admins.
- Device Profiling – Devices vary widely. To operate at the highest level of security and efficiency, the network has to treat the various devices differently. This is done by means of a set of pre-determined rules for each device classification.
- IDS/IPS – The security posture of the network is elevated when both Intrusion Detection System and Intrusion Prevention System are in place. These technologies are essential as they monitor the flow of data and protect the network from suspicious data activity.
What Performance Can You Expect From the Proposed WiFi Installation at Your Hotel?
The question of coverage, capacity, and performance is not a simple one because performance is impacted by a range of factors including:
- Number of devices using the WiFi
- Type of devices using the WiFi – phones, tablets, computers
- Applications running on the devices over the WiFi network – web-based applications, email, streaming video
- The capability of the devices being used on the network
To have optimal performance devices must have access to both bandwidth and throughput on the WiFi network. The number of access points needed in a hotel WiFi application is determined by the bandwidth and throughput required by the number and capacity of devices connected.
WiFi coverage comes into the performance equation because zero access equals zero performance.
This leads us to our next question.
Where and How Many WiFi Access Points?
Let’s first dispel the myth of, “more access points is always better.”
That’s not always the case.
The other temptation of hotel administrators is to use the band-aid approach of sticking a wireless signal extender onto their system. This often leads to a lower quality signal and in turn, a lower quality guest experience.
The determination of how many access points should be used and where they should be placed is dependent upon the following:
- Environment – Guest room, conference room, lobby, or exterior application?
- User Density – How many devices will be connecting at once?
- Construction Materials Used in the Building
- Options for Mounting Points – Sometimes the optimal position cannot be utilized for the sake of appearance or interior design and other options must be used.
The number of WiFi Access points should be leveraged to:
- Improve spectrum efficiency – impacting performance and behaviour
- Add spectrum space – adding space for channels and frequencies
- Manage channel contention
- Mitigate channel interference – both adjacent channel interference and co-channel interference
By moving away from placing the access points in the hallways and placing them in the guest rooms, the WiFi systems designer is able to use the building itself to help keep the RF signals separate and reduce co-channel interference.
What WiFi Maintenance and Monitoring Protocols Should Your Hotel Management be Considering?
- Regular Health Checks
- Proactive Security Alerts
- Tier 2 Support
- Timely Firmware Updates
- Periodic Systems Tests
- Ongoing Anomaly Monitoring
The amount of maintenance and monitoring required is best found within the Managed Services IT support model. Break/Fix IT contractors can be called in to do regular WiFi health checkups, but the break/fix model does not encourage the IT support professional to take ownership of the WiFi maintenance process nor does it include 24/7 monitoring, helpdesk, and troubleshooting.
Is the Proposed Hotel WiFi System Able to Evolve and Scale?
You’ve likely been in the hospitality business long enough to know that the pace of technology is driving major change within the hospitality industry.
The pace of change within WiFi systems is also moving forward at a fast clip. You can expect a hotel WiFi system to last 3-4 years before an update and overhaul are needed to maintain pace with current guest device technology.
Having said that, don’t have someone design and install a WiFi system for your facility that has no capacity to expand and evolve. No one is certain what technologies will come on the market or will become popular with consumers over the next four years. As a result, it’s essential that you have some room within your WiFi design to meet the requirements of short-term technology advances.
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