Guidelines for Hospitality & Hotel WiFi Networks
Last month I made a business trip to Vancouver. Because I’m cheap – and my wife wasn’t with me – I stayed at the most economical place available. They said they had free WiFi, and even though a little voice in the back of my mind was screaming, “Run! Run and find someplace else,” my thriftiness won out.
Now, I knew I was in trouble when I walked down the hallway to my room. The routers were in the hallway and not in the individual rooms. This is an older WiFi configuration that isn’t the most effective.
Once again ignoring the voice in my head, I walked further down the hall to my room. Opening the door and putting down my suitcase, I sat down at the desk and opened my laptop to check my email and selected a playlist from Google Music. Everything went well for a little while, but when I began doing more work, opening more tabs, and trying to video chat with my wife back home that the WiFi began to show its age and poor configuration. It just couldn’t handle what I was trying to do.
At this point, you’re expecting me to say that I got mad, demanded a refund, and left for a different motel. No, I didn’t. I’m old school, and I’m just as happy to walk down to the local coffee shop and work.
But I’m NOT your average hotel guest.
Your average hotel guest views WiFi on par with the bed, cleanliness, heat, and air conditioning. If anyone of these expected details is lacking, you might as well say goodbye to that guest forever.
Because you’ve got competition that is investing in their infrastructure and working to put their best foot forward. Part of this guest-centric effort is technology – especially WiFi.
What Do Guests Want From the WiFi Service That Your Hotel or Motel Offers?
- Upload and download speeds that meet or exceed what they have at home (It’s important to note that even many of the small towns across the country now have high-speed fiber optic service available for residential customers.)
- Security that guarantees that their devices are not discoverable by others using the guest WiFi
- Privacy that keeps the information they send or receive through the guest WiFi network confidential
- Simplicity in connection and use
- Personalized in relation to ads, services, or amenities promoted via the WiFi network
How Can A Hotel or Resort Provide Security for Guest Devices?
When the average guest enters your property, they have a minimum of two devices with them. You have no control over the applications, settings, or security controls on the device itself. What you can control is the behaviour of the device while on your WiFi network.
By pre-determining the boundaries of what a guest can do on the network and where they can go, you can help protect them and other guests using the network. Security is all about giving your guests what they need but not more than they need.
What equipment does your property need to ensure WiFi security?
- IDS/IPS – Intrusion Detection System / Intrusion Prevention System – This security software examines the data packets and the traffic as it flows through to detect, report, and resolve traffic-related intrusion attempts.
- Firewall – A firewall is a piece of hardware with software that blocks or permits traffic according to pre-set rules.
- Role-Based Controls – Role-Based access controls ensure that each individual – staff and guest – has the network access their “role” (guest, worker, administration) requires.
- Profiling – A profile is a group of network settings that have been saved on your computer when you connect to WiFi. As an individual moves from one network to the next, a different profile is used. Included in the profile are security settings, the network name or SSID, and the operating mode.
What About Capacity? — Do You Have Enough WiFi For Your Guests?
Performance is HUGE. If you ask most of your guests what they want out of your WiFi network, performance will be on the top of their list. They’ll say stuff like, “I have to be able to stream my favourite show. Or… “Little Billy has to be able to play his online games, or he’ll go crazy.”
What are they telling you?
They’re telling you that your WiFi network better meet their performance standards.
Performance begins with planning for capacity from the very start.
A wireless network has to be carefully designed and configured. This requires an IT engineer that understands both average guest WiFi usage as well as how WiFi signals are affected by building layout and construction materials.
Unfortunately, hospitality businesses often rely on signal boosters to make up for a poor WiFi network design. This results in less than acceptable WiFi experiences for guests.
It’s important that WiFi networks be professionally designed by specialists in hospitality WiFi. Why? Because hospitality WiFi is an application that is different from WiFi in other industries.
Where Should the Routers – Access Points – Be Placed in the Facility?
As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, I had noticed that the lower-end, older hotel that I visited in Vancouver had placed their routers in the hallway. This practice has been abandoned by installation professionals.
Today, wireless network designers put an access point into each room and use the room itself to help prevent signal crossover and co-channel interference from one access point to the next.
What Role Does IT Support Play in Hospitality WiFi Management?
We began our article with the title, “Why Hotel WiFi Solutions Fail…”
Poor configuration, security, and performance – as we have noted above – are three of the reasons that guests give a failing grade to hotel WiFi.
What the guests don’t see, and often the most significant reason for less-than-acceptable hotel WiFi is simply a lack of maintenance.
Even a perfect wireless network design and implementation require continuous management, maintenance, and operational monitoring to perform at its best.
Because without someone looking after systems upgrades, security updates and patches, router configurations, and access protocols, a wireless network will become less secure and sluggish. After a while, guests will begin to note that their newer devices aren’t working as well with the network because the hotel WiFi doesn’t have the latest protocols and security configurations in place.
To avoid this scenario, hospitality companies hire IT support professionals like Rafiki Technologies Inc. to remotely maintain, manage, and monitor their physical and wireless networks for security and performance.
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