I have battled with the same decision myself on several occasions. Especially with smaller hotel properties with limited I.T. support staff and resources. Should we consider an internet cloud based PMS system? Which to recommend?
We all know the benefits associated with such a move. No hardware to maintain, no backups to worry about, no hardware costs, versatility and greater accessibility. These are all great things and desirable to any operator. But what about when the internet goes down? What is the cost to your business that can’t access its PMS/POS system for one full day? That’s what owners and managers need to consider. With the internet and our reliability on it expanding day to day, businesses are finding the connection to the virtual world critical to their operations. But what happens when the internet slows down or stops? Even for a small period of time?
As of recent one of the largest internet attacks took place in Europe between two companies. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/27/technology/internet/online-dispute-becomes-internet-snarling-attack.html?_r=0
This event caused a massive slow down in the internet worldwide using one of the most basic forms of disruption know as a Distributed Denial of Service (DDOS) attack. This affected businesses and consumers alike for a better part of the day. The internet , while decades old, is still susceptible to disruptions and attacks on its core. While governments around the world have been formulating strategies and legislation for the governing of the virtual world, there are still a lot of kinks that need to be worked out. All of which have left me to consider time and time again. “Should we cloud the PMS”? “Should we cloud the POS?”
Having worked the front lines in hotels and restaurants over the years, I have seen firsthand the reliance on our machines? I have also been able to see the results on the operation when the network goes down. It is a paralyzing affect on your staff and as a result your customers suffer. In the past few months I have seen a large hotel in Los Angeles running a web based PMS (Micros Opera) that encountered a problem between the property and the cloud based host. The property suffered as a result until a fix could be found with the properties Internet Service Provider. While the problem was eventually resolved it probably didn’t need to happen in the first place.
Sure there are ways to try to minimize your exposure to downtime and protect yourself if you do have a cloud based solution. But what happens when the problem is outside of your control? Should we have been operating the critical application in the cloud to begin with?
A traditional hotel or restaurant has their PMS or POS setup in one of two ways.
1. The application server hosted at the property. This is setup on their local network. It is a client, server approach. This application server ties in to your central reservation system and other onsite application servers. Its extent of the internet usage falls back on tying in to a central reservation system (CRS), a polling system, and usually internet based credit card processing.
2. The application server is hosted somewhere else on the cloud not at your location. Your database and the processing are done at this central location. You essentially use an internet browser to access your PMS or POS.
I guess what an operator needs to look at are the pros and cons of the two and formulate the plan that best fits their organization.
On my experience, here are some of the pros and cons of the two. They are things that must be considered when making your choice.
|Cloud Cons (questions)
|No initial Hardware Server Cost.
|Cloud Hosting is more expensive than buying the hardware and application. At least for now. One would think it would cost less, but that has not been my experience.
|Only software needed is an internet Browser.
|Not all browsers supported. It may make using your IPAD useless.
|Access outside the hotel
|Outside Access is great as long as the data is secure. What sort of security is deployed at the Cloud PMS/POS provider? Do they even pay security specialists?
|Less onsite I.T. support= Costs less $$
|Does it cost less? Or are those cost now rolled in to the cloud hosting costs?
|Access anywhere from the internet
|A nice feature. Makes reporting easy.
|Data safe from environmental disasters
|Where is the data center it is hosted in? Is it redundant? Is it safe?
|Patches updated, maintained and deployed at the host
|O.K. this is great. I can’t argue.
|The higher speed internet connection you put in place to accommodate the cloud will provide faster internet for all.
|This is great, but it does come at a cost $$$. Internet service providers charge a premium to business customers. We are talking thousands per month. Not the fast cheap connection you get at home.
|Multiple locations using the same hosted solutions. Great for training purposes, reporting, deploying changes.
|Lose the internet or the host based cloud and you now have many locations dead in the water instead of just one.
|Server Onsite = More Control
|Upfront Hardware Costs, Maintenance, you should have a plan in place to support it and patch it and back it up.
|Data is secure inside your network.
|You can’t access the data outside your network as easily. How secure is my network?
|Data is available in case of internet downtime. Operations resume.
|Some services still affected (Credit Card Processing, Central Reservations).
|Will require less bandwidth so you can keep internet costs lower.
|May be negligible. You are probably putting in that faster connection for your guests anyway.
Security is always a concern. Where are these internet cloud PMS/POS providers securing your data? How are they securing your data? Any organization can hobble together a data center and host their applications from it. But how much time have they spent on securing it from the outside world. One would hope a lot. But let us consider the rogue employee with an ax to grind attacking the PMS/POS hosted cloud provider. Could just such an attack take down your entire organization operations? Could they fend themselves from such an attack? How do you know? What will you do to protect your business? What’s your backup plan? A calculator? The phone number of the merchant processor to get voice approvals for credit cards? How long could you hold out? How long will your guests hold out?
Many questions are still out there. Many things to consider, options to weigh. I appreciate the benefit of cloud computing as much as the next guy. Online backup services, ITunes cloud, Cloud based Exchange email. Who can argue with the convenience, reliability and ease of use? But let’s be real. If I can’t access my email for a day or my online backups for a week, life goes on. If my business can run its operations, well we are dead in the water.
I’m still on the fence with Cloud Based PMS and POS. It’s not likely that it will disappear anytime soon. The service will continue to grow and experience growing pains. Time will tell us what the best approach is. Perhaps a hybrid of the two. I for one will wait and see. I’ll also keep my PMS/POS off the cloud. For now.
The Micros Man