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Technology Infrastructure: Hotel Takeovers Can Significantly Affect Technology Infrastructure

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June 20, 2013
Notes from an IT Service Shop
Geoff Griswold - geoff@atlantaomnigroup.com

The takeover of a hotel, whether it is a management and/or ownership change, or rebranding, can require significant changes and upgrades to the hotel’s technology infrastructure. Requirements can vary widely among different management groups and franchises.

There are cases in which little change occurs, usually when there is a change in management, but ownership and brand remains the same.  In these cases, only back office systems are switched out and operating policies, such as no personal use of company computers, are put in place.  This can also be true for ownership changes that do not include rebranding.

When a hotel is acquired or the brand will be changed, many different systems can be affected.  Below is a partial list of them.

Property Management Systems
In most cases when changing franchises a new property management system/reservations interface is required. It is possible to electronically convert data off of the old systems, but many times this process is done manually. The biggest challenge in conversion is translating all the various codes in reservations and guest records to the appropriate ones in the new system. Server room requirements and/or network infrastructure may need to be upgraded to accommodate additional equipment or cloud computing specifications.

Guest Internet Access
Specifications can vary widely among brands. In some cases, the entire guest network may have to be replaced, and in others, minor modifications are required. Some brands require minimum speeds of up to 7 mbps that are not attainable using a standard T1 connection. The network name may have to be changed in the access points. Splash page and terms and conditions may require a different router to be used. Any exposed or unsecured equipment will have to be moved.

Security Systems (CCTV)
Some hotels are still using outdated CCTV cameras and servers that will require replacement. This may also require rewiring since older cameras use coax cable while newer cameras use CAT5.  Proper placement of cameras, retention times and retrieval procedures will need to be reviewed.

Electronic Locking Systems
Some older systems do not meet franchise or local code requirements. Changing locks can be complicated by different sizes and the complexity of installation on existing doors. A new system must interface with the new property management system.

Network Security Specifications
PCI compliance has become a complicated issue and should be addressed by network security professionals. Additional equipment, including different firewalls and routers, will be required to fully comply.

Cloud Computing Requirements
If the new PMS is to be cloud based (hosted on a server not located on property) additional security and speed will be required. This may include changing Internet service providers and complying with the specifications issued by the vendor.

Telephone Systems
While switching out an entire system is seldom done upon takeover, the interface to the property management system will be different. Room status, voicemail alerts and other interfaces will have to be implemented. 

Call Accounting System
These systems have become more affordable and somewhat simple to switch out. The telephone switch to call accounting device is standard but the device to the PMS varies by vendor.

Electronic Time Clocks
Many times a different time clock is to be installed. The correct port on the primary router of the network must be opened for most clocks to operate. Some also require a public static IP address so the payroll service can poll the clock.  Public statics are issued by the Internet service provider and cannot be configured by the hotel.

Point-of-Sale Systems
Some systems are mandated by the franchisor and will be installed during the change of brands.  A new POS system must be configured for the local environment (sales tax breakdowns, etc.) and the hotel’s menus.  Interface requirements are the same to the PMS as with other systems. Newer systems may have a network interface, replacing the older serial interface. Configuration of the individual network card in the POS server may be required for interface purposes. Re-wiring is required when replacing systems that used RS422 for networking.

Business Center Requirements
These can vary widely by brand. At the very least, additional PCs may be required as well as additional printers/copiers/scanners and fax machines. Most franchises permit the use of multipurpose (all-in-one) devices. In some cases, a third party may manage the business center, but the hotel is usually responsible for the initial setup.

Email and Email Providers
In most cases, email addresses will change, but the current addresses should stay in place for a period of time. Setting up new email is time consuming and cumbersome to get all the issues resolved. If possible, new email addresses should be phased in over a period of time, with the old being in place for an additional 90 days.

Before beginning the takeover process, detailed checklists should be made including the items above and others unique to the hotel.

Geoff Griswold is a field engineer and general manager of the Omni Group, an IT services company specializing in the hospitality industry. He can be reached at (678) 464-2427 or geoff@atlantaomnigroup.com.

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