Warranties and Service Contracts: Please read carefully

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June 01, 2014
Notes from an IT Service Shop
Geoff Griswold - geoff@atlantaomnigroup.com

Every hotel has warranties or support contracts on many, if not all, high-tech equipment on the property (some support agreements are not optional). In some cases, it is not necessary to call upon service providers to solve issues that either engineering or on-property IT staff are capable of handling. But some issues are more complex and require multiple supplier input to resolve. It is best to have a service contract on all high-tech equipment, as most systems are critical to the functioning of the hotel and extended downtime can disrupt guest service.

One type of service that can be confusing is hardware warranties directly from the manufacturer. Some include on-site service, which, in some cases, can be several days from when the initial call was placed. The on-site technician, usually a third-party contractor, is not authorized to troubleshoot anything other than the specific device.  If it is determined that the issue is with the network, another peripheral or any other item, then another technician qualified in those areas will have to be called.

In the case of a damaged hard drive in a computer, the warranty will cover the replacement with the operating system loaded. However, it does not cover data recovery from the damaged drive. This service must be performed by another company.

Sometimes, multiple parts must be replaced to stabilize a computer, requiring additional reloads and data recovery adding additional costs not covered by warranty.

Point-of-sale systems can be difficult to service because of the variables associated with installation and maintenance.  Most systems rely on a local area network to communicate with terminals, printers, the Internet and a property management system. If any of these components fail, the POS may fail as well or not operate properly.

Point-of-sale system failures can fall into three categories:  a hardware failure including network hardware, a software malfunction including devices beyond the primary vendor’s control, and network wiring (usually handled internally or by a third party).

While the primary support vendor may not be able to repair other company’s devices, the quicker the problem is identified, the sooner the appropriate party can become involved. 

Many POS suppliers offer tiered service, based on days of the week and number of hours for a response. Some plans include 24/7/365 service.  More frequently, technical support is performed remotely via the Internet.  On-site support may require a separate agreement.

 Management should be familiar with the type of plan the hotel has purchased and the other companies which should be contacted in case of an issue.

Property management systems (PMS) are more difficult to troubleshoot when certain functionality fails. On-property PMS servers have basically the same type of connections as POS systems but with a much wider array of interfaces. Troubleshooting interfaces may require the PMS vendor, the vendor of the interfaced device and network/wiring expertise, which may be in-house or third party.

Typically, items supported by PMS suppliers include application software malfunction, interface configurations, operating systems issues, procedural and training questions, and workstation, printer and server troubleshooting. Some PMS vendors support software issues with the suppliers with which they interface.

Overnight depot replacement of workstations and printers can be available. Servers and interface PCs normally require on-site support from third parties.

When calling for support on a PMS, escalating the call can move the call to more experienced technicians. When this occurs it still may take some time before the issue is resolved. As a general rule, most PMS vendors do not support Microsoft Word, Excel or Outlook, even if this software is installed on their equipment. This type of support can be obtained from a local IT service provider or via the Internet.

Other high-tech devices, such as energy management systems, call accounting systems, and parking POS, require fewer suppliers to repair.

Again it is best to have a service contract on all high-tech equipment (not optional in some cases), that way any downtime can be reduced and guest service restored. While the highest tier contract may be desirable, sometimes a lower level might suffice for a given property. For example, a POS service support contract that provides coverage five days a week might be adequate if the food and beverage department does very little business over the weekends.

The hotel should also have a relationship with a local IT service provider that can maintain the various networks, including router configuration and repair/install wiring as necessary.

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

 

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