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High Priority: Keeping Your Investments Updated and Maintained

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March 01, 2005
Technology | Guestroom
Geoff Griswold - theomnigroup@mindspring.com

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© 2005 Hospitality Upgrade. No reproduction without written permission.

When it comes to keeping high-tech systems updated and maintained, the approach at some hotels is often it’s not broken, so don’t fix it. This erroneous assumption can lead to anything from minor problems to a major system crash. Most hotels have a qualified information technology staff, either on site or at the corporate office, to perform upgrades and maintenance. Others, especially independent properties, may have limited or no access to IT personnel. The following are some of the procedures that a hotel should follow to keep high- technology systems running properly.

All property equipment should have routine, preventative maintenance performed, including the telephone switch, CCTV security system and all in-house computers, both servers and workstations.

At least once a year the cover should be removed from each system and all dust and other foreign matter should be blown out of the device using compressed air. Other service includes inspecting expendable parts for wear and replacing as necessary. All wiring connections should be inspected to insure that there are no nicks in the casing and that each connection is secure. CCTV recorder heads should be cleaned once a month with a head cleaning tape. Camera lenses also should be cleaned and the wiring connections inspected. Printers should be serviced in the same manner, with dust and paper particles blown out. Older laser printers can develop flat spots on feed rollers that cause jamming. In some cases it is possible to replace the rollers rather than the entire printer.

Just as important as physical maintenance, software upgrades should be applied at intervals recommended by the various vendors supplying the systems.

Most property management system (PMS) vendors offer upgrades at least once a year and will automatically install them. Other upgrades require coordination with hotel personnel and may include some downtime to perform. These upgrades are usually included as part of an annual maintenance contract. Most PMS maintenance contracts are mandatory, but if for some reason a hotel is without a contract, one should be purchased immediately.

PMS maintenance contracts sometimes include upgrades to the operating system. Microsoft offers updates via the Web while the method of updating UNIX systems varies by vendor. The hotel should coordinate any PMS operating system upgrade with the software vendor. It is possible that there could be incompatibilities between a newer version of the operating system software and the application software.

The above considerations for the PMS apply to all other computer systems utilizing a server, including sales and catering, quality assurance systems and other standalone products.

Security software that performs tasks like detecting viruses, blocking unwanted intrusion programs (spyware) and providing protection against hackers, must be kept updated. This includes having software installed on all servers, even if the server is not directly connected to the Internet. Viruses and spyware can jump to the server from individual workstations that have Internet access. The newest versions of this type of software come with automated updates so that manual procedures are not required, but older versions require a manual update via the Web. The software license for most security software must be renewed annually. Security software that is not regularity updated can become totally ineffective in just a few months.

Individual workstations sometimes receive the least attention of all systems that can be found in hotels. Some hotel networks contain a mix of Windows versions. Windows 98 should be Second Edition(SE) with additional updates applied from Microsoft’s Web site. Windows XP can be upgraded with Service Pack 2, a massive update that includes, enhanced security including a personal firewall to help prevent unauthorized intrusion. Ideally, all workstations should be on the same version of Windows, but budget constraints sometimes prevent this from occurring.

Productivity software, such as Microsoft Office™, should be the same version on each workstation (if not installed on a central server). Older versions, such as Office 97, create files that can be incompatible with later versions. The same applies to e-mail software such as Outlook and Outlook Express. Outlook, which includes calendar, contact and task management, is part of Microsoft Office professional edition. Outlook Express 6, along with the latest version of Internet Explorer, can be obtained free of charge from the Microsoft Web site.

These are some of the major items of maintenance and upgrades that apply to most hotels. There can be several other areas, such as standalone preventative maintenance, POS systems, revenue management and minibar inventory systems that require the same procedures.

Keeping high-tech systems maintained and upgraded insures peak performance and saves money in the long run.

Geoff Griswold is a hardware and wiring specialist for the Omni Group. Geoff can be reached at (888) 960-8787 or theomnigroup@mindspring.com.

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