Cloud on the horizon

While cloud is definitely a technology of interest for hotels in the Middle East and GCC region, levels of adoption are still low due to implementation costs and security concerns.

Tags: Cloud computingMall of the Emirates (MoE)
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Cloud on the horizon Cloud is an important technology for the hotel sector, according to experts, because it offers better connectivity and application delivery than traditional IT.
By  Piers Ford Published  May 24, 2013

While cloud is definitely a technology of interest for hotels in the Middle East and GCC region, levels of adoption are still low due to implementation costs and security concerns.

It is hard to think of an IT trend more suited to a specific sector than the cloud is to hospitality. So it comes as a surprise to see how cautiously the industry has approached its potential to provide a platform for delivering back office applications and integrated, customer-facing applications, as well as the level of connectivity and wireless internet access that is expected by guests in the 21st century.

In the Middle East, with its reputation for state-of-the-art hotels and high volume of greenfield sites, there is less reliance on the legacy infrastructures which once marked the hospitality sector out as a leading-edge technology adopter. In the West, that legacy is so embedded that it is putting the brakes on a general shift to the cloud, despite widespread enthusiasm for the model. So why aren’t Middle Eastern hotels moving more quickly to embrace it?

“I think the biggest obstacle for the use of cloud in the region is the cost of connectivity, be it the public internet, MPLS private networks or VPNs,” says Prasanna Rupasinghe, director of information technology at Kempinski Hotel Mall of the Emirates. “In addition, there are other factors such as performance unpredictability, information security, data privacy and confidentiality, regulatory compliance and auditability, which might impact the use of cloud.

“Having said that, most hospitality technology vendors now offer turnkey solutions on cloud platforms, and many hotel chains in the region are either in the process of implementing cloud-based solutions or evaluating cloud technology.”

Public Cloud
The public cloud has already established itself as the preferred way to deliver front-of-house guest services.  Martin Chevalley, CEO and founder of guest services software specialist InnSpire, says that cloud can be used to provide guests with simple services such as access to their favourite television programmes, radio channels and social media platforms.

On the business side, integrated cloud applications can provide hotels with in-depth analytics and data mining, making more proactive use of customer information to fine-tune and develop better services.

“It is a mix of private and public cloud,” states Chevalley. “There are private and very secure clouds such as storage and data analytics, and there are public clouds like media and content. At Innspire we use a mix of both.

“The cloud methodology really gives instant access to a world of relevant information in all kinds of areas. Being able to avoid storing and securing data locally is a huge financial benefit as it cuts cost for not only the storage and servers themselves, but also for the space that would otherwise be required, the cooling it would need, the security and so on.  Furthermore, the cloud methodology provides a world of freedom and flexibility, as it becomes easier to switch content providers.”

According to Rupasinghe, several hotel chains already run private clouds on Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) internet networks that provide connectivity to key hospitality software applications such as Property Management Systems (PMS), financial management and payroll systems, as well as access to corporate information and collaboration platforms.

“I would say that we are probably more conservative in the region when it comes to cloud infrastructure, security and resilience,” he explains.

“Many hotels are still reluctant to use public clouds such as AWS, Google Apps, Zoho Docs and Microsoft Azure due to high costs of internet bandwidth, and security and compliance concerns.”

Kempinski has used public cloud services since 2008 when it implemented Google Apps.

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