What We Learned About Small Hospitality WiFi @ BeMyGuest
By Gregg Meade on 8th Feb 2018
Our hotel WiFi team recently exhibited at the Southampton leg of the BeMyGuest hospitality roadshow - the UK's newest show to inspire small accommodation - and, in doing so, learned a great deal about what technology pressures the South’s smaller hospitality providers are feeling.
Not only was the event a great chance to inform local hospitality businesses about our latest offering, WiFi as a Service (which has been specifically designed to serve smaller hotels and hospitality venues), but was an effective forum through which to better understand what changes are occurring within the sector.
What we learned…
After just a couple of hours at the event, myself and the team had spoken with a great many of the attendees – most of whom were boutique hotel, B&B or Guesthouse owner/operators – about both their wired and wireless network provision.
What was striking about the majority of the conversations that we had was just how similar the concerns over connectivity were. It became quite apparent that the ‘smaller’, more independently owned end of the hotel and hospitality market is drastically under-served with regards to wireless connectivity.
Flat WiFi Networks
Many of the hoteliers that we spoke to were happily running, what we call, ‘flat networks’. What this essentially means is that, in the interest of simplicity, WiFi users are not asked to undergo any level of encryption and exist on the network in the same IP range as each other (including the property owner(s)). Take a look at a blog written by my colleague, Jim Lucking, which goes into a more detail on the subject: Staying Safe in the Wild West of Hotel WiFi.
Of course, no one could criticise a hotel or guesthouse owner for running their personal and guest wireless network in this way, it’s a matter of personal security that those who we spoke to at BeMyGuest simply weren’t aware of.
The reality for unassuming hoteliers is that ‘flat’ networks offer no privacy, meaning that keeping personal and business-specific information safe from a guest or guests with malicious intentions (as unlikely booking them may be) is not possible - cause for concern, indeed.
An understanding of connectivity 'basics' can go a long way in helping businesses – particularly smaller ones – to make better decisions when it comes to their ISPs, and when they look at any subsequent guest WiFi provision.
Poor broadband speeds, based on geographical locations, was certainly a common theme amongst the delegates at BeMyGuest and was something of a sore topic when the most well-known providers, such as BT, were mentioned.
Many small business owners we speak to regularly – not just those at BeMyGuest – believe that BT is their only option when it comes to their fibre or copper broadband. This isn’t true and, what’s more, an identical service with regards to performance can usually be acquired through other providers. Learn more about our business connectivity options.
Also in relation to wired connectivity, slow WiFi as a result of poor or outdated WAN circuitry seems to be a real bugbear for independent hoteliers.
More than one owner/operator came to the Ensign stand and complained to me personally about a fairly recent WiFi upgrade, which is performing marginally, if at all, better than its predecessor.
The problem here is born out of the relative advancements of two technologies – or lack of it.
Wireless technology, in relation to its wired counterpart, has advanced at a startling pace and, in the process, made WAN circuits the weaker link. What is often the case for small businesses is that an investment in upgraded wireless technology generates very little return in terms of improved performance due to the bottlenecks originating on the WAN side. Has someone moved your network bottleneck?
The final – and definitely most common – ‘theme’ of our conversations at the inaugural BeMyGuest event were concerns over the cost of better guest WiFi connectivity.
Of course, we weren’t at all shocked by this. In fact, tackling the barriers of entry to business-grade kit to the hospitality sector formed a core part of my presentation at the Southampton show.
It will come as no surprise that the cost of a standard BT Home-Hub and possibly a few WiFi repeaters is by no means comparable to the kind of wireless solution offered by Ensign – that is, until now.
One of our core motivations for exhibiting and presenting at the event was to spread our latest and – we hope – most exciting message to the hotel and hospitality sector to date – WiFi as Service (WaaS).
Designed specifically to eliminate the often inhibiting cost factor associated with business-grade wireless solutions, WaaS seeks to ‘flip the script’ for the hospitality sector, allowing owner/operators to think primarily about their WiFi in terms of network coverage and capacity with the cost spread monthly across a negotiable contract length.
Thus, ‘flipping the script’ as expressed below:
COST – CAPACITY – COVERAGE
COVERAGE – CAPACITY – INVESTMENT
A Wow for WaaS
Needless to say, this fresh perspective on hotel wireless returned some great feedback from our event audience.
Under the WiFi as a Service model, small businesses such as the guesthouses, hotels, B&Bs, farms, cottages and campsites in attendance can attain feature-rich wireless for as little as £20 per month – a far cry from the BT and virgin routers that we are all used to.
Armed with knowledge of the ‘independent end’ of the hospitality sector that we have amassed from the show, and taking into account all of the conversations that we had on the day, we hope to make business-grade wireless even more accessible to smaller businesses.
It is our belief that, in an age defined by our levels of connectivity, there should be no reason at all that hospitality businesses across the spectrum shouldn’t benefit from high-performance, highly-secure and, most importantly, affordable guest wireless solutions.
For advice on designing or upgrading your business WiFi network and associated systems, to the deployment of security solutions like Next Generation Firewalls and Endpoint Network Security, please contact Ensign Communications for a chat with our technical team.
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