Hotel WiFi Networks 101: Understanding the Ins and Outs of How to Deliver an Exceptional Online Guest Experience
Ask any guest which is the most important hotel amenity and there’s a high chance that they’ll say it’s access to a property’s WiFi network. In fact, at least 80 percent of Americans now say they can’t live without WiFi while on vacation.
Yet WiFi connectivity is something that typically represents a love/hate relationship for today’s hotels- they know that it is absolutely crucial for both guest needs and business operations. But at the same time, providing suitable service seemingly continues to be beyond the reach of many properties. Countless guest reviews speak to this ongoing challenge, with issues such as slow internet speed or dropped connections frequently upending an otherwise enjoyable and hassle-free stay.
To avoid taking a hit to their reputations and bringing operations to a grinding halt, hoteliers across the hotel industry understandably continue to search for answers on how they can finally bring an end to their WiFi network issues to increase customer satisfaction. This has only become more crucial as hoteliers encounter more and more guests expecting high network security and fast internet speed for online activities such as in-room entertainment.
To make things a little easier, we’ve compiled the industry’s best practices and recommendations that have already enabled multiple properties to experience success with updating their hotel WiFi networks to address the latest standards and requirements. Using these guidelines, your hotel business can now also be among those properties able to deliver a fast, reliable, and secure online connection that today’s guests now widely expect.
Don’t Overlook the Importance of Performing a Site Survey
Before rushing into purchasing the latest and greatest in wireless network technology, hoteliers will serve their interests and those of their guests best by first carrying out a network site survey. Hospitality industry professionals can often make the mistake of believing that the answer to slow speeds and dropped connections is simply to purchase more powerful hardware, but this isn’t always the case.
Often and in the best case scenario, this may result in simply making costly hardware purchases with little to show in the way of positive results if specific underlying issues aren’t first identified and addressed. Worse still, implementing new and more powerful equipment without considering how it may affect overall network infrastructure can lead to signal disruption and an even less reliable online connection.
To avoid these potentially costly risks, hoteliers should always work with a network solutions provider that makes it a point to first begin any project by performing a no-obligation site survey. A survey can importantly uncover the exact reason why certain hotel areas are experiencing sub-standard internet connectivity, which can include anything from ineffective hotel WiFi access points or a lack of sufficient cabling to WiFi routers that are unable to handle large volumes of online traffic.
Key to identifying and resolving these sorts of issues is working with a solution provider that can offer complete transparency and an accurate assessment of upgrade project needs. Reputable providers can achieve this using a building’s schematics and heat maps that offer an easy-to-understand visual representation of network problem areas requiring adjustment. Using this information, hoteliers together with their providers, can identify the precise equipment needed to ensure fast speeds and service reliability, with the goal being never anything more or less.
Identifying the Right Network Equipment for Hotel Environments
Regardless of the type of hotel, two commonly shared factors when it comes to guest WiFi are that property networks often need to support a multitude of devices while providing reliable service for a wide coverage area. This significantly means that hoteliers need to adopt network hardware that is specifically designed for such requirements:
For the less technologically inclined, a network router serves as the lifeline that extends internet connectivity to guest devices and a property’s various systems. It is what ensures the transfer of data which ultimately dictates whether guests and hotel staff experience a fast connection.
With this in mind, hoteliers should avoid falling into the trap of purchasing routers designed predominately for residential use. Such routers may be able to provide a fast enough connection for consumer homes, but when faced with countless devices seeking internet connectivity, can easily become overwhelmed with the inevitable result of snail-paced speeds and frustrated guests.
Hoteliers should therefore be on the lookout for routers that are specifically designed for commercial, or hospitality use, and that can offer a sufficient amount of bandwidth to simultaneously accommodate a wide range of guest devices and property systems. While the price tag may be higher than residential router options, a commercial-grade router will ultimately save hoteliers from needless hassle and future expenses while safeguarding reputations from poor WiFi quality reviews.
Having a high-performance router does little good if a WiFi signal is unable to reach guests or property devices with adequate internet service quality. This is where access point solutions come in. An access point serves to disperse a network’s WiFi signal throughout a building and ensure a sufficiently strong enough signal to provide fast and reliable online connectivity. Hotels typically require several access points spread out over the property in order to provide full onsite service coverage.
Traditionally, hoteliers would install access points within guestroom hallways as a cost-effective means to provide a WiFi signal for several rooms. But with today’s guests traveling with more and more devices that frequently feature low-powered antennas, this approach now often leads to the slow speeds and dropped connections that guests routinely complain about.
Hoteliers instead should look to installing access points within guestrooms, preventing obstacles such as thick walls from disrupting signal strength while reducing the number of devices seeking a connection from the same access point. Using advanced access points such as those designed by Ruckus, hoteliers don’t necessarily have to install one for each and every hotel room.
Alternatively, by working with an experienced network solutions provider, hoteliers can strategically deploy guestroom access points to provide coverage for other rooms within close proximity. This notably brings down the cost of installation while still ensuring that guest devices receive a high-quality WiFi signal.
Wireless LAN Controller
These devices are used to manage and monitor a property’s multiple access points that are spread throughout the premises. A wireless LAN controller is a centralized component that connects access points to a hotel’s network. It works to amplify a network’s signal and ensure that it reaches even devices that are at the edge of a property’s coverage area.
Wireless LAN controllers importantly eliminate challenges that come with trying to manage a multitude of access points. Each access point is individually configured and access points are unable to communicate directly with one another, which can lead to unstable network environment conditions. With a wireless LAN controller, hoteliers can sidestep such issues and continuously maintain both efficient and simplified network management. Ruckus-designed wireless LAN controllers can be ideal for large hotel environments, with the Virtual SmartZone, for example, able to support as many as 6,000 access points.
Likewise forming a core component of a hotel’s internet infrastructure are network switches which are responsible for transmitting data packets to and from devices and a property’s network. This can include access points, computers, and printers, to name some examples. With a switch typically dedicated to the transferring of data packets only for devices that are directly connected to it, hoteliers can ensure that such devices receive improved online internet connection efficiency and potential network throughput.
Properties have two options when it comes to installing switches: one is unmanaged switches and the other is managed switches. Unmanaged switches provide the benefit of plug-and-play, with no need to make any configurations beforehand. For hotels, however, managed switches are typically the preferred solution of choice.
This is because managed switches allow hoteliers to adjust individual ports to different settings. Properties can also gain enhanced control over how data travels across their network and who has access to it, providing opportunities to further increase both network efficiency and security.
Protecting Your Hotel Network and Guests From Growing Cybersecurity Risks
As businesses that host a wealth of sensitive data such as credit card and bank account information, hotels are unfortunately a prime target for many hackers seeking to make an easy buck. Each year seems to bring more and more instances of cyber-attacks on hotels, which not only costs businesses a significant amount of revenue but can also lead to potential liability and damage to business reputations. Amongst hotel guests themselves, as many as 90 percent are in fact concerned over a hotel’s ability to protect their data and keep their devices safe from cyber risks.
Critical to a successful hotel network, therefore, is having the necessary technology and measures in place that can provide full protection against both old and new hacker strategies. Coming back to the deployment of a modern network gateway solution, hoteliers can now adopt a range of enhanced security abilities that stand between property or guest devices and the internet service coming from the outside world. For example, a gateway can come with features such as automatically evaluating the type of internet traffic that comes and goes through a network. Able to reference such traffic against several databases, it can then determine if a specific type of traffic poses a security risk and can block the activity before any damage is done.
A hotel’s WiFi access points also play a significant role in whether a network is appropriately secured. If left unprotected, an open access point can essentially let virtually anyone gain access to a property’s network, whether they are authorized or not and regardless of what their intentions may be.
Have a Plan for Ever-increasing Hotel & Guest WiFi Needs
If one thing is certain about hotel wireless networks, it’s that demands for more online resources such as bandwidth are only set to increase as guests bring more devices and as additional hotel systems/devices go online. This trend has only grown with hotels adopting IoT-based solutions such as smart thermostats, lights, or motion sensors- each requiring a fast and stable online connection in order to properly function. If a hotel fails to take such issues into account, they will likely find that their networks soon become outdated and constantly in need of costly hardware replacement.
To sidestep such concerns, hoteliers are strongly advised to adopt scalable network technologies that can adjust and be built upon as online property or guest needs change. Properties should work closely with an experienced hotel network provider that can create a tiered network hierarchy design.
This notably simplifies the ability to scale network hardware requirements for both current and future needs, as well as implement any additional redundancies in order to continue ensuring a stable and seamless online experience. Crucially, a scalable wireless network allows hoteliers to adjust bandwidth levels or extend coverage to new onsite areas without requiring extensive hardware replacement.
Gaining an Edge With Managed WiFi
With all of the above sections in mind, it’s clear that successfully designing and managing a high-performance and secure WiFi network can be complicated and can easily consume an excessive amount of hotel staff time. Fortunately, hoteliers can gain some much-needed support by partnering with a WiFi network provider that offers managed WiFi services.
Managed WiFi significantly takes away the hassle of daily network monitoring and configuration and instead places such tasks on the shoulders of a provider’s expert technicians. Often without even requiring an onsite visit, a provider’s technicians can remotely configure the amount of bandwidth made available or can make setting adjustments to conform with specific needs such as the hosting of an upcoming business meeting or conference. They can assist with creating customized login pages if desired.
Advantages of a Managed WiFi Service
A key advantage of a managed WiFi service is that hoteliers gain constant 24/7 monitoring of their network’s real-time health by industry professionals. Should an issue suddenly arise that impacts performance, managed WiFi technicians can swiftly identify the root cause and implement corrective measures, often without involving onsite staff and before a dip in guest satisfaction rates is experienced.
Managed WiFi can also prove highly valuable in adding an extra layer of protection against cyber security risks. Ever-vigilant provider technicians while monitoring overall network health, also keep an active lookout for any suspicious activity that may indicate a cyber-attack. Critically and by identifying such threats in a timely manner, managed WiFi service personnel can implement an effective response before hackers have any opportunity to steal information or otherwise cause damage to hotel systems and guest devices.
Contact Us Today!
Is your hotel business ready to make WiFi network management a breeze and in line with modern guest expectations? Here at Hotel Internet Services, we have the best WiFi solution for hotels. Contact us today and discover what it really means to provide your hotel guests with fast, reliable, and always secure internet access.