By Dr. Michael Toedt, Managing Partner and CEO at TS&C GmbH
For years, ‘CLOUD’ has been a buzzword in the media, a trendy topic at conferences, and used by almost every software provider in promotions. Diving deeper, you can find various different definitions, depending on the software providers’ own performance standards. And you come across terms such as ‘real and false cloud’, ‘private and public cloud’, ‘virtual and hosted solutions’, etc. What is a cloud and how will it change our future?
Cloud generally means an IT infrastructure provided via the Internet
It can include storage capacity or processing power. The most important aspect is, however, that the software is quasi outsourced and can be accessed through the Internet. Hardly anything has to be installed locally on the computer. To start working, users only need a PC with a standard browser and Internet access. The only requirement for seamless and fast working is a high-speed and secure Internet connection.
As a first change, we will see local servers, mostly hidden in the basement or behind the hotel reception, disappearing and being replaced by a secure, cloud-based solution hosted in a data center. Modern data centers are like high-security prisons. Without authorization, it is practically impossible to get in our out.
A server in data warehouses either belongs to a company or is leased. The first solution is called a private cloud. The leased solution is called a public cloud. Amazon and Microsoft are the leading providers in this field. Following the classic approach of IT administrators, many companies end up with their “own” private cloud solution. What is the right solution is a quite controversial issue. In terms of scalability of performance, memory size or support a public cloud has clear advantages over a private cloud. To select the best short or long term solution, it is essential to conduct a profound analysis.
Besides hardware, software is the second decisive factor for managers to learn more about Cloud systems. Here we can also see different approaches. For many years, software has not been installed on local servers at the hotel, but in data centers. The software can be accessed via special systems such as Citrix or Remote Desktop. This approach means that the software is in the cloud, but it is not a ‘real’, but just virtualized, cloud software.
Real cloud software solutions have a completely different architecture. They are accessed through a browser or an app. All users work on the same application and automatically with the same software version. They are managed via a central access point. Cloud software is installed only once and not in each hotel individually. All data is either stored centrally in one database and access is managed through user rights. Or each client has his own database, which can be accessed through a user management system. For security reasons, the latter solution is preferable.
What are the Advantages of a cloud-based Software?
The advantages of a cloud-based software are evident. Hoteliers no longer need to bother with hardware and software updates. Interfaces will no longer be installed locally, as they are available in the cloud. In an ideal scenario, hundreds even thousands of hotels can run on one interface. This, however, is still up in the air. In the future, however, hotels will be able to rent solutions on the push of a button and use them immediately like apps. But due to the hospitality industry’s complexity this will still take some years.
What are the Disadvantages of the Cloud?
Looking at the hospitality software landscape today, individuality and adaptability of the solutions are of major importance. There is a need for specific reports, additional boxes in the input screen, interfaces, which cover the hotels’ special features, or customized solutions by local IT experts. All that will no longer exist in the cloud for a simple reason – all users work on the same system and adaptations must make sense for the majority of users. Hoteliers will have to get used to a “no” to requests for adaptations.
With many providers, the databases of locally installed software systems are no longer accessible, which means that changes can no longer be made. This will become standard in the cloud.
The big advantage is that updates can be made more frequently, bug fixes can be done globally and much faster, and that everything works after an update. For older software installations, updates often turn out to be a nightmare for the hotel, as no one knows what will work or not work after the update.
More than ever – change is the only constant in these times
All major PMS providers are working on a cloud-based solution and many new companies are entering the market. They all have all in common that the scope of the solution is much smaller than that of the locally installed versions, some of which have been developed for over 20 years. The reduced complexity is, however, compensated by simpler connectivity with other systems through centralized interfaces. Almost all experts agree that the PMS will loose its status as the leading system in a hotel. It is hard to predict how the hotel IT landscape will look like. But for sure, we will see more change in the next 3 years than we did in the past 20 years all together. Therefore, it is essential to tap into new opportunities, exchange with experts, test solutions and be open for whatever comes. More than ever, change is the only constant in these times.