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Hotel IT Tips for Disaster Preparedness

Hurricane season is upon us and If you’re in the hospitality industry, you’re already well aware of the challenges that you face when it comes to handling disasters.

In fact, most of the hoteliers that we’ve spoken to already have some sort of disaster recovery plan in place to protect guests, but they lack the detailed plans to secure systems critical to daily operations – such as their IT.

To help you prepare, we’ve created a list of 5 tips to keep in mind that will help you stay on top of your technology.

1. Create a strategy for guest communications

Why it’s important:

Disasters cause more than just physical chaos. You’ll need to ensure that your guests, as well as your staff, understand what the plan is when it comes to changing weather conditions, hotel evacuations, and other conditions that may affect operations.

How to get started:

You can utilize services such as SMS messages to quickly reach out to guests via text and other real-time alerts. You can use SMS to set up group messaging that takes emails and transforms them into text messages (and vice versa) for flexible communication.

And, as most people travel with their cell phones, it’s a more effective and responsive method than just reaching out via email. Everyone on staff can reach guests to answer questions while adapting to changing disaster conditions on the fly.

2. Proactively take care of phone lines

Why it’s important:

Before a disaster strikes, it’s a good idea to be proactive with the phone lines and re-route them ahead of time. That way, guests that reach out via phone can be helped by the corporate office or your other hotels in the area.

How to get started:

Have your phone provider set up call forwarding that’s directed to a different phone number before the lines go down. Typically, we recommend re-routing to the main corporate line so that they can assist with new accommodations or refunds.

3. Anticipate power and Internet outages

Why it’s important:

Losing power is always a bad thing, but losing power to your IT systems can cause a lot of chaos. In environments where servers are hosted on-premise, it’s very common to lose internet even before losing power.

Internet connections are especially vital to credit card transactions, since they rely on other servers to complete their requests.

How to get started:

Nearly all hotels will have backup generators on standby to keep the building going in the event of a disaster. However, we recommend having a separate generator that is dedicated to the server room and the IT equipment within it.

Because credit card transactions can be stored locally (and fully completed later, once Internet access is restored), it’s vital to keep your on-prem storage up and running. Your backup power should keep the on-prem server going, as well as a minimum of one front desk computer so that you can process guest credit cards.

Alternatively, you can use mobile devices to keep things running. In the past, we’ve relied on Square readers or clover terminals so that hotel staff could take credit card information from cell phones or over 4g cellular services. It’s also possible to use a laptop with a wireless adapter and a hotspot connection to process these cards, via USB credit card reader.

Once all the systems are restored, you can systematically process the cards on the main system without issue.

4. Ensure you have physical access to guest rooms

Why it’s important:

Since disasters often go hand-in-hand with power outages, it’s common for guests to lose access to rooms that rely on electronic key readers. In cases such as these, you must rely on emergency keys to save the day.

How to get started:

Emergency keys can open any guest room, but they have a dedicated shelf life of 2 years before they expire. Before disaster strikes, ensure that these keys are functional – you don’t want to be caught in a disaster without a way to access rooms.

5. Properly label and inventory hardware ahead of time

Why it’s important:

When disaster strikes, you’ll want to save as much equipment as possible. That might mean moving things around quickly, which can disrupt operations significantly.

Let’s take a flood as an example – this happens often in Florida, which is prone to hurricanes.

Since most hotels have their server room on the first floor, it’s susceptible to water damage. Hotel staff should proactively move IT equipment to a higher floor to save it from damage, but putting everything back to where it needs to be can be a tricky affair.

How to get started:

Make sure to organize all the connections and take clear pictures of ports, plugs, and devices from multiple angles. If you’ve got an IT company that’s helping you out, have them walk the staff through every picture that they need to take so that they can have guidance throughout the whole process.

When it comes time to put things back in their proper place, the pictures can serve as valuable guides that will significantly reduce connection errors and downtime as a whole.

How can we help you? We hope that these tips help you prepare ahead of time.

If you’re concerned about your preparation or if you’d like more specific advice to your situation, you can always get in touch with POS Networks today.

We can provide you with assessments, services, and consulting to ensure that your hotel stays up and running at all times.

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