Piecemeal tech is out; interconnected infrastructure is in

Security is on everyone’s agenda—no person, company or industry is immune from the threat of a security breach, which is evidenced by the increased resources being placed to mitigate against it. Gartner anticipates that in 2024, $215 billion will be spent to help organizations keep hackers at bay—a 14 percent increase from 2023.

Hotel operators are on high alert. After all, they’re in the business of customer safety and trust, which used to be defined by tangible items involving guests and their property but now includes their digital identities, too. Unfortunately, many operators face stiff headwinds in staying a step ahead of bad actors who view their properties and guests' data opportunistically. Navigating a path for reliable security, through the bifurcated technology infrastructure that many rely on, is tricky.

Historically, many hoteliers have purchased property technology piecemeal, including the security layer. Given increased threats, this approach is fraught with complications for one simple reason—any separation between the myriad of systems that exist within a hotel complicates accountability, which increases risk.

Consider, for example, that a malicious user has gained access to a property’s network intending to steal the credit card details of its guests. First and foremost, the priority is to identify the breach but eventually, it becomes a matter of ownership and rectifying the root cause. When the many layers of a hotel’s technology infrastructure are not designed to be interconnected, the property becomes more susceptible to hackers.

Don’t Assume Wi-Fi is to Blame

When public security breaches occur there is a tendency to point the finger at Wi-Fi as the culprit. While it might be a common entry point from which threats can begin, it is not the only chink in a property’s armor. For example, there are process considerations for who should be able to access the system and at what level, how passwords must be configured and how a firewall change will impact other networked systems. Most of the time operators aren’t focused on the process behind how their firewalls work, or the related rules that are put in place to manage them. Beyond this is the network gear, such as gateways, routers and access that must be considered.

Increasingly, hoteliers are inquiring about the safety and security of in-room streaming services. These popular entertainment options need to be connected to the rest of the property’s infrastructure. When properly designed, these ensure network isolation and guest privacy.

To meet today’s security protocols, properties need something relatively modern that’s designed within the infrastructure process, including the ones they define. It’s naive to think, for instance, that by only upgrading your property access points but not switches or firewalls, everything will be fine. When it comes to security, technology planning must be undertaken with a view of investigating every step in every process.

A Better Together, Interconnected Ecosystem

Unsurprisingly, those major hoteliers who have put security at the forefront of their priority list, along with the guest experience, have been the first to plan for infrastructure that’s based on an end-to-end, holistic design. They’re moving to consolidate their technology with partners who can design, build, and support interconnected technology—in essence, to provide ‘one hand to shake.’

In the scenario when (not if) a security breach occurs, having tools and technology that’s interconnected ensures that any suspicious log-on attempts are monitored and that the entire technology infrastructure communicates and acts in a way that is—first and foremost—secure.

Underpinning this, operators need ready access to experts who understand how the technology is designed to work together. Most property owners would prefer partnering with a single provider with that expertise, and not one with a myopic view of their own hardware.

Going from Zero to Secure in the Time You Need

Security breaches are one of those attention-getters that rapidly spread from the front desk to the boardroom and even the newsroom. But what are operators, who have made investments in or inherited bifurcated and inferior technology, meant to do when faced with the knowledge that their infrastructure is making them vulnerable to unwanted attention?

For any small, independent hotel or even a large multinational one, the process begins with critical actions to assess their existing technology to determine risks and vulnerability. Understanding existing bandwidth, hardware, software, and all critical connection points is the basis of a thorough examination, which must prioritize any issues with Wi-Fi, including any unauthorized penetration into their system.

Once completed, the next step is to undertake a review of the pre-existing systems and recommend to the operator what could be done to strengthen security, efficiency and performance. It all culminates in completing a design that’s fit for purpose and does not necessarily involve a costly rip-out and upgrade of the property’s technology. A careful review would ensure that all devices are interoperable and connected and that the business-critical applications the hotel requires are running off of a current and connected technology infrastructure.

It's a thoughtful approach to identifying the most critical requirements and, if needed, building a multi-year plan to bring the technology infrastructure to where the operator needs it to be. Depending on the assessment and design, a fix may be immediate or it could include incremental upgrades over many years. Deploying a modern connected technology solution will not only lower the risk of security breaches but will reduce the total cost of ownership and improve the guest experience.

Once Secure, Stay Secure

The critical phase for ensuring that connected infrastructure within properties remains secure is through comprehensive monitoring of the systems from top to bottom. Any operator undergoing an upgrade will understand the importance of diagnostic software to ensure all systems are working together as promised.

Conceptually, as an operator, or a front desk manager, such tools present as easy-to-use applications. Behind these single panes of glass are powerful tools capable of running millions of computations that analyze and monitor the infrastructure across the entire property or even multi-site properties. These are designed to give operators an actionable summary of what's happening on a minute-to-minute, hour-to-hour basis, and highlight issues that need to be addressed.

Diagnostic monitoring within hospitality systems is still a novel concept for an industry that’s historically been slow to place technology investment atop its priorities but experience demonstrates that operators would be open to deploying this as they understand its benefits. Given the financial impact of just one data breach, such tools could easily become a must-have resource.

In the end, hotel guests are paying for the visible amenities offered by hotel operators. A comfy bed, robust in-room entertainment and many other extras make their stay enjoyable. High on the list of essential amenities are the ones they cannot see—an ecosystem of interconnected property technologies that they can trust with their data.

Todd Johnstone is the CEO of Allbridge.