Wednesday, April 01, 2009

WiFi For A Hotel .... What To Think About

First, the hotel's WiFi strategy needs to be finalized, and following this you would know where the service needs to be available, if it will be free, if it will be solely used for guest browsing, or if it will also facilitate value added services to the hotel itself .... such as wireless point-of-sale, wireless security, wireless signage, wireless VoIP on the compound, etc. There are a plethora of resources online that you can check for the technicalities of some of these types of equipment - this is not a challenge.

After this, everything begins with an on-site survey to determine the layout of the hotel, and placement of the access points. This should include RF mapping for larger properties (or any property for that matter, since it removes alot of the guesswork).

Bearing in mind you're working with a budget, you need to let that budget dictate the type of equipment you're going to use. From Access points & routers, to POE switches, packet shaping & filtering, to billing & authentication platforms. Or whether you're going to do it all with a cheap and simple Dlink setup, complete with login ticket printers. There are a multitude of different architectures for these networks.

You will also need to agree upon work schedules with the Hotel Management, because they may not want technicians and engineers visible throughout the compound while guests are enjoying their stay there. This can lengthen or shorten the duration of the project (depending on what Hotel Management decides) and can have direct effects on project cost. All of which needs to be presented to Hotel management in different scenarios.

One of the make-or-break details that often get overlooked is the available bandwidth being piped into the hotel to feed this Wireless network, and depending on the size of the hotel, it needs to be considerable. I'd suggest a minimum of DS3 bandwidth, but recommend Ethernet or fiber if you can get it (much cheaper).

Once you've done a simple traffic analysis to quantify bandwidth requirements, based on information from the hotel such as average room occupancy percentages throughout the year, you can determine what is required. Once you can get this required bandwidth from a service provider, you're golden. Whether or not the budget allows, you should always push the Hotel to choose a corporate data package with an service level agreement (SLA) attached to it, so as to guarantee uptime for the guests. This is critical if the hotel has a high percentage of business travellers.

For assistance in finding just the right bandwidth solution ... at best price .... I recommend using the free services at Bandwidth Solution .

Once the physical aspects of the network is in place and everything has been neatly tucked away, you need to develop a nice walled garden for the hotel - although this is something the larger hotels normally do, for branding and marketing purposes. However, this is an additional step that needs to be done, whether or not it is your responsibility. This can facilitate something as simple as the logon splash screen, or it can offer more interactivity based on the tech savviness of the hotel.

Finally, this can be as simple or as complex as the hotel and their budget requires, but even in the most complex scenario it really is quite simple and is one of the easier wireless implementations to deploy.

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