Written by: Robin Veinotte, Director of New Business Ventures
We run into a lot of operators and management companies that blend WiFi and Internet into one service and assume it’s all the same thing. This works ok for your home connection if your tech needs are simple; but when running a business it does not cut it. Your guests expect a flawless experience and your business needs a network dedicated to running your business. As a property manager, operator, or developer, you have to look at your technology, and specifically your WiFi/Internet a bit differently as you grow.
Let’s start with WiFi. Simple, right?
This is what spreads a wireless signal around your property. Most people use WiFi as a means to connect to the Internet to surf the web, check emails or watch video content. But in the commercial world, WiFi is a way to access the network. The network can (or not) give you access to the Internet, but it is also used to connect all the other devices that are installed locally so they can talk to each other as well. WiFi is not the Internet, WiFi (in a lot of cases) is your corporate/data network at any given location.
Yes, your guest will want WiFi to connect to your network and to gain access to the Internet. Most devices you buy today do not even have a plug in to connect to a wired connection (do you remember those? Some still have them, but not many), making WiFi access incredibly important. But what about the other devices that need to talk digitally to each other on the network…
Door Locks, Security Camera’s, Noise Sensors, Digital Assistants (Alexa, Google, Roxys, etc), SmartTV and In-room Casting, IP Phones, Smart Lights, Thermostats and Smart Energy Solutions. Even some Washer/Dryer sets, Fridges, Coffee Pots, Stoves, Ovens, In room speakers… and this list continues to grow. But not only that, your guests and business need them and expect them.
Your local network, which is all typically controlled and in the same ‘box’ as your WiFi, has to manage all of this. It has to secure all of this. It has to make sure guest 1 in room 1 gets access to only room 1 technology, and nothing in room 2 (think about someone having access to viewing something else’s streamed content – bad news). It has to make sure the “things” connected in any room can only access what they are supposed to and that no one can hack into that Camera, TV, Digital Assistant, etc and disrupt the guests’ experience.
It’s actually a big job. Think about how important all those technologies are becoming to your operations. And most of the WiFi routers purchased from a local Internet provider were designed 7+ years ago to service a home and maybe connect a single smart phone and a laptop or tablet. Now you could have a single property that when occupied by a guest, could have 2-4 devices per guest plus all of the in room devices. The reality is that a basic home router just can’t handle it. Those devices were designed for an average user of 7 to 10 years ago, and you are NOT that average user.
Not only do you need all those devices connected, they need to be done so securely and they have to just work. You need commercial grade hardware and unless you have experience managing this type of equipment – you need someone who can.
We have seen companies with 100’s of properties trying to manage 100’s of WiFi passwords. We have seen them spending 100’s of hours on site trying to install a new device only to have to install it again when a pesky guest resets that router when the Internet drops (because that is what they do at home so it must be ok here, right?).
Don’t forget: your guests want a “hotel like” WiFi and Internet Experience, and sending them a password via an OTA’s app is very 2000-ish, not 2020. Someday it might be cool for GAP sweaters to come back in style – but will WiFi passwords do that, too? We doubt it.
Now let’s talk Internet.
This is what your network will connect to in order to reach the rest of the world. You can access the Internet via a hardwire plug in on your network or by using WiFi and getting Internet access wirelessly.
Your Internet connections at your Vacation Rental should be good enough to give each expected guest 5-10Mbps (Mega Bits per Second) for peak usage. That is enough connection to allow any user to do whatever they want to do on the Internet for the next few years. At this point (2019) there are still a lot of hotels, hospitals, etc, that only give 1.5 Mbps connection (on the free service, anyway). A good WiFi solution (because now we know that WiFi and Internet are different), should allow you to place rules for your guests connection to the service. It should allow you to rate limit the user and allow them to purchase additional access if they want a faster connection; and if you have a solution that does not do this, keep shopping for a better supplier. It needs to permit you branding and marketing opportunities because too many guests access it to not have it represent you and your vision for growth.
Having these features allow you to “chop up” the Internet and make sure all users have fair access (no bandwidth hogging for the Netflix streamers). It will also allow you to verify if someone had good access by having a great reporting dashboard at your fingertips. A lot of “the Internet Sucks” complaints end in a fully comped room in fear of getting a bad review online. But we know that most of those “the Internet sucks” complaints are because the WiFi System wasn’t intelligent enough to give a fair share of the Internet pipe to all, and one user kills the connection while others complain.
We also see a lot of money spent on high end consumer Internet connections for vacation rental properties. Getting a Fibre Internet connection of 100+ Mbps is really nice on paper, but could really be overkill for a smaller vacation rental property. That extra $30-$50/month can really add up over time and would be better money invested in getting a Managed Vacation Rental WiFi Specialist VS paying for something that likely will not get used.
Fibre Internet is fast and great, and I suggest it to everyone. But speed is often misunderstood in the world of the Internet; especially in the consumer world. A 100Mbps Internet connection is the capacity of the connection, or the size of the pipe. Think of it as a 100 Lane Highway. A highway that can move a lot of traffic and is typically great. However, speed is not the number of lanes on a highway; it’s the speed you can travel from point A to point B. This is called latency in the Internet world.
A 20Mbps Fibre connection with really low latency can often out perform a cable connection with a larger capacity. But finding a good capacity connection with good latency is all that is important. A 50Mbps cable fed Internet connection with good upload and download (lanes on the highway for sending and receiving traffic) is often more than enough for the average sized vacation rental property. Saving $25-$30 on that connection to pay for professionally managed WiFi would be a much better spend than that flashy, well marketed 200Mbps Fibre Internet connection.
The Big Picture?
When running a business, you are the expert at what you do because you focus on it. If you find that you are focusing on other things, like all the technology and Internet connections at your properties and not on the guest’s experience – it’s time to let us be your expert in that world so you can focus on the things that helps you grow.