Today nearly every business is a technology business. There isn’t an institution on Earth that doesn’t rely on data to one extent or another. This is especially true true of the travel and hospitality industry, which has seen its reliance on data centers increase in recent years. Operating a travel enterprise requires global access to real-time data, and the financial and operational cost of downtime is high.
How do these businesses leverage the power of data centers, and which critical functions do these facilities support? Just as importantly, how do data centers help secure sensitive information from data thieves?
These are critical questions that players in the hospitality industry must answer. The hospitality and travel industries are vast. They include cafes, eateries and chain restaurants, motels and hotel franchises, spas and salons, trip booking services, airlines and much, much more.
Each of these business types share the need to securely store, access and analyze an incredible volume of data. This data includes:
- Customer profiles, payment information and receipts
- Revenue and expense reports
- Personnel records and paycheck information
- Invoices from partners and merchants
- Credit card data and other POS information
- Maintenance intervals for business infrastructure, vehicles and other assets
This immense data trove also includes structured and unstructured data gleaned from customer interactions, social media platforms and marketing campaigns.
Naturally, this data can’t be scattered to the four winds. It needs to be stored in a secure location in a way that doesn’t interfere with accessibility — especially when the company in question operates multiple franchised locations or a worldwide service network, as is the case with many hotel chains, booking services and airlines.
Sharing Data Globally, in Real Time
Whether a hospitality business operates several data centers or just one, data accessibility is key, and that means tying data storage infrastructure together with cloud-based enterprise-planning platforms and customer service dashboards.
None of this information is useful unless it’s easily accessible from every concierge or receptionist’s desk, at each business location, and each customer’s desktop PC, laptop, tablet or smartphone. Even our wristwatches need to be able to call upon payment information, reservations, boarding passes and ticketing information at a moment’s notice.
Just as importantly, and perhaps more so, hospitality industry data needs to be up-to-date and in sync across every platform to avoid lost sales and customer frustration. There’s little question a hotel chain’s or trip planning company’s business will suffer if they overbook or underbook one of their locations during a busy season thanks to lost or inaccurate data.
Many of these are global enterprises that provide services for customers all over the world, and in cases like those, data needs to be accurate even down to the second to avoid booking conflicts.
In short, running IT operations in managed data centers isn’t optional any longer if companies want to succeed in the hospitality industry. It’s become an essential part of providing responsive and mobile-friendly service to customers, no matter where they come from or where they’re headed.
There are potential problems with this concept, even as it becomes the new normal. If data centers are essential for business functionality and success, as well as customer satisfaction, data security is equally important. That’s more true than ever with security and privacy laws tightening all over the world.
In Travel, Data Center Downtime Means Disruption
Recent news headlines have driven the point home: The accessibility of data across a hospitality enterprise is vital for continuity of service. Not taking the right precautions with business and customer data can leave travel companies vulnerable to hackers, thieves and other types of criminals.
That’s a familiar story, though — it’s the same risk every industry has to contend with in Industry 4.0 and under an economic model that runs on data, which is the “new oil.” We’ve seen that data centers solve real-world problems for hospitality companies, but they also bring up unique risks and frustrations.
When an airline booking system fails, the consequences can be more than inconvenient. They can be dangerous. Stranding passengers in airports and unfamiliar cities is perhaps the worst-case scenario for airlines that care about the customer experience. In some cases, data centers are so critical for the smooth functioning of hospitality services that when they fail, they take down entire airports with them.
In September 2017, a brief outage in the Amadeus booking software system caused delayed flights around the globe — in some cases dozens of flights per airline. It wasn’t the first time the system experienced an outage, either. Amadeus later attributed the problem to a faulty network switch in its physical infrastructure, rather than with security measures.
Heathrow Outage Price Tag: $106 Million
The holiday season in 2017 saw another extremely disruptive data center failure for British Airways, as a data center at Heathrow Airport supporting BA”s booking system lost power, reportedly due to issues with the facility’s uninterruptible power systems (UPS).
As a result of the power loss, more than 75,000 passengers found themselves stuck in limbo between flights. The company operating the data center, CBRE, settled a lawsuit out of court with Royal Airlines, but not before reporting a loss of some £80 million in revenue (USD $106 million).
That’s why airlines continue to invest in new data centers. In 2018 we saw the grand opening of a Tier III data center in Dubai, which services one of the busiest travel hubs in the world. Dubai International Airport hosts 240,000 passengers each day and dispatches 1,100 flights, which means uptime for this data center isn’t remotely optional.
The facility’s designers boast “seamless business continuity” as well as unrivaled uptime even during ongoing maintenance. What makes it so special? It’s billed as a modular data center, which means it’s both more cost-effective to build than traditional data storage infrastructure and more resilient against business-interrupting outages and other threats to profitability.
There’s nothing especially new about the importance of data in the hospitality industry. As we’ve seen here, though, the explosion in functionality, as well as the ever-larger threat landscape, mean the stakes for getting it right are higher than ever.