Cloud Networking Provides a Digital Home Away from Home

California Resort Keeps Guests Coming Back for More with Trouble-Free Wi-Fi

cliffs resort hero
Cisco Meraki

Today’s travelers expect all the technology amenities of home while on the road. That includes, by a wide margin, better Wi-Fi than hotels typically offer, according to a recent YouGov/ALICE survey. The survey found that 59% of guests want better Wi-Fi and that 34% of them would trade a business center for better in-room tech.

That’s not surprising in the digital age. But how can hotels—particularly those built when push-button phones were state of the art in telecommunications—keep up with rising consumer expectations around technology?

The answer lies in flexible, easy-to-install-and-manage software-defined networking (SD-WAN), in this case from Cisco Meraki.

“Just a mess”

The 13 properties of Boutique Hotel Collection (BHC) in San Luis Obispo County,  California had everything—sun, waves, and some of the most spectacular scenery on the central coast. Everything, that is, except good Wi-Fi coverage in its rooms. And to make matters worse, the company was getting slammed for it by their guests.

The very walls of The Cliffs Resort, BHC’s flagship property, for example—with their 1970s-era concrete and metal construction—thwarted the propagation of Wi-Fi signals. They contributed to guest complaints at the front desk and reviews on travel sites. But it wasn’t just the building’s makeup that was the problem.

“The wireless that was in place before Meraki was consumer-grade and mixed vendor from site to site, with no centralized management or reporting,” said Chris Biggers, BHC’s IT Manager. “It was intensive to troubleshoot from an IT man-hours perspective and just a mess from a guest satisfaction perspective.”

As it happened, Biggers first learned about Meraki when it started as a cutting-edge research project at MIT called Roofnet. Roofnet was a wireless mesh network comprised of access points (APs) that connected to one another with little effort on the user’s part. It later spun out as a commercial project called Meraki that went on to become a part of Cisco Systems.

Biggers thought Meraki might have the solution to his problem and ordered up some hardware.

Plug-and-play amenities

Biggers and his staff of three deployed 200 Meraki APs throughout BHC’s 13 properties in short order. “The plug and play aspect of it saved us hundreds of hours,” said Biggers, “the cloud features of the deployment shaved probably at least a month off of our deployment cycle.”

Fresh off that success, Biggers added security appliances from Meraki at each property to provide firewalls and run Advanced Malware Protection from Cisco. He also set up Enterprise Mobility Management from Meraki to centrally push policies and apps, as well as run security functions for BHC’s computers and mobile devices.

This new set-up means that The Cliffs Resort can now offer fast, trouble-free Wi-Fi to its guests. The complaints have stopped, as have the negative reviews about Internet access.

Biggers and his team are breathing more easily too. He has a comprehensive view of the APs and other equipment on the network across all BHC properties through the Meraki Dashboard running in a browser window. He knows when something’s wrong, what apps and devices take up the most bandwidth, and can troubleshoot from afar.

Best of all, Biggers said, the new network has “transformed our business and allowed us to have the kind of guest satisfaction that the hospitality industry is all about.” He’s already exploring what’s next with Meraki in technology-based guest amenities to stay a step ahead of demanding travelers.

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