Like many parts of the world, south Florida is no stranger to weather emergencies, with rain and wind often bringing down electricity and communications during hurricane season. While users may be able to survive an hour or two without access to Facebook, critical services like voice simply cannot be disrupted for most businesses.
Menin Hospitality, a boutique hospitality management company specializing in hotels, restaurants and nightlife in Miami, recently deployed Mitel's cloud communications platform to provide a scalable, consistent communications framework across all of its properties to ensure its voice services wouldn't go down every time a tropical storm comes barreling through the vulnerable peninsula.
Menin was looking for a redundant communications system that could be deployed quickly across multiple locations. Menin, along with Design Communications, Inc. (DCI), a systems integrator for the hospitality industry, implemented DCI's VCore hosted communications platform, powered by Mitel's technology, across Menin's hotels including two new properties, said Seth Wasserman, head of IT at Menin.
Mitel cloud platform offers operational efficiencies
Already a Mitel customer using the vendor's legacy analog and IP phones, Menin has begun deploying DCI's Mitel-based VCore platform as new hotel properties opened or as existing properties required an upgrade. Menin previously used a T1 service for its phone lines and a hardware-based telephony system that transmitted voice traffic over copper wire. The platform supported basic telephony services, voicemail and call routing -- with no bells and whistles -- which Menin bore as a capital expense, in addition to the usual operational costs associated with maintaining systems in-house. The company explored the idea of cloud-based hosting options for its communications infrastructure so it could instead pay for a monthly service that included maintenance and upgrades, while freeing up the space and resources needed to house and cool communications systems, Wasserman said.
"Our phone system used to take up half a room and now the phone system is 3 inches tall because all you need is an Internet connection and some analog copper lines for failover," he said.
In addition to space, the cloud UC model is also freeing up employees to move between properties by simply bringing their phones along with them. "As long as an employee has their desk phone and plugs it into any wired connection at another hotel location, their phone will ring," Wasserman said. "There's zero downtime and they can get working right away without calling any technicians."
In addition to providing connectivity between locations, arguably one of the most important benefits the cloud platform provides is disaster recovery, Wasserman said. Mitel's Uninterruptible Power Supply can support the telephony hardware for a given number of hours. Hospitality customers can also take advantage of the twinning option to send incoming calls to the cell phones of hotel staff members. The Mitel Teleworking feature also allows locations and employees that do have power to use the Mitel Hot Desk feature to support the hotel.
"In South Florida, keeping everything in-house at one property is scary -- it's putting all your eggs in one basket," Wasserman said. "We think of it as insurance -- if something goes down, we don't have to reinvent the wheel and it's much more secure. [Cloud-based communications] eliminates points of failure."
Support and maintenance requires a phone call to DCI, which now handles such tasks for Menin. "We no longer have to handle any of the monitoring or troubleshooting in-house for our communications, it's all been outsourced," he said.
By deploying communications across its hotel properties on a single Mitel cloud platform, Menin has reduced its capital expenses while still providing its staff and guests with important communications services. The platform can integrate with Menin's property management systems to help keep concierges up-to-date with information about each guest, including how many days a guest stayed for and if any phone calls were made from their rooms. Menin is also using the Mitel-powered cloud UC platform to offer wakeup calls, voicemail and E-911 services -- even in the event of a power outage, said Jeff Nolan, Mitel's vice president of strategic partnerships and vertical business development.
Using cloud UC to enhance the guest experience
Menin is using its cloud UC system primarily for employees and administration at this point, but the company is interested in some of the advanced features of the cloud UC platform that are aimed at enhancing the guest experience, Wasserman said.
Mitel recently announced a new hospitality partner program for system integrators and service providers to become accredited in Mitel sales and technology and work with the Mitel team to support new and existing deployments for hospitality customers. The partners can also work to develop their own value-added services to the Mitel cloud platform, Mitel's Nolan said.
Mitel's cloud platform for hospitality customers currently supports the ability for guests to transfer calls between their cell phones and their hotel room phones. The cloud service can also integrate with any hotel-provided app for guests' mobile devices, Nolan said, including pushing invites for promotions or events inside the hotel to guests, or even enabling guests to immediately connect to hotel staff from their personal devices.
A positive guest experience keeps hospitality businesses competitive. "If a guest is experiencing an adverse event, they can connect to staff members on-site who can immediately follow-up, instead of [them] going to TripAdvisor.com and writing a [negative] review, without the situation being remedied," Nolan said.
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