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Management Companies Take to the Cloud

Three years ago, when the hotel industry was only first emerging from its deepest downturn, Benchmark Hospitality looked to the future and invested $2 million in building its own private cloud.

The virtual data center platform is really paying off now, says Darrin Pinkham, Benchmark’s vice president of information technology, who was hired in large part to help take the management company into the cloud.

The benefits of moving off premises — capital savings and efficiencies for owners, greater security and PCI compliance, ease of use — have helped Benchmark grow from 32 properties to now 46. And Pinkham says the company hopes to double that within five years.

“It’s a competitive advantage,” Pinkham says. “We can serve up all those systems — property management, point of sales, corporate related, payroll and back-of-house, business intelligence — and are allowed to host them for the owners, and that saves them capital money and from paying for hardware.”

The more than 12 software solutions Benchmark hosts provide a near turn-key solution for owners, if they choose. Benchmark doesn’t mandate one system (more than 70% of the portfolio uses NORTHWIND Maestro’s PMS, for example, but three others are also used by some properties). The cloud allows Benchmark to immediately change out those systems from day one, Pinkham says, a great benefit when taking over properties needing a quick turnaround.

“And by centralizing this,” he says, “you take some of the PCI risk away from the property and put it in a higher level.”

Benchmark isn’t alone with its move into the cloud. Highpointe Hotels uses a cloud-based business intelligence solution from Aptech Computer Systems. Data protection is one of the primary benefits of the vendor-hosted cloud, says Mark Pate, director of IT for Highpointe. With several hotels in the Gulf of Mexico, he says data security was a prime concern after recent Hurricanes Katrina and Ivan.

Mike Parent, VP of marketing for Coakley & Williams Hotel Management, cites the ability to remotely monitor sales performance in real time from anywhere as another benefit he gets from moving off premises, with hotel SystemPro’s cloud-based sales and catering system.

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