Founded in a Montreal loft in 2001, Hotello’s focus is to build hospitality software that simplifies hotel managers’ workdays so they can ensure profitable hotel operations while delivering an exceptional guest experience. The company’s products include solutions for check-in and check-out automation, housekeeping, and marketing/guest satisfaction surveys.
Hotello was initially provided to customers as a Microsoft® Windows® application installed and implemented on-site at each hotel. As the company grew and acquired new customers, support and software updates became increasingly problematic.
Rafik Berzi, founder and CTO, states, “We wanted to move our customers from onsite implementations to the cloud.”
Why was that critical for Hotello?
Rafik explains, “Imagine hundreds of customers. In many cases, a customer uses our product in multiple hotels. Each update took at minimum two hours to complete. Each customer had two to ten workstations and one or more servers. We walked customers through updates on each server and each workstation. It was tremendously time-consuming for us—and for our customers.”
Support was an issue, too, especially related to data security. Hotels acquire and maintain guests’ payment and personal information but didn’t always follow strict IT security practices. Hotello support staff was frequently challenged by calls from customers whose systems had been infected by viruses or had been hacked.
Rafik remembers, “At that time, viruses were particularly troublesome. If a customer’s system is shut down due to a virus, they simply cannot conduct business!”
Another issue was data backup. With all-local implementations, the responsibility for backing up data was up to the customer, not Hotello. Customers often forgot to run backups or assumed that Hotello was running backups and maintaining backup data. When a hotel’s system would go down, and customers found themselves without backup data, frustration ensued for both the hotel and the Hotello team.
As cloud computing became increasingly ubiquitous, Hotello decided to move to a cloud computing model. The move would substantially simplify software updates, enable the company to follow best practice for data security, and enable them to consistently back up and secure customers’ data.
Rafik began investigating solutions that would allow them to deliver Hotello to their customers via the internet. “We looked at Microsoft RDS using the Mobile Desktop client, and worked with some customers to test it, but security was an issue—it was complex to limit access to desktops. We also wanted a lighter client.”
“We also considered Citrix®. It met our needs, but the cost was very high. It just didn’t make sense for us to go in that direction as it would end up costing our customers a lot more money. We looked at Microsoft oneclick™, but it was incompatible with our software.”
Then Rafik found GO-Global® via an internet search and was immediately interested. “I saw that GO-Global worked with Windows applications, offered a light client, and was very simple to install and use. It was exactly what we were looking for.”
Rafik continues, “I also liked the concurrent user licensing model, which made perfect sense for our business.”
After testing, Rafik decided that their best option was to integrate GO-Global’s secure, multi-user, remote access functionality into Hotello using GO-Global’s SDK. Post-integration, the software was quickly adopted by Hotello customers eager to move to a subscription-based service.
“I saw that GO-Global worked with Windows applications, offered a light client, and was very simple to install and use. It was exactly what we were looking for. I also liked the concurrent user licensing model, which made perfect sense for our business." — RAFIK BERZI, CTO, Hotello
The first positive outcome was that Hotello software updates all took place on Hotello’s cloud servers rather than on customers’ servers. Instead of taking two hours to complete, an update took ten to fifteen minutes. Since customers’ data was on Hotello servers, the company could observe IT security best practices and consistently back up customer data. Additionally, Hotello no longer had to contend with customers’ hardware issues.
Those changes alone took tremendous pressure off the Hotello support team. Rafik laughs, “Power issues, data corruption—and it seemed like it was always Friday afternoon when it happened!”
Rafik quantifies the improvement this way: “GO-Global cut our service needs in half almost immediately. And, since we launched Hotello and GO-Global, we’ve grown the cloud version to 300 customers and thousands of users—and have only needed to add two people on the service side.”
Rafik continues, “With GO-Global, overhead is low for our customers and for us. All customers need to do is log in to the Hotello system and then log in to the application they need to do their job. GO-Global is very efficient with how it uses computing resources. Also, we can easily monitor customer usage and be more proactive about solving issues before they become significant problems.”
The company also found that changing their revenue model from customers to do business with Hotello and simplified Hotello’s business model. The change also made new customer onboarding much easier for customers and the company. Before GO-Global, it could take 60-90 days for new customers to purchase and configure the server, network, and security tools needed to run the software. With GO-Global, onboarding takes less than a week from the day the order is placed to the day the Hotello service starts. “Customers start paying us sooner and don’t second-guess their purchase,” observed Rafik.
When asked which GO-Global feature was most helpful, Rafik shared his list of favorite features. “Having the ability to send messages to users to remind them of a system shutdown to enable a software update is great. This is a feature I requested and was very happy when you released it.”
“I also appreciate the feature that enables files to be opened on the client rather than the server. Users assumed that when they requested a file, like an Excel® spreadsheet, it would open in Hotello—which doesn’t happen! That caused a lot of user confusion. Now the file opens on the client and users can continue their work. Plus it definitely reduces the load on the server.”
“I also love Windows Update Assurance, which allows us to automatically defer installation of Windows Updates until they’ve been verified as compatible with GO-Global. That saves us a lot of headaches.”
Rafik adds, “The new Farm Manager configuration and the load balancing capability is really great and has been very helpful for us. One example is that some of our larger hotel chain customers want an authorized employee (like an accountant or manager) to be able to access each hotel system in the chain.”
Rafik continues, “Before Farm Manager was available, we would designate one Application Host server for each hotel in the chain and provide the authorized employee with a password they could use on every host so they could review records for every hotel in the chain.
It was challenging to accommodate these requests from a security perspective, and if other hotel staff members were utilizing all available seats on a specific host, the authorized employee may not be able to log in to view that hotel’s records.”
“Now, with Farm Manager and load balancing, we just move customers requesting this scenario to their own farm, designate redundant servers, and let the load balancing feature do its work. Users can always log in. Problem solved!”
Rafik concludes, “We couldn’t have the business we have today without GO-Global helping us get to the cloud. We hope none of our competitors ever find out about GO-Global because you give us a technical and business edge that they don’t have.”