How Rocco Forte Hotels accommodates mobile needs of staff and guests

By Danny Palmer
16 Jan 2014 View Comments

Rocco Forte Hotels is a group of 14 luxury resorts across Europe and the Middle East. Its guests in locations from Scotland to Saudi Arabia expect the best in all aspects of their stay.

It is therefore the responsibility of group IT director Emmanuel Clave to ensure that IT infrastructure across all Rocco Forte Hotels is well maintained for staff and guests alike, both of whom are increasingly taking advantage of the mobile revolution and, therefore, require the persistent network connection that goes with it.

"A guest in a hotel has about two or three devices, it's not uncommon for them to have a laptop, a tablet and a mobile phone and we've seen that in the demand on connections through devices," Clave told Computing.

"There's been a shift to smartphones and tablets as laptops are cumbersome to carry, but you end up sometimes having three devices because you can't do everything on a tablet or smartphone, there are some things you still need to use a laptop for," he added.

For Rocco Forte Hotels staff themselves, Clave explained that mobile employees are provided with BlackBerry Z10 or Z30 smartphones, both running the latest BB10 operating system. Meanwhile, some staff are also provided with tablets in the form of the iPad or iPad Mini. There's no official use of Android devices by hotel staff.

"We've been using BlackBerry for a number of years and historically only managing those devices, but now we've been able to find management solutions for iOS and Android - we don't use Android but we could if we wanted to," said Clave, who explained how devices running both operating systems are simple to look after.

"For me to manage and to deploy an iOS device or BlackBerry device I'm using the same method, it's just synchronisations between connections and the good thing is we can push out all applications we want to actually give them access to our network," he said.

Clave added that BlackBerry's ability to let users stay anonymous on the internet is useful, especially when it comes to data protection, something he pointed to being an important factor in the hotel industry.

"BlackBerry by default provides a VPN [virtual private network] tunnel so as soon as you're on the network they are in a secure environment, and they've got access to files over the BlackBerry infrastructure," he said. "It doesn't matter where they are, they can access the files and they can use them. It's been relatively easy to do with the help of BlackBerry."

And, while the mobile devices - especially tablets - are predominantly provided for working, Clave told Computing that Rocco Forte Hotels employees have certain permissions that enable them to install applications such as games or video streaming services to provide entertainment during downtime.

"It depends on the position and the needs of the user," he said. "When people are on a business trip for a week or five days they need to have a bit of relaxation, so we allow some personal apps to be used. We install applications, but allow them to use their iTunes account for example."

However, Clave added that for staff equipped with iPads who don't need to travel, the tablet's use is restricted to business purposes.

"If it's going to be a hotel-dedicated tablet then it's going to be locked down, but if you're travelling a lot, you'll need something to do in your free time," he said.

The extensive day-to-day use of mobile devices by Rocco Forte Hotels staff requires proper management tools for sharing files. That, Clave explained, is done with Novell's Filr collaborative file-sharing solution, a product that claims it 'Feels like Dropbox. Acts like Fort Knox'.

"The challenge we were facing, especially over the past two years, was with mobility and giving secure document access to the workforce, with the ability to share the file securely with external sources no matter what device they used," he told Computing.

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