Essays
Source: AAHOA Lodging Business Author: Jonathan Springston

Hotels Continue Battling Bandwidth Challenges While guests continue traveling with multiple mobile smart devices, the pressure remains on hoteliers to provide the Internet bandwidth necessary to keep up with growing demand. But bandwidth isn't cheap, and many hoteliers offer Wi-Fi access to guests for free as a pillar of their business model. How do these hoteliers offset the cost of improving their infrastructure?

Hoteliers may not want to pass the costs on to consumers, but those who don't already charge for Internet access may have no choice if they hope to keep their infrastructure up to date.

John Henderson, senior vice president, network services, Datatrend Technologies Inc., said some hotels have moved to a tiered price structure where guests enjoy a particular level of Internet service for a certain price. Under this system, guests who simply want to send an e-mail or conduct light Web browsing may choose a free option. Other guests who want to stream video as well as download and upload files may pay a higher fee.

“[Hotels] are going to a tiered rate, and they have to because they need a bigger pipe running into the building,” Henderson said. “In the old days, they were actually looking at high-speed Internet access to be a revenue generator. Not anymore.”

Henderson suggested loyalty club members could continue receiving free Internet while noting that larger properties will build the Internet charge straight into the daily room rate or into some broad “resort fee.”

“People will pay for Wi-Fi service if it means the difference between doing work or not,” Bruce Miller, vice president, product marketing, Xirrus, said. “It's a way [hotels] can kind of differentiate and make sure the business traveler has a rock-solid service experience.”

As the debate continues on tiered pricing, two other emerging technologies could help hoteliers address bandwidth problems.

802.11ac

802.11ac is the evolution of 802 Wi-Fi standards, providing for not only increased speeds but also higher speeds over longer distances as well as less interference with other devices and the ability of more clients to connect per access point.

“If you have an old network and you move to 802.11ac, there is an immediate benefit on the amount of bandwidth you can get,” Miller said. “It will benefit everybody by having faster lanes on the freeway. People won't swap out their infrastructure wholesale just because you have a new standard, but by the end of this year, the estimates are that about half of all new [smart mobile] devices that ship will have 802.11ac support. Within the next couple years, a majority of users will shift in that direction and having an AC infrastructure will certainly make a difference.”

While many current consumer devices don't support 802.11 ac, current 802.11n hardware is not compatible with 802.11ac, requiring hardware upgrades, which can be costly. Meru Networks offers the AP122, an 802.11ac wall plate access point designed for any location flush to a wall. Meru says this wall plate works on standard Power over Ethernet (PoE), saving the hardware upgrades.

Until costs come down and consumer devices support the technology, 802.11ac likely won't be widespread for some time.

“802.11ac is on the way and will replace 802.11n as time progresses and the budgets allow replacement,” said Carl Schlack, product manager, Nomadix, a company that says its gateways can support 802.11ac access points.

Passive Optical Network

Another solution in its infancy is the passive optical network (PON), a telecommunications network that uses point-to-multipoint fiber to the premises in which unpowered optical splitters enable a single optical fiber to serve multiple purposes. This fiber technology has been used in residential settings across the United States for more than a decade.

PONs are high-performance, power-saving, environmentally friendly technology for enterprise data network environments. PONs also reduce the amount of fiber and central office equipment required with current point-to-point architectures.

PONs also allow for transmission of data over long distances, up to 12 miles versus 60 to 90 meters for copper wiring, and at higher bandwidths while converging voice, data and video services in a single fiber strand. The technology offers many benefits but don't expect to see widespread PONs anytime soon.

“PON is being implemented the most slowly, since it requires in many cases the removal of the CAT [Category] 3, 5, 6, 7 and 8 cables to achieve the space and carbon foot print savings,” Schlack said. Henderson described PON as still in “the breakout stage.”

“You should install this during new construction,” he said. “It's very cost prohibitive to cut walls and get the fiber optics over to where you want the devices.”

Vision Technologies recently installed a PON in New York City's new 65-story Marriott. In the original blueprints, Marriott called for a traditional copper-cabling infrastructure. For a network supporting 1,000 users, Vision said choosing PON over copper translates into a 48 percent savings in capital expenditures alone. The building owners decided to make the switch before construction.

In addition to the installation savings, Vision noted the PON freed up floor space on 40 floors for other uses and resulted in a projected 50 percent energy savings.

Once installed, Henderson noted PONs can last between 10 and 20 years, as opposed to the five-to-seven year lifespan of copper, providing hoteliers further savings.

Source: About.com Mobile Office Technology Author: Catherine Roseberry
Mobile office professionals need to know they can find good Internet access while traveling and staying in hotels.

I define good Internet access as economical, easy to use and reliable. There is no sense paying for Internet service in a hotel which will not be available due to restricted hours of access or does not allow you to connect without jumping through hoops.

Know Before You Go

Check with co-workers to learn about their experiences before you commit to paying for Internet access in a hotel or make a commitment to staying in a particular hotel. When comparing similarly priced hotels, the deciding factor just may be your Internet access options.

Know what kind of work you plan to do while staying in the hotel – will you only be sending and receiving emails? Will you be sending and receiving large files or using net conferencing programs.

What Do You Need for Access?

Before leaving for your trip, you should get answers to the following questions, either from a Hotel’s web site, information line or from co-workers. What type of access is available? How easy is it to obtain access? What steps do you need to take in order to get online and what information should you have in order to use the Internet. Do you need to reconfigure your laptop or mobile device? What tech support is available to answer questions and assist you? 

How Much Does it Cost?

How does the hotel charge for Internet access? Is it free, daily or hourly rates? Do you pay in advance or is the Internet access added to your bill. Should your company pay for internet access while staying in hotel – if used for business yes, if only used for personal reasons – no. Is using your own ISP counted as a phone call and what charges are involved – per call or for duration of the connection? Knowing these charges enables you to decide which method of access is most economical. 

Where are the Access Points?

What locations within the hotel provide Internet access? Are you restricted to Internet access from your room only or are there public areas which you can access the Internet. If the hotel does not provide Wi-Fi access, remember to pack an extension telephone cable or Ethernet cable. Most times the jacks are located close to the work area and that isn’t always the most comfortable location in the room.

Options if You Chose Not to Use the Hotel's ISP

  • Use an ISP which has roaming access and have an account which is specifically for work purposes.

  • See if the ISP you use at home provides roaming access. Check online for configuration details from the ISP for roaming access.

Many companies that provide broadband access also provide a set amount of free dial up access which can be used from any location that there is an access number for. There are normally additional charges for going over the maximum number of free hours. 

Source: BBC Technology News Author: Leo Kelion, Date: 24 December 2013
Infected victims are given a time limit to release their data before they lose 
                    it forever

A virulent form of ransomware has now infected about quarter of a million Windows computers, according to a report by security researchers.

Cryptolocker scrambles users' data and then demands a fee to unencrypt it alongside a countdown clock.

Dell Secureworks said that the US and UK had been worst affected.

It added that the cyber-criminals responsible were now targeting home internet users after initially focusing on professionals.

The firm has provided a list of net domains that it suspects have been used to spread the code, but warned that more are being generated every day.

Ransomware has existed since at least 1989, but this latest example is particularly problematic because of the way it makes files inaccessible.

"Instead of using a custom cryptographic implementation like many other malware families, Cryptolocker uses b third-party certified cryptography offered by Microsoft's CryptoAPI," said the report.

"By using a sound implementation and following best practices, the malware authors have created a robust program that is difficult to circumvent."


Ransom dilemma


The first versions of Crytpolocker appear to have been posted to the net on 5 September.

Early examples were spread via spam emails that asked the user to click on a Zip-archived extension identified as being a customer complaint about the recipient's organisation.

Later it was distributed via malware attached to emails claiming there had been a problem clearing a cheque. Clicking the associated link downloaded a Trojan horse called Gameover Zeus, which in turn installed Cryptolocker onto the victim's PC.

By mid-December, Dell Secureworks said between 200,000 to 250,000 computers had been infected.

It said of those affected, "a minimum of 0.4%, and very likely many times that" had agreed to the ransom demand, which can currently only be paid in the virtual currencies Bitcoin and MoneyPak.


Top 10 infected countries Number of infected systems identified using test "sinkhole" servers between 9-16 December Percentage of total

US

1,540

23.8%

Great Britain

1,228

19.0%

Australia

836

12.9%

France

372

5.8%

Brazil

309

4.8%

Italy

204

3.2%

Turkey

182

2.8%

Spain

145

2.2%

China

138

2.1%

Canada

135

2.1%

SOURCE: DELL SECUREWORKS

"Anecdotal reports from victims who elected to pay the ransom indicate that the Cryptolocker threat actors honour payments by instructing infected computers to decrypt files and uninstall the malware," added the security firm.

"According to reports from victims, payments may be accepted within minutes or may take several weeks to process."

However, Trend Micro, another security firm, has warned that giving into the blackmail request only encouraged the further spread of Cryptolocker and other copycat schemes, and said that there was no guarantee of getting the data back.


Safety steps


Dell suggested PCs be blocked from communicating with the hundreds of domains names it had flagged as being linked to the spread of Cryptolocker, and it suggested five further steps the public and businesses could take to protect themselves:

  • Install software that blocks executable fields and compressed archives before they reach email inboxes
  • Check permissions assigned to shared network drives to limit the number of people who can make modifications
  • Regularly back-up data to offline storage such as Blu-ray and DVD-Rom disks. Network-attached drives and cloud storage does not count as Cryptolocker can access and encrypt files stored there
  • Set each PC's software management tools to prevent Cryptolocker and other suspect programs from accessing certain critical directories
  • Set the computer's Group Policy Objects to restrict registry keys - databases containing settings - used by Cryptolocker so that the malware is unable to begin the encryption process
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