As a regular road warrior I can’t stress enough the importance of having really solid bandwidth and decent access when you’re traveling. It may seem like a broken record, but for those of us who actually work on the road and consider hotels, coffee shops, remote work sites and friends’ houses an extension of our own office, try in this day and age of living without it.
First, you have to get past the idea that Internet access should be free. It isn’t. So get over it. And, like most things that cost real money, the better the grade of service you get may not always be at the highest price. Much of what I’ve learned about solid, dependable and reliable comes from two things. Trial and error and the willingness to spend money to be well connected.
Let me first blow through some myths that may help others save their hard earned money:
1. All hotels with the same brand name will deliver the same experience consistently
FALSE—I’ve stayed in Marriotts, Courtyard By Marriotts, Spring Hill Suites, J.W. Marriotts and even with the same provider delivering the so called “same” experience, after the sign-on screen it remains a guessing game as to what the experience will be like once you hit the Net. I’ve stayed at Hilton’s family of properties, even two owned side by side by the same management company and no two experiences have been the same.
2. The more expensive the chain the better the connectivity will be.
FALSE-I’ve stayed in some places like Accor’s Sofitel a hotel I love and used both their own wired and the T-Mobile Wireless network in the property. T-Mobile blows away the wired network. On the other hand in the same chain’s Pullman Bercy property in Paris, the connectivity is always better wired. Now let’s step it up to Fairmont in San Jose. In the original and older building the connectivity is never as good as the newer, all fiber tower. Why? The way the network was installed. The older network is similar to DSL, while the new fiber network literally moves things faster than any network around. Difference in download speeds can be as much as 20 megs a second. In San Francisco both the new St. Regis and Intercontinental properties have done it right, dropping in 20-50 megs of available bandwidth. However, get in the wrong end of the hall and use the hotel’s Wi-Fi network and your upload speeds will suffer. Instead pack a travel router of your own (know how to change your IP address to avoid conflicts) and make your own wireless cloud with blazing speeds and your own PUBLIC IP address that lets you use VoIP via Skype or any SIP provider (I use three including OnSip, CallCentric and a private Truphone test account) as well as Vidtel’s video with either Counterpath’s Eyebeam on the Mac or Bria on my Netbooks.
3. Hotels don’t snoop on you.
FALSE- I was staying in the Hilton Santa Clara within the past few years and my connectivity was detected as to doing something wrong. I was on a Mac running both Mail and Entourage, each checking various email accounts using a combination of Exchange, IMAP and POP. I was also running Skype (P2P), Gizmo (SIP), SightSpeed (SIP Video) and a few other IM sessions. Then there was Flash video and audio, plus some uploading to my blog. The monitoring software kicked in and I was kicked off. A call to the provider yielded some insight, but it was obvious the folks on the other end of the line couldn’t tell what caused it. I went up a few levels and found out that it was what is best called, a false flag alert. Still it slowed me down, and cut into the work time I had before an appointment. Note to hotel operators. If you want business travelers, you better know what business travel technology is today.
4. Consumer grade access points work just as good as the expensive ones from Cisco.
FALSE-All you have to do is go to the beach front hotel offering free Wi-Fi and compare what their D-Link or Netgear consumer grade router does when the hotel fills up vs. the high end Cisco gear found inside the Hotel 1000 in Seattle or the Intercontinental in Boston. Both properties were built the right way from the ground up and the experience proves it. In the case of hotel infrastructure, you get what you pay for too.
Here are some hotels I like that have given me a great business grade experience over the past few years:
Seattle WA- Hotel 1000-without a doubt the smartest of the smart hotels.
Scottsdale, AZ – Courtyard By Marriott– Mayo Clinic
San Jose, CA – Fairmont San Jose
San Francisco-Intercontinental on Howard Street, as well as he St. Regis and W San Francisco.
Philadelphia, PA – Sofitel Philadelphia, Courtyard By Marriott on 13th Street, Marriott Airport, Embassy Suites on the Parkway
New York City- Sofitel New York and The London
Miami FL – Hyatt’s Hotel Victor and the Renaissance Eden Roc
Las Vegas, NV – Palazzo Hotel and Casino, Renaissance Hotel, L’Hotel at Mandalay Bay
Chicago, IL – Fairmont Chicago
London England-The Andaz and the Metropolitan Hotels
London Heathrow Airport-The Yotel in terminal 4. For the money, best deal going.
Paris France Sofitel (now Pullman) Bercy
Valence France – Novatel Valence Sud
Montpellier France – Sofitel Montpellier (may now be Pullman brand)
Lyon France – Sofitel Place Bellecour
Beaune France – Novatel Beaune
Munich Germany – Hotel Kempenski Munich Airport and Sofitel Munich Bayerpost
Lisbon Portugal - Hotel Heritage Av Liberdade
Madrid Spain-The Urban Hotel
Barcelona Spain Hesperia Presidente and Hotel Prestige Paseo de Gracia
Valencia Spain-Palau de la Mar
Bottom line. Be selective. You wouldn’t accept poor water pressure from your shower and stay at the hotel again if you like to take long, hot, and rejuvenating showers when on the road. You wouldn’t accept slow delivery of lousy tasting food from room service, so why accept anything less with your hotel broadband.