At Interstate Hotels and Resorts, a global hotel-management company, one key goal is to use IT resources such as business intelligence (BI) tools to help nearly 440 individual hotel owners succeed in their markets. A move to the cloud has helped the company become more efficient and gain a bigger competitive advantage.\n\n\nThe migration to the cloud began in 2012, when Interstate decided to shift away from an IT infrastructure that was aging and too costly to maintain. Internal servers were nearing the end of their life spans and were out of capacity, says CIO Jim Lamb. Interstate also wanted to improve business continuity and disaster recovery capabilities for its far-flung hotel portfolio.\n\n\nInterstate operates in a hybrid cloud, where the presentation layer is provisioned in a multi-tenant, public cloud, while the business logic and data-access layers are provisioned in a private cloud in order to keep company data secure, Lamb says.\n\n\nThe cloud makes it easier for IT to deal with so many hotels. "Working with a cloud-based model means deploying once and all hotels have access to it immediately," he says. Interstate also saw a huge productivity benefit during the annual hotel budgeting process, Lamb says. "Associates were able to create, submit and review budgets with owners quickly and without issues," he says.\n\nDelivering the Dashboard\n\nAnother big benefit of the cloud is that it enables the company to easily provide access to its proprietary IHR1 dashboard, a suite of BI tools that can be used on iPads and iPhones.\n\n\n"Hotel owners can view a high-level summary of key performance indicators, providing the ability to monitor results and hotel performance in real time," Lamb says. The market data--including financial figures, results at comparable hotels and areas for improvement--is transformed into daily reports that keep every department focused on the goal of "maximizing owner profitability," Lamb says.\n\n\nInterstate's cloud experience is typical for companies replacing traditional IT with cloud-based systems, especially in the services industry, says IDC analyst Benjamin McGrath.\n\n\n"Many companies are finding benefits of the cloud through improved employee productivity or faster access to IT functionality," McGrath says. "And as large-scale cloud implementation expands from early adopters into the majority of organizations, a hybrid-cloud model is becoming more attractive as a way to realize all the benefits of a public cloud while retaining the security of a private cloud."\n\n\nBob Violino is a freelance writer based in New York.