View Full Version : Technical Question

12-11-2008, 08:11 PM
Someone I know does wifi installations for hotels. He wants to add the ability to print for people sitting in hotel rooms. Sometimes the hotel guests need to print very confidential documents. He would like the customer to be able to sign in in their room and print to a lobby printer. Most hotels have a few pc's in a lobby area. The customer would go to one of those, enter a print job code and print a document. Document security is the biggest issue.

By nature, wifi in hotels etc is an open network. You don't want to require the hotel client to install software for security when they are using their laptop in your hotel.

I can think of web based solutions, but I can't really think of any way a user could do this without downloading some encryption software to their pc. Maybe a couple page secure site sitting on a server in the hotel?

Does anybody have a solution for this?

12-11-2008, 09:52 PM
I think there would need to be some encryption. Maybe there could be a separate network at the hotel, even one that's wired. The guest would need to print off one or two of the secure computers so they'd need to use some kind of media to transfer the files. The hotel could supply a simple usb drive for that purpose. Maybe the hotel would have several media options depending on what the guest preferred.

If cost isn't a big deal the usb drive (or other media) could be given to the guest and they could print directly off of that so there wouldn't be a need to put the documents on the secure computers and no need to have to clean up the files after. If not the usb drives could easily be erased.

12-11-2008, 10:15 PM
I don't know if that approach would work if someone worked for NASA or some Gov't agency and needed to print. Should be able to afford a $5 memory stick anyway. Actually, if something was that confidential, I'd want a printer that wasn't on the network to plug in to with my PC.

This guy thinks that if he can have a product developed he has a marketable product. Personally I don't think so. I told him I would research it a bit anyway.

Maybe Joel will have some ideas when he wakes up. He's a networking guy. ;)

12-11-2008, 10:50 PM
I hadn't realized your friend was looking to develop a product. I thought he just needed a solution.

You might be right about there not really being a product here. I know if it were me and I had documents that were that secret that I needed to print, I'd be printing them on a printer I carried with me. They make some small enough now to easily fit in your luggage. Odds are if that's secret no one is going to be printing it in a hotel room. They'd have printed it before they left or just keep it encrypted on their laptop or some portable media.

12-11-2008, 11:43 PM
Well, I really wouldn't use the word friend. In any case, I said I'd do some investigation. Acquaintance of a friend sort of thing although I worked with him years ago.

It is kind of an interesting issue as to how you could solve this. The only thing that I can think of is SSL on a local server and you go to the pc in the lobby and enter a code to print your document. Some proprietary encryption scheme won't work unless it gets mass approval from experts IMO.

12-12-2008, 12:47 AM
It just seems like in order to do this the person printing would need to be somewhat savvy. If that's the case they might already have the equipment they need without requiring the hotel to do anything.

Would this product be something the hotel would buy or the person would buy? If it's the person I think something along the lines of a usb drive over a secure network would be the solution. If it's the hotel they'd probably just need to set up a secure network and let certain guests use that network when necessary.

12-12-2008, 01:58 AM
I have a few idea's on this, however i don't think that any of them are going to be a product he will be able to sell to the hotel. Also a few points on why this may not be possible.

The primary issue i see is that the security and technology required to make this secure enough may be beyond the scope of what a hotel is willing to pay for a limited number of people that would need this level of confidentiality. However it would be possible through some custom developed software i believe. some options may include.

Web based intranet that could upload a file to the hotel network encrypted, and through maybe a electronic signing interface, require a coded password be entered at the terminal to print the document straight away. While this would work, it would leave the question as to the file being taken onto another network being used by others. So it would be acceptable for some but not secure enough for all.

Another option could be a coded system where when you select print, the document is queued to print, but will only print when a random code is entered at the print terminal, This random code would be provided when you slect the print option.

Either option would require some custom software and could be coded to a level that would be somewhat secure, but only to the degree that it is enabled in the programming.

In reality if the documents are that secure a better option would be to have a fixed connection for the hotel visitor to connect directly to and print on demand, right next to the printer. The primary issue here though is that the printer driver needs to be installed on the computer, and depending on the connection type configured accordingly. Which is actually an issue for any of the options available. If connecting across a network then some knowledge of doing so is needed, and while there is some people that would cope with this easily there is also a large group that would struggle, because they cannot just push print.

Even connection a printer via USB has some problems the driver still needs to be installed, Which can be easy and can not be easy depending on the computer. I have spent anywhere from 3 minutes up to an hour trying to get printers working.

A portable printer that could be offered to hotels to be loaned or rented to clients, i would recommend would be the HP CB470 (or local equivalent). It runs on battery or power and while it is an inkjet printer it is probably the best performance and most flexible of the portable printers, it weighs less then a laptop.

In reality i do not think that there is going to be one foolproof, easy for everyone and few issue solution that could allow for anyone no matter how confidential the document to print them and not have some exposure to the document going astray. The biggest issue is that not everyone is a technical person, and often they need some if not a lot of guidance even just to be able to print on a familiar printer.

12-12-2008, 11:30 AM
Your intranet idea is existing.

I'm really having a hard time seeing a product. It seems like the hotel would need to create a secure connection between a computer and a printer with no files left behind. Assuming the hotel has that at all the easiest solution is to provide an extra level of customer service for certain guests and allow them to use the secure network.

12-12-2008, 11:53 AM
Thanks Joel. Informative.

I can't see the product in this either. Even if it did work, I would think companies, gov't agencies etc., wouldn't approve it for their workers use. A printer in the lobby or a printer rental seems to make the most sense to me. Also the ability to print non-secure documents from your room would be nice and pick them up at the front desk. It's been a long time since I stayed in a business hotel. I have no idea what services they offer today.

12-12-2008, 11:55 AM
I generally agree that there is not really a commercial product here, it would be in my opinion cost prohibitive, to do to a security level that i imagine most of the clients would accept.

Even doing it on a large scale i think would be a little cost prohibitive, in the support that would generally be required to maintain the operation.

12-12-2008, 12:35 PM
Out of curiosity, do business hotels offer non secure printing from your room to say a printer in the back of the front desk? That would be a nice feature compared to the days when I was traveling.

12-12-2008, 12:55 PM
unsure i have not stayed in a hotel in some time, dont get much travelling in just yet

12-12-2008, 02:09 PM
Something tells me it depends on the hotel and the type of guests the hotel gets. The higher end on the hotel side the more likely they offer something for guests to print. I can even see some hotels offering a printer in the rooms. On the other hand Motel 6 might be able to give you directions to the nearest Kinkos.

I think it's really dependent on the hotel and how much your stay in that hotel costs.

12-17-2008, 03:54 PM
Interesting and true story.

I was staying in Washington DC for work, just off of Georgetown. I had to print some documents so I copied them onto a flash drive and went to the hotel lobby computer. I hooked up my drive and printed my stuff. I also accessed my web mail and printed a couple of things.

Since I am righteously paranoid I made sure I wiped the cache/passwords/etc on the computer. I looked in the "My Documents" folder to make sure I hadn't left anything behind and I saw a file named something like this:

"John Smith's Congressional Testimony, mm/dd/yy".

No way in I was going to go near that - so I told the manager there was confidential information on the computer and they needed to wipe it.

Next day - I'm back at the same computer printing. I was cleaning up afterwards and looked in the computer's recycle bin - guess what? The same document was in there...

12-17-2008, 07:13 PM
Why is that not surprising? I'm impressed by you're being able to control yourself. I think curiosity would have gotten the better of me. I would have had to open that file.

12-17-2008, 08:05 PM
I would think that if you were in a national chain hotel, an email to the hotel copied to cnn might get some attention.

Sounds like this is an issue though.

12-17-2008, 09:46 PM
oh, an additional thing. Lets say its an Excel document. Buried in the Excel document is the name of the computer it was created on. For example, if I named my PC Bill Benson when loading windows, that name is; or rather the computer name is in that excel file.

I bet that 90% of the people installing windows use their real name. Lets just say that the excel file contains you ss number. It's now on a public computer with your name and ss number. When you install windows, it's a really good idea to use a fictitious name.

12-17-2008, 11:45 PM
I tend to just use my first name and a description of the pc, like Joel Laptop or Joel Desktop. However also in Australia rather then a SS number we have a Tax File Number, which really we only use in association with employment. While you don't want anyone else to have it you also don't need to keep it as handy to remember it either.

12-18-2008, 12:29 AM
I usually give my computers different names. My last one used my real name since I wasn't the one to set it up, but otherwise I come up with some name to use for each computer. It gives them a little more personality.

12-18-2008, 12:58 AM
I think the best ones at giving computers personality are system admin's, the range of names that some of them come up with for the array of servers that that manage, can really be quite bizarre sometimes. Often times i have seen some that go with a range of names that fit in with a movie or a tv show. Quite funny sometimes as well.

12-18-2008, 01:24 PM
Yeah I've worked at a few places with fun names for each network drive. You could really get a good feel for the personality of the IT department by the names. With me it's only the one name for each computer and since a new laptop sometimes means the old one is no longer working the names will sometimes transfer from one to the other. Anything other than seeing my own name in all the folders works for me.