The MSI Property Management System is a popular bit of software in the hotel industry.

This is the program that keeps track of all the rooms, credit cards, reservations, and so forth in many hotels. It seems to be designed primarily to make money from support calls (as it often puts you in situations where you must call support simply to use the system).

Operating System

MSDOS version 5 or higher (works under a Windows 95 DOS box with only a few minor problems).

Hardware Support


This application only works when you custom tailor a PC to its specific requirement. Your modem better be on the right COM port, your network card better be one of the 3 supported cards (and be the correct IRQ), ad infinitum. Supports serial dot matrix printers, and parallel postscript printers (as long as you do not install the Windows drivers for them, then they will stop working, and crash the system upon use).

System Architecture


The MSI server program runs on one computer (you cannot run them both on the same computer), and up to six other computers can run as clients. The server computer can also interface with most Lucent PBXs and most TESA card key encoders (through a 6 port serial card that better be in the right slot). The system uses its own network protocol (as far as I can tell), that seems to perform rather badly considering the tiny amount of data it has to shuffle around.

The system has built in modem sharing, but it seems to be strangely implemented. Performing a modem related action on one terminal may cause it to dial out on another terminal seemingly at random. If two terminals attempt to use the same modem at once, then the whole system locks up, and must be rebooted (first server, then the clients one at a time). Many system functions seem to be random like this, when you invoke a backup, you never have any idea which hard drive it is going to decide to back the system up to.



This whole system suffers horribly from little minor annoyances like text fields that you can apparently edit, until you hit the key to apply, when it will let you know in some way or another that "you can't edit that on this screen". The whole thing seems poorly though out, with most of its "safeguards" hindering, rather then helping. I could go on for days about that, but one example should do. You attempt to check in a guest (who is with a major company that stays there all the time), and they request a smoking room. So you go to check them into a smoking room, and the computer says "room type not available for group". So you have to actually cancel the entire reservation, doing it over for a smoking room, and then adding them to the group for their company afterwards (then the computer makes no complaints). So something that should take 5 seconds, takes 5 minutes, all while you have some middle management suit asking you what the hell is taking so long.



The whole system seems to be designed to make MSI Systems money in the form of $200 per incident tech support calls. For example, anyone can invoke the backup function, but only MSI can restore a backup (by dialing up to the server). There are several places in the shutdown, and end of day sequence that can make the entire system unusable. For example, if you invoke function foo without invoking function bar first, then function jar will not be available (nor will it let you go back and invoke function bar). This leaves the entire system unusable (but a $200 call to MSI systems, combined with a secret command issued via modem, and you will be back in business).

TBBK's Verdict

Thumbs down on this one. I would recommend selecting a more modern software package (especially since hotel software for Linux is available from a few vendors). Our support bill for this package was over $7000 last year alone, making this one expensive bit of software.

This node specifically refers to version 9.00d rev 1 of the MSI Property Management System (which was the current version as of Jan 2002).

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