Booking Engines

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Greetings everyone.  We just discovered Innspiring this morning while searching "booking engine reviews".  I do hope that this forum can give us some direction.  Our 20-room inn (small independent boutique hotel actually) has used RoomMaster 2000 since 2001.  Local server PC.  No online reservations - just toll-free call ins.  Well, times have changed.   We got called from several marketing companies and have used Buuteeq for several months to "test the waters" of website updating and an online booking engine (albeit manually managed for now).  My bottom line question - with the numerous engines now out there, how is a property to figure out the best ROI/effectiveness of these?  We're reviewing RezKey, RezNexus, and InnKeepers Advantage.  We have 11 years worth a guest data embedded in RoomMaster.  We cannot lose this data in the switchover.  Seems like figuring out which way to go is as bad as buying a new car or going into an ice cream parlor featuring 150 flavors.  

We are planning to move our website to 1and1 shortly since we are not convinced that reservation increases are impacted by supposed razzle-dazzle back-end "digital marketing" as much as they are by well-crafted images/content, a mobile app, and ease of online booking.

What's important to us?  Ease of use, being able to see names of incoming guests on a grid, applying discount rates at will, marketing capability for follow-up/special promos/newsletter etc.  Certainly cost is important too, but several hundred dollars per MONTH is a tough pill to swallow and any outcomes offered to "prove" the "digital marketing" benefits are still spurious at best given the freebie analytics out there.

So - who uses what booking engine, why, and what are the booking engines perceived to be less robust or desirable nowadays?

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Are there any larger inns here who require a "City Ledger" or "House Accounts" component ?  I've just questioned Res Key and Nexus on this.  Waiting for responses.  We direct-bill a large business customer by compiled invoice every 6-8 weeks and the report is divided into "departmental" charges.

We also have a Gift Shop with various consignment accounts.

So...a really good, versatile, and easy accounting component is important to us - not just a booking engine.

 

OnTheShore's picture
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Our ResKey set-up is pretty simple, as the goal was just to get it up and running. It's not yet "fully integrated" into our site, and there is a lot more that could be done with it, but at least it works!

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Back to BOOKING ENGINES here - if you use RESKEY, could you post a link to your site so that I can see how it's set up with messages, etc?  I'd like to see a few of them so that I can dive into this and not have to reinvent the wheel...

Thanks all!

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Look at this one

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Taking a break from the webpage and shifting back to booking engine where this ALL started.....trying to work through this ResKey setup.....

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05/04/2013

Checking out Striking.  Never heard of them.  But...alas...I've lived in a cave I suppose since my time's been occupied with keeping the books, taking out the trash, landscaping and chasing weeds, shopping for supplies, keeping my kids under control at home.....

Anyway....I'll get this figured out soon enough.  THEN it's put on the photgrapher hat, the marketing hat, the booking engine hat.....

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This is the demo page. It's a little confusing but you can get an idea of ONE possible layout for the page. You can really do anything you want with it.

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You have come a long way Maddie heart

Madeleine's picture
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Yeah, now I have half a clue...

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STRIKING is the name of the theme.  They are in the top 4 of themes sold...so that says something. I have used the #2 Theme AVADA and I like it. I had some problems with a shopping cart, but did get it solved. They too are good with support...not as good Kaptalin..but helpful. And AVADA is already responsive ready to go. Here is a site I am finishing up right now.

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Moving at the speed of light here.....just talked to 1&1....Business WordPress pkg gives SSL cert and Dreamweaver, but these seem non-essential given the PCI compliant booking engines I am considering and WordPress  - not HTML - as the platform.  Limited package seems best buy at $5.99/month.

Time to move the website into the 21st century I guess....retool and learn WordPress basics...Sales guy suggested I go to You Tube for some great tutuorials.

I'll keep both sites up while "under construction" with WordPress.

Keep the feedback coming! Thanks.

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Forget Dreamweaver..that is html. And you don't need ssl as you aren't a shopping cart.  If you want to see some excellent videos go here.

Woo does a great job. with the videos and some of their themes are good...but I am not keen on their support. Have used several themes and this past week..they still could not help me. It took me 2 days of research where they had me running in every different direction before I figured it out on my own.

Get yourself FIREBUG and don't look back. This will help you  to understand styles and you can change right then and there on the fly and see how it will affect the look of the site and it isn't permanent until you actually put the new codes into your custom styles..

Watch before you try anything...you'll be better prepared.

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EmptyNest wrote:

Watch before you try anything...you'll be better prepared.

So true! I did not watch, just jumped in and I made some really dopey mistakes at first.

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hearthstoneinn wrote:

Moving at the speed of light here.....just talked to 1&1....Business WordPress pkg gives SSL cert and Dreamweaver, but these seem non-essential given the PCI compliant booking engines I am considering and WordPress  - not HTML - as the platform.  Limited package seems best buy at $5.99/month.

Time to move the website into the 21st century I guess....retool and learn WordPress basics...Sales guy suggested I go to You Tube for some great tutuorials.

I'll keep both sites up while "under construction" with WordPress.

Keep the feedback coming! Thanks.

You will never look back!

Good on ya.

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OK....I reviewed the recommendations leading to WordPress and I am reviewing the commercial template purchase options.  Can we get some direction regarding WordPress templates for our business?  I'm starting at square one here....NO experience with WordPress at all.  I think you're right....I think it's time to move out of HTML...

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I turned Madeliene to the STRIKING THEME. The support guys are terrific!!!! I have found none to compare with them. They are in beta for their RESPONSIVE theme right now and if you buy the STRIKING theme now ( $55) you get the free STRIKING R. No one else does that!  

I just finished doing this site in STRIKING R beta and for what they needed everything works just fine.(See here)  And Maddie's site is in the Fixed STRIKING current layout, but still can be viewed via smartphone well.

You can read more here and see the kind of support they give http://kaptinlin.com/support/

You can see it in action here:

Yes it is time to move away from html. If they can put wordpress on your site for you...then stick with 1  1 but do your own site. BE IN CONTROL not at the mercy of a company.

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It is very overwhelming to look for themes. There are thousands of them in the commercial category. If you know a site you really like you can check to see if that site used a theme and the name of it.

 

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I used the Striking theme. I think it would work for you as well. There are several different slide show options to choose from (but I don't know what a 'Burns slideshow' is so not sure if the ones loaded in this theme are what you want).

You can change the color scheme to whatever you want. Choose your layout (one column, two column, three column). You can have a portfolio of photos. A blog. Basically, whatever you want.

 

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05/04/2013

Working on front page.  Reduced navigation bar to one row (great input - THANKS!).  Playing with fonts and condensing copy.  I will likely stay with 1&1.   Platform is HTML/Java/CSS.  Limited editing overall, but that's OK for me at this time. I'm working on getting a Burns style slide show embedded in the main photo area.

I'm OK with it so far, as long as the end result is effective for best SEO. Can't beat it for the price given the thousand$$ others often pay.

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Just got off the phone with 1&1 and they JUST released an Advanced Text Editor! (yes....the tech support was...er...uh...quite understandable being US.)  Ergo, I plan to do some page revisions now, reducing verbage and making an easier read.

As for the header photo, the parameters are indeed locked.  I'm OK with the current limitation in size and off-centered design, but it won't be forever.  I do have the capability to insert a slide show via code manipulation, either internal or external.  In this regard, I'm looking to do a Burns dissolve with some attractive, hi-def photos. They'll come soon enough - after we get out of this finicky Spring (is THAT what they call this??).

Backend SEO is under development - different team.

With regards to the bedspreads comment, in fact our guests love the colors/patterns regardless of any Hotel Impossible assessments.  BUT, in fact we are now planning to change the look in the next year to duvet design.  It's FINDING the right look that coordinates with the interior which is the challenge.  So....not to get off the subject here....but we invite any "direction" in this regard from you all.  20 rooms will be a pricey project, but it's about the time to do this change also. Maybe time to initiate a "Duvet Makeover" thread?

Madeleine's picture
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hearthstoneinn wrote:

 Maybe time to initiate a "Duvet Makeover" thread?

Yes, definitely move that topic off to another thread!

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advance text editor isn't going to do you any good when you are still stuck with their template. Ask them to install wordpress and then YOU TAKE IT OVER!  Don't depend on their support to do it for you. This is YOUR BUSINESS..this is not the look you should be going for.

You want to create your site to look as much as possible the Bu tee q one. Why do you have double row of navigation? Doesn't look good at all.

 

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I have just gotten a message back from 1&1dotcom.   It's interesting that all my email responses contain broken English.....   OK....Let's not go there......

Anyway, it appears that we are at the mercy of the boilerplate template collection with little control over HTML coding - surely not font size or photo size (beyond predetermined parameters). You'd think I could go into the font editor and see a + or -.  Not with this one.....

So....we are not desirous of spending $2-3 K for a typical web makeover.   Are there any suggestions as to what host/SEO companies might provide us a bit more of an accommodation for website control?

Madeleine's picture
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Definitely buy and upload a GOOD template, one you have 'total' control to make the changes you want. Firstly, read the info on 1+1 to understand what you can do and how to do it. You do not have to be at the 'mercy' of a bad template or clueless help desk people.

Yes, you thought you were close to done. BUT, you'll be much happier with a design you like and SEO that brings you business.

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I thought you were using them just as a hosting company. Nothing prevents you from installing WORDPRESS, buying your own theme and customizing it to the way you want. Kathleen hosts with them and she uses wordpress. So they do have that capability. That's the route I would take. If you know enough to fill in their templates, then wordpress should be just fine for you. That way you only pay for hosting and not for their website.

You should always be in control of your own site. That's the route I would take. Never be at the mercy of a company template unless you don't have a clue what you are doing as many people don't,but then their sites look like it too.

I can't believe you would pay them to SEO your site when they know nothing about your business...that is up to you.

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I do appreciate the website observations thus far.  The mirror site was just launched yesterday, so SEO has not yet been done by 1&1.  I've "instructed" them as to what my Metas ought to look like.  Trust me - I'll watch it closely. They take two weeks to run the pages through their SEO paces and set up the back end.

Photos are a work in progress and are planned to be re-shot shortly. I agree on the comments.

Front page photo - I'd like it bigger, but this particular template is set-in-cement.  I'll look around at the others.  I DID pick this template because the colors worked for us.

Text size.  This one is a problem.  I agree that what LOOKS like 7-8 point type is pretty dismal.  Plus the page IS wordy.  I'll look to split this up or shorten the sections.

This mirror site is not yet "launched" as the primary, so my strategy is to get it right before we set redirects.

Keep 'em comin.

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hearthstoneinn wrote:

I do appreciate the website observations thus far.  The mirror site was just launched yesterday, so SEO has not yet been done by 1&1.  I've "instructed" them as to what my Metas ought to look like.  Trust me - I'll watch it closely. They take two weeks to run the pages through their SEO paces and set up the back end.

Photos are a work in progress and are planned to be re-shot shortly. I agree on the comments.

Front page photo - I'd like it bigger, but this particular template is set-in-cement.  I'll look around at the others.  I DID pick this template because the colors worked for us.

Text size.  This one is a problem.  I agree that what LOOKS like 7-8 point type is pretty dismal.  Plus the page IS wordy.  I'll look to split this up or shorten the sections.

This mirror site is not yet "launched" as the primary, so my strategy is to get it right before we set redirects.

Keep 'em comin.

You are doin' it right Hearthstone! You are bold for showing it here, so don't dismay at the comments, NO WEBSITE is perfect for every person or inn. It is always a work in progress! laugh

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Redirects - OMG what a bear to get them right and to get them to work! If you've hired this out, then good for you. It took me days to get the redirects to work right.

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In re templates - either the sizing or the colors should be changeable no matter what you pick. If the header photo can't be resized then the text body has to come in to fit the photo.

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BTW, I am excessively wordy and everyone calls me on it. Bulleted lists really let you get your ideas and content out there but make it so much easier for the guest to read.

Or, something like 'Bike along the scenic, paved such and such rail trail. Find more info on our Bike Trail page.' (link to the bike trail page. Photo of bikes. And don't forget to use the alt="" tag for the photos. More SEO. But, you see how that gets your keywords out there and linked? 'bike, rail trail, bike trail' all in the same narrow space. And an internal link to another of your pages.

'College interviews coming up? We are close to these OH colleges (name the closest ones and then link to your college page). Parents - reserve your rooms for graduation now!' Photo of happy college students with parents.

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No decisions yet here on our selecting a booking engine.   (BTW, Empty Nest - we are an independent country inn, built in 2001, so if you lived around these parts prior to that (you said London, OH), that might explain why you don't recall us (?).

We we aren't an actual "B&B" - we're sort of a hybrid inn.  For the first 10 years our website operated on a first-gen HTML platform that I created in 2000 (yeah....I remember that "new millennium" stuff like it was last year....time sure flies....).  Goo gle was embrionic.  SEO was neanderthal compared to today.  So, back in Nov of 2012 when we were cold called by BUT TEEQ with a no-obligation offer, then month-to-month after that, I went for it...just to see.  

We have used their manually-managed booking engine for the last 3 months.  It's certainly nice seeing reservations come in that way - but alas we DO miss the phone calls  (Except for those 2am ones.....).

I am in process of shooting new photos (as soon a spring REALLY arrives and landscaping needs are finished off). 

Anyway, our BUT TEEQ-hosted site is here

My newly-created 1&1 mirror sight is here   (A WHOLE lot cheaper than BUT TEEQ)

It's the new site that will get the booking engine, then the site will become the primary with the other one a redirect.

Any comments on our new website will be appreciated!  I have no designer to argue with.....it's me.

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Comments on the site (because you asked and because I just launched my own brand new site so I'm in the thick of it right now) -

  • Your header photo is too narrow. There's a big gap on the right side of the page where the photo should stretch to. (Either resize the old photo to fit or get a different photo. Looks like the photo needs to be at least 900+ px wide.)
  • Text is too tiny. Way too tiny. Especially as there is so much of it. Maybe break some of it up with bulleted lists.
  • If you can do a little photoshopping on your rooms pix, brighten them up a bit. If you can go take new pix, even better! The tub pix is good, the others should look like that.
  • Home page is too crowded with stuff. Think Twitter and cut down on the text but link to your internal pages with more detail. Instead of the whole story on the home page, do a teaser that leads the reader to the other pages you already have set up.
  • Your Home page title is 'Home'. That is a HUGE waste of SEO space. Of course it's the home page. The title should be something searchable like 'Cedarville, Ohio Lodging, Suites, Inn - (put in some other couple of words here about location, make sense, don't just keyword-stuff) This is where you have to fill in the info:

    <meta property="og : title" content="HOME - The Hearthstone Inn"/>

  • Redo every single page title to make use of the keyword SEO. The college page should have the names of the colleges, as an example. See above.
  • The page description is also empty. Another waste of SEO space.Fill in between the "" with good content, about 160 characters' worth.

    <meta property="og : description" content=""/>

I know this is a lot to do but it is your livelihood so it is worth the attention.

I don't know if you used a template thru Wordpress or what but there are plug-ins on WP for SEO. They tell you on every page whether or not you've hit the SEO target keywords. Another option is Google's Webmaster Tools.

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Hey Heartstone! 

A few comments.

I just clicked your new page and saw your header doesn't fit your page? That is a big #1.

Also bold AND italicize? One of the other.

Your home page has alot of text, and it is very small. I don't wear glasses and it is too small for me.

I love all your sites of interest and things to see and do, well done!

You will get flack from Anthony on Hotel Impossible for the floral bedspreads, I wouldn't want a huge photo of the rooms if you use those, if you ever consider duvets, it would be an inncredible improvement!

 

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Thanks for the input thus far, everyone.  Keep it coming.  I am at this point going to hold onto my 1and1 web host plan as my transitional  BU TQ website has been virtually "cloned" in content - and almost in appearance.  We are a small country inn, designed and built in 2001. We have that B&B "feel" coupled with standard hotel amenities.

I really want to get this booking engine decision finalized this week.  We need the capability to integrate our GIFT SHOP into the mix.  This is both for online purchases as well as for off-the-street sales.  Right now we have a "Desk Folio" capability in our system which enables us to track various account/vendor sales (consignments).  So....the booking engine we choose needs to have a decent property management component to account for the Gift Shop and our "Direct Billing" business accounts.  Marketing capability is a nice add-on, bit this can be added using a Constant Contact type of service.  I do prefer seamless marketing integration however.  Keep the thoughts coming.  If possible, you can send any specific recommendations...or caveats....to me off-forum.  Forums have a bit of a limitation balancing free-speech with propriety..... Smiling

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Hello and welcome! I would call John at res key. If you have something you really need in your booking software he will probably just build it. He is the best in the industry for listening to his customers and building what they need. He also has 7 day a week customer service. He is a really nice guy to talk to and will listen to what you have to say.

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The personal touch in customer service counts for so much!!!!

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Welcome. You are from my neck of the woods. I used to live in London OH.  I don't remember your place. If you are only 5 min. from Clifton Mill...oh I do miss that place!

So it must be fairly new. You are hotel right ...not a B & B?  But Res Key would still work for you I am sure. You are spending way more than you need to with current bu tq .

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Actually, ResKey will import old reservation data not just guest data, again as long as you can format the data appropriately, see http://v2.reservationkey.com/p/faq/?s=32

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I would also look at weebly for your web site - it is virtually identicle to 1and1 but is a google product and you know how they like it when you play with their toys - costs us about $80 a year for the pro service

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gillumhouse's picture
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1and1 is my hosting company - it costs me about $60 per year.

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gillumhouse wrote:

1and1 is my hosting company - it costs me about $60 per year.

The subject is online reservation booking engines, not web hosting companies.  

 

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It was in response to Cambs weebly being similar to 1and1 that I mentioned that I use it and the cost.

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Well I will add to the sidetrack. This from a programmer support geek I know well who was commenting to someone about the slowness of their site loading.

"Blue ....host, 1+.....1, Go.....Da....ddy, all these types of hosts are cheap for a reason - they bundle a huge amount of sites on an ip and server - my guess is that you have a 1/15000th share of the server resources. On one occasion after a user was complaining about the speed of their site, we went and analyzed how many sites were on the server at their host - 17459! Unbelievable!"

gillumhouse's picture
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Guilty as charged. If I have to settle for a little slow to save a lot of bucks - I will. I do appreciate (and I do mean truly) the explanation of why it is sometimes slow. No complaints from now on. Got the quote on the roof - gazebo went into some day and the roof is going to be a scramble.

Heads up to newbies - THIS is why we say have a cushion and then double it. I took a roofer at his word when I went for a loan - and now his lowball matches my back account but not the quote from someone who is actually answering my phone calls.

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Take a look at RES KEY. I thing they will suit all your needs. I don't know who is hosting your site now, but make sure you have support for moving it to the new hosting company. If you don't know what you are doing..you will need help.

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06/24/2008

Moved from Web ervations to ResKey and it is the BEST thing going, IMHO.  As Harbor mentioned they can add your data as long as it is placed in the right format (see link on their post). 

You will be VERY happy having online reservations!!!

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RezKey will transfer your old data if YOU can get into the format they need -- see http://v2.reservationkey.com/p/faq/?s=33

Yes, guest names are shown on the availability grid (the backend that you see).

Madeleine's picture
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Thanks for that info. It was losing the guest data that was making me hesitate.

Madeleine's picture
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I also do not think any of them transfer your data out in order for you to go elsewhere. Nor do I think the new company will  transfer your data in if you have it laid out in a database. It's one reason I haven't switched after 8 years.

It is hard to figure out as I haven't seen a chart showing what each company provides and what they charge for it.

Given what you have as your 'must haves' I think RezKey offers all of that. (Not sure about the incoming guest names in a grid, someone else will have to chime in on that.)

When you finally decide, let us know how you came to the conclusion. It will help others who are in the same bind. (Me!)

If you're a PAII member, see if someone has done a study and has the info available on the PAII site. It would be an interesting project for a state association to hand off to a summer intern, too!

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RezKey is the greatest with the best ROI. I do not think any of them integrate old data. From what I have heard, if you can convert your data to a spreadsheet, that is the way to do it to retain the info. Good luck and Welcome.

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