Self-Storage SoftwareFacility management becomes automated and auspicious

Teri L. Lanza Comments
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Self-Storage SoftwareFacility management becomes automated and auspicious

By Teri L. Lanza

Next year is 2000. A new millennium begins. Didn't you think, when you were a kid, that by the time the year 2000 rolled around, we'd be flying around in hover crafts, robots would address household chores and meals would come in pill form? Could you have imagined that we would still be just be getting accustomed with automatic credit-card payments and e-mail?

If you think it's a given that all self-storage owners and operators these days are easing the tasks and responsibilities of running their business by using software programs designed for this purpose, guess again. If you're one of those owners/operators, and you've yet to automate, don't think it can be avoided for too much longer. And why hesitate? The programs available for self-storage today not only make your business more efficient and secure, they also paint a more accurate picture of a facility's marketing efforts and fiscal success, not to mention aiding in the generation of more revenue. Whether you're the owner of a single 100-unit facility or a chain of much larger ones, the appropriate software package can mean more time, more tenants, more money on your hands.

The Automate Debate

Perhaps you have a small facility, or perhaps you've just always handled your records manually. Maybe you've been running a DOS program and are contemplating a switch to one that runs in a Windows environment. Whatever the situation, there are facilities out there running outdated software or none at all. For some facilities, the only mouse hanging around is one for the exterminator. Change isn't always easy. Hardware and software cost money. For some, the question of whether to automate may seem too expensive or complicated to address. But consider the benefits.

"One of the things I see when someone has resistance to using the new technology but they're calling me, is that they've been running a one-person show. They're the keeper of all the wisdom and all the knowledge: the unit numbers, the rents and the status of each unit kept in hand-scribbled notes and memorization. But the ability to allow a lesser-paid person come in and yet still maintain cash control of your business is a very comforting feeling," says Doug Carner, marketing director for Quikstor, a Sherman Oaks, Calif.-based producer of self-storage management software. "You can go on vacation for two weeks and know that your customers are still receiving the same high level of service, even in your absence, because of some automated features."

What might those automated features include? Instant tracking of receivables and occupancy analysis; the automatic generation of professional bills, late notices and other correspondence; full inventory control; sales and rent tax calculations; tenant notes and daily reminders; detailed reporting; credit-card processing; marketing analysis; tracking of ancillary income; interface with security and gate access; interface with detailed accounting programs such as Quickbooks, etc. The list goes on and on, and each year new enhancements are added.

"Self-storage is a highly competitive, reasonably well-mechanized industry, and vendors are throwing features into their Windows products just as quick as they can get them in. The year the tenant wants it, it'll be there," says Dave Reddick, president of Denver-based Sentinel Systems, a producer of both property-management software and security electronics. Glenn Hunter, owner and president for Berkeley, Calif.-based Domico, which produces property management and accounting software for self-storage, concurs: "This industry has been terribly slow to deal with change of any kind but, fortunately, what's happening now, with the large amount of outside investment companies involved, is that the industry itself is being modernized in a very dramatic fashion.

"There's no question that there are benefits in automating," continues Hunter. "Reliability and accuracy are hard-fought battles that take place as software is developed for this industry, but assuming those two things are intact, the professionalism, efficiency and even protection from legal complications makes the notion of automating worth considering. Certainly there's an investment to be made, but there's no question that any accurate and reliable software package will return the investment the owner makes in a short period of time."

"I think the biggest benefit is accuracy and knowing the status of your facility, how much cash is outstanding, being able to control the cash coming in. That, to me, is a big issue," says Ron Plamondon, president of Integrity Software Systems in Traverse City, Mich. "If you're on a manual system, you never really have a handle on how much is outstanding in receivables--you can't really manage it. And, you can't manage your managers either, making sure things are done the way you want them to be done. The big benefit to automating is getting control of your facility."

"Why you should automate is because it's more accurate," says Tom Garden, president and co-owner of Automation Technologies, the Marcellus, N.Y.-based producer of The Storage Management System for Windows. Your customers may not tell you when you make a mistake, but the software will catch it. The software bills religiously and takes the payments that are made. It can give you information on how your business is doing. It can tell you which units are providing the most money per square foot, which ones are bringing in most of your revenue, what you should be building, where your customers are coming from. The second part is that all of your correspondence will be very professional-looking, and a professional appearance is important if you expect payments and fees to be collected. Late charges are a lot less personal when generated by a computer rather than an owner. That alone can probably pay for your system."

Open the Windows

One of the most popular trends in new software for self-storage is the conversion to primarily Windows-based packages. "Users finally have a choice of Windows-based programs for managing their sites because DOS vendors finally had to offer Windows versions," says Marcus Hecker, marketing director for Wake Forest, N.C.-based SMD Technologies Inc., which produces a comprehensive mini-storage-management package called SiteLink. Quite a few vendors do offer DOS versions of their software, but few advertise them or choose to keep them on the forefront of the companies product offerings. As president of Space Control Systems in Walnut Creek, Calif., Ramona Taylor, explains, her company will be releasing it's Windows product, Space ControlII, this summer and phasing out sales of the older DOS package. "Although many of our existing customers may continue to use their DOS programs, we'll only sell the Windows package to new customers," she says.

Will Windows be the end of the road for self-storage software? Not according to Domico's Hunter. "Right now what's happening is that the industry is being flooded with Windows products. For me, that's a heavily quoted area, because what I'm seeing is that the products not only run on that operating system, but they also have the same look and feel of Windows 95 and 98. I'm betting that's an error on the part of my competition. I'll make a future prognostication that within three years, Windows-look products will appear as momentary bumps on the road to tomorrow's software." The alternative? "I believe the most exciting, interesting, innovative and simple design work that's taking place today in the field of software is on the Internet. I think that's where you'll see the future of software design, at least as far as the look and feel and user complexity."

One Is Silver, the Other Gold

Many of these programs will do what they've always done, and many will handle similar--if not identical--functions. But there is no question that the packages are expanding, including new enhancements. Though the possibilities are seemingly endless, some of the most basic functions and features of the software include, but are not restricted to the following:

  • The generation of notices, bills, statements and user-defined letters. (Some programs will even do this automatically on set dates and times, with no initiation by an employee.)
  • Generation of reports, including aging, customer lists, monthly sales, transactions and return on marketing investment.
  • Inventory control and occupancy analysis.
  • Move in and move out.
  • Pro-rate in or out.
  • Payment and fee collection.
  • Systematic checking of deadlines and status of over-due tenants.
  • Customized toolbars.
  • Interface with gate access and security.
  • Interface with detailed accounting programs.
  • Online help.

As Automation Technologies' Garden points out, the vendors are steering away from charging for individual modules and are including more features in the basic package, which is driving software prices down and increasing competition amongst the various companies.

"What has changed in the industry is that most vendors have come out with a Windows product, most with more tools built into them--more drill-down capabilities and graphical representation and interface," says Garden. "The things you're going to see now are above and beyond the normal functions that software has done in the past: more marketing and forecasting tools, and more information flow for helping you make business decisions, information such as, 'Am I getting money out of my Yellow Pages marketing?' Those are the things that will separate the robust products from the more minimal ones."

According to Taylor, service-oriented features are also on the rise. "One thing I've seen happening in the industry in general is that as the industry matures and as there's more competition out there, owners are leaning toward offering more and more service, and certainly the software can help them accomplish that. We can tie in the service people want to offer their customers and automate it." For example, some of Taylor's Australian customers indicated that they wanted their software to notify them when a repeat customer entered the office inquiring about a space, storing information about their last business transaction with them. Some self-storage operators are utilizing software to automate a unified reservation center where customers can call in to reserve units. The pertinent information then gets forwarded to the appropriate site.

Personalization of the package seems to be another growing feature. "The biggest thing that we're heading toward is more customized ability. For example, we've had a lot of people wanting to send out customized letters and late notices, keeping their contracts on the system, etc. So that's the direction we've taken," says Michael Kelley, owner and president of Dilloware Inc. Dilloware's product, The Billing Clerk, deals strictly with billing and accounts receivable, but other products have adopted a similar approach. "If I had to summarize it, it's not just an increase in customer service to our customers, but to their customers as well," says Eric Young, sales director for Quikstor. "If you think about the features, they were always geared toward making the owner's or the manager's life easier, but now the trend is things that truly make the tenant's life easier." Features such as pay-at-the-gate or automatic credit-card billing create convenience for everyone.

According to Young, pay-at-the-gate is becoming much more prolific and allows delinquent tenants to bring their accounts current with a credit card right at the gate. "It's this kind of integration where the industry is headed. It's becoming seamless between the software and the security side. The two are no longer separate entities." Other vendors, such as HI-TECH Smart Systems in Kailua, Hawaii, prefer to promote features such as automatic credit-card billing. "One of the things that we offer now in the software is the ability to automatically charge a customer's credit-card account on a monthly basis," says HI-TECH President Mike Richards. "The customer signs up for this option. In the future I see this being expanded to debit cards, and I think more and more people will opt for this method of payment. I also think it will be possible, in a few years, for customers to go to a facility's Web site, enter a pin code and see a statement of their account. That will make a big difference in collecting rent."

More, Better, Faster

Sound good so far? Well, there's more, particularly in the arena of communication. Today's self-storage software will not only produce invoices, letters and reports, but it will transmit them electronically as well. Richards explains, "Another major feature we've integrated into our program, RentPlus, is the use of the Internet and e-mail; for example, the user can look up a report and, just as simply as sending it to the printer, they can click a button and send it as an e-mail message to an owner or home office or supervisor. You can also go directly to the Web from within the program, so if a supplier has a Web site, you can recall them to the screen and go right to their site. In the future what you might be able to do is go into our purchase-order program, click on a vendor and complete a purchase through their Web site, the whole transaction being recorded in the accounting system at the same time.

"Another thing that's becoming popular is sending out bills and statements electronically," Richards continues. Quikstor has a similar feature. "If someone has our e-mail and fax options, which is what's new in the Quikstor 2000, the program can e-mail or fax late letters, bills, even reports. If you want to send a promotional letter to your customers, you don't pay a penny in postage, you don't tie up your manager's time and you don't use a printer," says Young.

We are part of a visual age, and an interactive one as well. Today's software falls right in line with this attraction. Mike Skrentney, president for MSTC, points out that his company's Site Manager program is a graphical display of an owner's facility, indicating via color-coding the status of each unit, whether it be rented, available, past-due, etc. And plenty of other vendors are offering similar graphical features, some with the ability to click on a unit on the screen and bring up the tenant's accounting information.

"I think what's going to happen is much more visual interface," says Carner. "And I mean more than splashy menus and cute icons. For example, one of the new things we're doing now is allowing an owner to see his security camera in the lower corner of his screen while he's working, right there on the monitor. You also have the ability to recall digital images on command, so if a prospect wants to see what a unit looks like, you can show them a digital photograph right on your computer screen and not even have to leave the office." Digital cameras are also being used to take photographs of tenants when they move in or of a unit's contents before auction. Pictures are then electronically stored in the tenant's record. Other electronic options allow for the tie in of a facility's intercom system into the software. If a tenant comes to the intercom while a manager is away from the office, that is documented in the manager's screen notes, and he can get back to them.

Overall, the software is getting smarter. "One of the things we're working on is adding additional expertise to the software,"says Richards. "Say, for example, the phone rings and it's a sales call. We're working on a built-in tool that will script the operator through the sales process, making sure they ask the right questions and mentioning everything the owner would want to stress. We're also working at automating a sales follow-up process." Along those same lines, SMD's Communications Manager, part of the SiteLink package, operates a modem like a conventional, residential answering machine. "When site managers are unable to answer the phone, customers can leave a message. SiteLink allows the manager to access the message at any time and monitors both answered and unanswered call volume at your site, all with a single phone line," says Hecker.

And, the software is helping people get smarter. "One of the big enhancements for MSTC is the offering the computer-based training (CBT) program," highlights Skrentney. The CBT program is offered on computerized disc or over the Internet and will actually train people how to use our products. It's interactive, and it will also test your level of knowledge, track it, and even send a letter documenting your expertise to your corporate users."

Finally, modern self-storage software is, in some cases, being tailored for very specific aspects of the industry. O'Neil Product Development, based in Irvine, Calif., offers a product called RSWin (Records Storage for Windows). A new product, RS-SQL (Records Storage, The Sequel) was released early this month. Both products are designed specifically for self-storage companies that wish to provide business records-storage and management. The RS program tracks hard-copy information and magnetic media, pricing and invoicing. "One of our key directions with this product is the integration with other products so that we can combine what we do best with what others do best," says Jim Teske, sales manager. "We want to focus on creating the best records, information-management, tracking and billing product. Outside of that, our direction is to link our product with other industry-leading products.

In Your Interface

"All of these products are going to charge rent, all of them are going to allow you to do first-of-the-month or anniversary billing, all of them are going to generate notices for the tenants, whether they be late notices or lien notices or monthly billing statements. Some of them will keep inventory, some don't. Many of them do automatic credit-card processing," says Reddick. The core of a standard self-storage package will encompass many of these basic functions. But those that don't handle everything, such as advanced accounting and ledger functions, will often interface with other programs that do. For example, Hunter says, "We don't have a payables module--we didn't want to reinvent the wheel. Instead we interface with all currently available accounting packages."

Similarly, products such as Domico and many others, will interface with security products sold to the self-storage market. "We felt it was better for us to focus on our area of expertise," says Hunter. "We're more comfortable 'talking to' various security products than competing with them."

For example, Automation Technologies' product integrates with systems by PTI Access Controls, Doug West & Associates and Demco Electronics. Integrity's product, the Mini Storage Personal Accountant, is also compatible with security systems by Doug West and PTI. "We've been successful in interfacing with those two, and they're similar interfaces. The data file we provide for one is not much different than the other. I think as long as the software vendor is in touch with the gate-system vendor and they coordinate between them, integration is not a problem," says Plamondon. Companies such as Sentinel and MSTC (Mystic Systems Technology Corp.) offer both products, which allows for obvious integration of the two systems.

But what if you could select whichever software-management package you liked and integrate it with any security system of your choosing? Enter the concept of universal interface, which seems, at this point, to be more fancy than fact. Universal interface involves the standardization of the software protocol in such a way that the programs can communicate with one another, regardless of the producer. Although a committee has been formed to address this possibility, little progress has been seen to date.

"We'd love to see universal interface because it would simplify things so much," Quikstor's Carner says. "But the one thing that is universal about universal integration is that it isn't. Everybody has their own standard of what they feel a universal interface should look like, which is really a shame, because it's a win-win situation for everyone. You could pick the software you want and tie it to the security system you want. Hopefully that will come to fruition, because everyone benefits."

"Someone has to develop a standard that people will comply to," says Garden. "A standard needs to be thrust upon the vendors who don't seem to understand that open systems are positive and will enhance their sales. It's the gate vendors that need to do this." And some vendors are stepping up to the plate. There are those in the industry voicing the belief that universal interface is a dead issue, being hindered by those companies that sell both kinds of systems and stand to gain by selling a full package to their client base. However, such a suggestion is contradicted by actions of companies like Sentinel, which has contributed to the conversation a document outlining precise protocol and data supporting the concept. The bottom line seems to be that such an effort consumes time--a precious commodity to any business owner--and requires agreement between multiple participants.

2000: A Software Odyssey

The future of self-storage software, as in any industry as we approach the year 2000, is full of possibility. Are these programs Y2K compliant? At this late in the game, they had better be. Most already are. Those that aren't, are working steadfastly to comply. But there are brighter considerations on the horizon.

"The two biggest things on the horizon are the computer-based training and Web-centric technology," says Skrentney. "The world is going over to the Internet and businesses are doing commerce on the Internet, and that is what's coming." More specifically, companies such as Domico are thinking on a grand scale. According to Hunter, "We are coming out with a new product that we believe will revolutionize the industry. The product will come out this year--hopefully sooner than later--and it has a look and feel that is completely different from anything companies in our industry have seen so far. It is designed with an underlying technology that makes use of the very latest software, called SQL-based (sequential query language). It's going to be a product that, over time, will be available simply by logging onto a Web site. You will no longer need software at the sites at all. At first, it will appear as a very simple--and we hope elegantly beautiful--application that will run just like others, on a PC at the site. But built into it will be technology that will be available to move into the future."

Integrity Software's Plamondon anticipates cashless transactions just a few years down the road, wherein facilities will be able to transmit directly to banks and handle debit cards. Carner adds to this premonition the ability for management software to utilize it's modem as an automated call-in service where a tenant can get information of their account after hours. By calling and entering a unit and pin or gate-code number, a tenant could check on a payment, determine a balance, or even process a credit-card payment right over the phone. Kelley, from Dilloware envisions a paperless office. "The industry is moving towards full automation. In the next year or two? No. Five years from now? Yes. Not just in this industry, but everywhere, there is a move towards doing everything electronically," Kelley says.

Booting Up: Making the Purchase

With so many options out there, and many functions of the individual programs overlapping, an owner may wonder: How do I choose? You simply cannot shop on price. There are too many things to consider: What functions does this software handle? What features does it have? What kind of track record does the company have? What kind of support does it offer and how often does it provide upgrades? Is there online help? Is it easy to use? Questions such as these should be considered before a purchase is made. "You've got to be informed. You need to do your homework before you buy," says Reddick. "And when you get up to speed on what's available, then you need to think about what kinds of training needs you have."

"All the software can do similar things and can do it well, so the real question is, what are the specific things you want it to do for you?," says Skrentney. "How automated do you want to be, how flexible? If you change the way you do something in your business, will you also be able to change the way the software does it? Easily and without ramifications?" Kelley expands by saying, "Buyers need to list what features they want in their software. Once they've made this 'wish list,' then they've got to match that list with what's available on the market and what kind of price tag it carries. If someone wants a paperless office, it's available, but they may not be able to afford the software that will do that. They've got to match their wish list with their pocketbook."

Nevertheless, a buyer should not be making a purchase based on price, warns Garden. "I always say price should be your last criteria when you're looking at software systems; however, if you're a mom-and-pop operation and you only have 200 units, you could almost run your business by hand before you spend $5,000 or $6,000." Software varies widely on price, depending upon its features. "As a general rule of thumb, the more expensive a package is, the more features it's going to have. You just have to decide how many features you can afford. If you have 100 to 200 units, it's going to be pretty tough to justify spending $1,000 for a billing program. The economics are just not there," says Kelley.

"One of the most important things--and this often gets lost in those big lists of 'Does it do this and does it do that?'--is to get a feel for the overall package, how easy it is to use and understand. It think it's important that a system be simple enough that you can look at the program and understand immediately what it's telling you," says Space Control's Taylor. Hecker agrees. "After you use a program for a few minutes, you will have an idea of how easy it is to use for day-to-day activities. If you have to hunt around or remember a sequence of screens or commands to complete basic functions, the program is probably not as user friendly as it could be."

The key, according to Plamondon, is to keep it simple. "I've seen a lot of people get overwhelmed by some software that may have been more than they needed. You need to consider who's going to be running the facility. Are the managers people who are computer literate? Do they have multiple facilities? If they do, and they are sophisticated in their operations, then they may need a different package from someone who has 100 units." The important thing is to ask specific questions, says Hecker. "Self-storage owners are savvy and know the specific requirements of their business. Although no program will accommodate the exact way you manage your operation, make sure a program can manage all of your key functions."

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, look very carefully at your vendor. "Choose someone who has enough experience and enough customers that you feel sure of the longevity of the organization," points out Richards. "One of the things I've learned over the years is that relationships between customers and vendors tend to be ongoing. You're not just purchasing software, you're buying into a relationship." Adds Domico's Hunter, "The most important criteria is very simple: You should examine the track record of the company you will be purchasing from. A really good product not backed by an equally good company is like a knight running around without any armor."

Teske of O'Neil sums it up: "The primary things to consider are: How does this investment help me generate more revenue? How does it help me lower my operating expenses? And, how does this solution minimize my risk? By risk I mean both the risk that what I buy will do everything I want for the customer today as well as be able to provide the same solutions and competitive advantages five years from now."

Conclusion

Ignoring the benefits of and advances in automation will do little for self-storage operators in today's fast-paced, rapidly expanding industry. "Users will no longer benefit from programs remaining stagnant. The industry is changing. Consolidation, increased development and evolving legal parameters will require businesses to rethink their customer-service approach," says Hecker. "Operators may find they need to offer added value to customers. Make sure your program can grow as you offer customers different storage solutions (i.e., free truck rentals, dynamic discounts, etc.)." This improved service translates into greater financial success for the owner. "The software makes you money and it helps you run a good business. You'll make more money if you use it than if you don't," says Reddick.

"This is an industry where technology is very well received, much more so than others I have worked in," remarks Carner. "And it's not because of the seductive quality of the technology, it's because of the practical application. It's hard to come up with another industry where so many people are affected by a single purchase. Anything that gives a manager more time or gives another service to a customer is a very powerful feature to provide and can make a site that costs more still the more desirable place to be."

And this is what any owner wants, in this millennium or any other.

SOFTWARE COMPANIES

Acorn Products/DCAL Computer Systems
P.O. Box 3936
4100 Adams Rd., Suite C101
Bartlesville, OK 74006
Phone: (918) 333-2996
(800) 328-3225
Fax: (918) 335-0240
Web: www.rent.net/resources/dcal

Acorn Products/DCAL Computer Systems, a producer of software products designed for self-storage, has been in business for 19 years and serves the United States, Canada, the Bahamas and Australia. Acorn Products for self-storage consist of UNItroller Management Software, UNIkey Access Control Software System, Vertical Lift Gate, Central Office Systems and all ancillary items to provide complete control of a self-storage facility. UNItroller Management Software and the UNIkey Access Control System both operate on one computer simultaneously. The UNItroller system communicates to the UNIkey system who to lock out for non-payment, and will automatically unlock them when their account is brought current.

Automation Technologies
P.O. Box 47
Marcellus, NY 13108
Phone: (800) 817-7706
Fax: (518) 634-3091
Web: www.sftware.com
E-mail: sales@sftware.com

Automation Technologies has been serving the self-storage industry since 1991. The company's flagship product, The Storage Management System for Windows, has been shipping since 1997. The open architec-ture of the package allows exports to Microsoft Office™, various gate systems and Quickbooks™. Automation Technologies prides itself in providing a stable, intuitive product backed up with excellent support. The Windows product sells for $1,295 with no add-on or hidden charges. Annual maintenance, which includes unlimited 800number support as well as periodic software updates, costs $149. All products are Y2K compliant.

Dilloware Inc.
2825 FM 2722
New Braunfels, TX 78132
Phone: (800) 880-0887
Fax: (830) 899-2124
Web: www.dilloware.com

Dilloware Inc. produces billing and accounts receivable software affordable to all self-storage owners. The Billing Clerk automatically bills and tracks monthly rents, produces monthly statements, aging, past-due notices, late charges, print receipts, etc. Owners have the option of printing a statement at any time, not just at billing time. Customer history is maintained for as long as needed for an unlimited number of customers, and there is a large notepad for information on each (comments, security codes, credit-card information, etc.). The Billing Clerk sells for $229, whether a facility has 100 or 10,000 units. The program is intentionally designed for easy installation and use. The Dilloware programming staff has been producing easy-to-use, affordable billing software for more than 18 years.

DOMICO
2608 9th St.
Berkeley, CA 94710
Phone: (800) 688-6181
Fax: (510) 644-3156
Web: www.domico.net

DOMICO has supplied the self-storage industry with management and accounting software since 1984. This year, the company will release its third major product line, DOMICO 2000. Making use of an advisory group consisting of managers and owners from leading self-storage companies, DOMICO has created a product that is dramatically easier to use then the ordinary Windows look-alike design. DOMICO 2000 incorporates all of the knowledge of functionality gained from years of excellent client relations, combined with the very latest in Internet-based design technology. According to one company advisor, the software design is "so simple that a customer can move themselves in." For more information or a free demonstration CD, contact Stephanie Quick, client relations manager.

HI-TECH Smart Systems
150 Hamakua Drive, Suite 173
Kailua, HI 96734
Phone: (808) 533-3627
(800) 551-8324
Fax: (808) 261-4447
Web: www.hitechsoftware.com

HI-TECH has been producing software for the self-storage industry since 1986. RentPlus is the company's self-storage software for Microsoft Windows 95. The program was designed from the ground up to provide all of the features needed in self-storage today and in the future. Highlights include an on-screen interactive map of a facility, daily, weekly and monthly rentals, multiple plans, automatic charges and notices, complete built-in inventory management, customizable letters and much more. Customer and other photos may be attached and viewed with a customer's record. RentPlus includes free technical support and updates, as well as a risk-free, money-back guarantee.

Integrity Software Systems Inc.
3211 Continental Drive
Traverse City, MI 49686
Phone: (800) THEY-KNOW
(616) 941-2322
Fax: (616) 941-9544
Web: www.integritysoftware.com

Integrity Software Systems' Mini Storage Personal Accountant has been designed to offer self-storage facilities an accounting system that is easy to use and to provide strong financial controls. Such controls prevent locking out customers who have paid and helps prevent manager theft. Chris Ray, a practicing CPA, and Ron Plamondon a professional system developer, are well qualified to design, develop and support installation.

MicroTask Inc.
135 Cambridge St.
Burlington, MA 02038
Phone: (781) 229-6631
(888) 232-3111
Fax: (781) 229-9088
Web: www.microtaskinc.com

Microtask, founded in 1996, has more than 20 years experience in the self-storage market and an engineering team with more than 50 years of collective experience in the development of Windows- and Web-based applications. In 1998, the company introduced Stor-Rite'98™, which is designed to enable facility managers to increase the accuracy of their operations, reduce operational costs, make more efficient use of their time and focus on more revenue-generating activities. Stor-Rite can be shaped to fit the way owners do business--customize late fees, lien fees, charges, credits, recurring charges, coupons and more. The program can also process credit cards automatically, interface to the most popular gate-security systems and be shared by multiple computers in a network.

MSTC
7430 East Butherus Drive, Suite A
Scottsdale, AZ 85260
Phone: (800) BUY-MSTC
Web: www.mysticsystems.com

Mystic Systems Technology Corp. is now in its 15th year of providing management software to the self-storage industry. MSTC was one of the first companies to create an automated property-management software system; conceptualize billing-sensitive keypads; develop a PC-based, access-control system; and offer 24-hour, seven-day-a-week customer service. The company recently released its Account Manager property-management software system, a 32-bit descendant of MSTC's flagship, DOS-based, Mini Manager program. In addition, MSTC is the first company in the industry to introduce a computer-based training program that enables customers to learn the software through an interactive CD-ROM. MSTC continues to develop other new products, several of which will be introduced in 1999.

O'Neil Product Development Inc.
8 Mason
Irvine, CA 92618
Phone: (949) 458-1234
Web: www.oneilsoft.com

Founded in 1981, O'Neil Software is a provider of records-storage software, serving more than 600 facilities in 34 countries. Through its corporate headquarters in Irvine, Calif., and international offices in London and Brisbane, O'Neil has hundreds of people increase their opportunities in the commercial-archive industry through superior software design, comprehensive barcode-tracking hardware and portable receipt printing. O'Neil University, opened in 1995, offers education in areas such as software operation as well as profitable business strategies.

QuikStor
14011 Ventura Blvd., Suite 206 East
Sherman Oaks, CA 91423
Phone: (800) 321-1987
(818) 990-5575
Web: www.quikstor.com

QuikStor is a complete software and access-control solution. Three years ago, the company sold the industry's first self-storage software written for Windows 95, and all QuikStor products have been year 2000 compliant since 1996 or earlier. QuikStor pioneered features such as automatically printing notices and posting charges overnight, automatic rent collection by credit card, the QuickBooks accounting bridge, multi-user/network data sharing and integrated digital photography. QuikStor is continuing this innovation with features such as automatically faxed and e-mailed bills, receipts, late letters and home office reports, and the ability to view a site's security cameras through management software or via the Internet. Wireless alarms provide easy installation and security that can be rented to tenants for an added profit center.

Sentinel Systems Corp.
1050 South Wadsworth Blvd., Suite A
Lakewood, CO 80226
Phone: (800) 456-9955
(303) 936-9955
Fax: (303) 936-1230
Web: www.SentinelSystems.com

Sentinel Systems has been a leader in providing security electronics and property management software to the self-storage industry for more than 23 years. What began as a way to eliminate break-ins for a group of self-storage facilities has grown into one of the largest security and software suppliers in the industry. The firm now serves more than 13,000 systems worldwide, with a tenant-user population in the millions. "Our mission is to provide superior products and outstanding customer service through innovations in technology, people, systems and marketing," says Dave Reddick, president.

SMD Technologies Inc.
152 North White St.
Wake Forest, NC 27587
Phone: (919) 562-6711
Fax: (919) 562-0269
Web: www.smdsoftware.com
E-mail: info@smdtech.com

SMD Technologies has been developing Windows-based programming since the early days of the Windows operating system. The company's experience has led to SiteLink 98, a software tool for managing all areas of self-storage operations. Features of SiteLink 98 include download capabilities for home offices, controls for importing data into QuickBooks, customizable Microsoft Word-based letters, notices, and more. Industry-first functions of the program include the Task Manager, which tracks deadlines and past-due events, and the Communications Manager, which monitors phone traffic and employee time and attendance. SMD Technologies intends to soon include features such as networking capabilities, enhanced communication functions and more.

Space Control Systems Inc.
2815 Mitchell Drive, Suite 205
Walnut Creek, CA 94598-1622
Phone: (800) 455-9055
(925) 943-6222
Fax: (925) 943-6370
Web: www.spacecontrol.com
E-mail: info@spacecontrol.com

Since Space Control's inception in 1984, the company has kept sights on providing a software-management package that would address the unique requirements of the self-storage industry. When research indicated that absentee owners needed on-site control, Space Control filled that need by auditing every variance from standard procedure. From the smallest single facility with 85 spaces to the largest facility with more than 5,000 spaces, to the largest single company, with more than 1,400 locations, Space Control has met the demand. Today, the same philosophy toward meeting user needs with the best possible solution is being applied to a new Windows package that begins shipping this summer.

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