Everyone loves package deals because they provide extraordinary value and a feeling people are getting a better deal than everyone else. A storage facility can purchase a package that includes an entry-access keypad, exit keypad, management software, real-time integration, lightning protection and toll-free technical support, all at a very reasonable cost. I'm talking about cutting-edge, durable products with no restrictions on the number of tenants or access codes. Package deals are nothing new, but the secret is knowing how to find bargains.
Travel agents have always offered special-combination hotel and airfare deals. Lenders offer attractive credit-card merchant rates to their construction-loan clients. Construction companies offer package deals when you use their preferred architect because they know he will use cost-saving designs compatible with their work. There are hundreds of other examples of packages in various industries. This business strategy makes sense, since administrative and support fees are consolidated with compatible products. The vendor offers lower prices and everyone comes out a winner. Now, let's see how this same cost-saving strategy applies to self-storage.
In every area of self-storage, there is fierce competition for the savvy shopper, especially in the field of security and management products. Management software is available from dozens of companies, including innovative leaders, aging brand names and struggling newcomers. Their products range from modified accounting programs to enhanced contact managers to specialized industry software. Loyal readers of this column are already familiar with the newest advances in management and security products. It's time to talk value.
Not all brands of security and management software are compatible. Thus, the costs of integrating these products will have a signif cant effect on purchase price and maintenance costs. There are three types of integration offered in self-storage:
About 15 years ago, professionals in the self-storage industry developed a generally agreed upon set of standards that defined how management software and security products should share information. The standards were officially labeled "universal interface." Unfortunately, it was a voluntary system, and it did not take long for dozens of variations to appear.
Eventually, universal interface became little more than a marketing term. Over time, other standards have tried to take its place, all with varying degrees of success. Contrary to its name, universal integration does not mean you can mix any access system with any management software. Instead, you have to ask each company with which systems it integrates and what special products you must purchase. Typically, the hardware and software required adds cost to your purchase and may restrict you to specific versions of each company's products.
There are also a few hidden costs. For example, major updates to your management software may require an expensive update to your access security. Furthermore, the support agreement with the security company may not cover support for your management software, even when the issue relates to your access codes. If you are determined not to replace existing management software or access products, universal interface may be your best choice.
With a preferred integration, software companies each choose a preferred security vendor. Their recommendation may be an unbiased desire to satisfy your security needs, or it may serve as payback to a company that recently helped close a sale. There is no way for you to determine the motives of your sales agent.
The costs associated with a preferred integration can be lower than that of a universal interface, but not all preferred deals are good for the consumer. A preferred-integration package deal may be a savvy way to bundle outdated products or a desperate attempt for financial survival. Finally, even if two companies have a good relationship in the present, there is no guarantee they will maintain a cooperative relationship for years to come.
During the last 10 years, software companies have been developing their own lines of security products. Likewise, security companies may have introduced their own brand of management software. As a result, administrative costs were reduced and the combined retail costs of both product lines were reduced. As an added benefit, the consumer has only one number to call for support on either product line. The most powerful features of turnkey integration are pay-at-the-gate rent collection, individual door alarms, remote management, and real-time viewing of surveillance cameras. In addition, the cost savings of turnkey integration can be significant.
Over the next few years, more companies will be moving to turnkey integration. In turn, package deals will become increasingly popular. Saving money is only a matter of knowing what to look for and who to ask.
Writer's note: An upcoming issue of TechTalk will suggest products and gadgets that improve manager efficiency and tenant convenience. Please e-mail me if you use an item you would like included in that column.
Doug Carner is the vice president of marketing for QuikStor Security & Software, a California-based company specializing in access control, management software, video surveillance and call-center products for the self-storage industry. For more information, call 800.321.1987; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; visit www.quikstor.com.