Remote management has become a tool that empowers self-storage owners/operators to transact business from anywhere, anytime and any place. The Internet has altered the very concept of geography and definition of workspace as we know it. Many business owners are "married" to their facility and are limited from taking time away. The ability to manage remotely through the Internet allows owners to boat in Mexico or visit Spain while still having their finger on the pulse of their businesses.
Remote management--a feature formerly accessible to only big businesses--is now available to any self-storage owner because of the Internet. Not only does it offer the ability to be connected anywhere, it is considerably more affordable than setting up a private network. A quality remote-management system enables a self-storage operator to remain independent. Incorporating a quality system is as simple as having access to the Internet. Ideally, a computer should have Internet Explorer 5.5 or greater with Windows 98 or a more current version.
The key to the success of a remote- management system is its design and security/encryption. Software should provide owners/operators the flexibility to customize business rules and tailor an application to fit their facility's business needs. The system's features should be integrated directly into the software so there is no delay.
True remote management systems are a one-stop solution and should include the following features:
- Online management and control access, which enable owners/operators to remotely monitor the daily activities of customers and employees.
- Online rates and inventory, which allow customers to review rates and availability and owners to make rates and inventory instantaneously.
- Online customer reservations and payments, which allow customers to complete their transaction online instead of in line.
- Online-chat features, which offer customers the convenience of communicating with the site manager through instant messaging. In turn, the manager can respond to the customer via his e-mail account.
- Credit-card processing.
- Accounting reports.
- Gate-control software compatible with major gate-control systems.
- Interactive, real-time accessibility, 24/7/365.
- Tech support, available 24/7/365.
Remote-management systems vary greatly in cost. Systems can start from as low as $45 per month with free support and upgrades to $5,000 with additional fees. Keep in mind the system you select should save you the costs and hassle associated with the purchase of multiple licenses from a multitude of users.
Until the Internet, the domain of remote management was limited to big companies with their own private networks. Large operators had the luxury of building their own wide area network (WAN) or a virtual private network (VPN) to remotely manage their facilities. Infrastructure like this costs thousands of dollars to install and maintain. With the advent of the Internet, these costs have reduced dramatically. This levels the playing field, favoring a smaller and smarter independent operator. If used to its potential, this system is a significant vehicle for expansion. Owners can now own facilities in multiple states, becoming remote owners and leading their business to limitless possibilities.
Jennifer Flachman is media and public- relations director for U-Haul International Inc. of Phoenix. For more information, call 800.528.0361; visit www.uhaul.com.
Contact: Srini Vasan
Product(s): WebSelfStorage Software
Software Type: Management software, online accounting/management software, online-payment technology, online-reservations technology
Price Range: $34.95-$44.95 per month
Designed specifically for storage? Yes
Current version on market since: February 2001
New version to be released: Ongoing
Demo: Available at website.
Tech support: Support is included and available 24/7/365 via online chat or over the phone.
WebSelfStorage is an integrated online site-management and reservation system that links to the world's largest moving and storage reservation system. Customers can reserve units 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Benefits include: no initital or setup fees, free updgrades and multiple-user licenses, no maintenance contracts, remote facility management, access reports, free integrated credit-card processing module (at a 1.55 percent discount rate), free integrated tenant-insurance module (allows 20 percent on SafeStor Legal Armor), free online payments and receipts, hassle-free electronic banking, world-class encryption security, 24-hour support, easy setup and integration with major gate systems, multiple-location capability, instant messaging with customer and other storage operators in North America, and a faster move-in process for Premier customers.