By Kimberly Hundley
Got internet? If so, you also have the capacity for a centralized data/program locale linking to multiple sites. This fall, Hi-Tech Smart Systems Inc. released the Terminal Services Edition (TSE) of its popular RentPlus Windows self-storage software. TSE lets companies manage any site from any location with an Internet connection. Unlike similar types of server software, Hi-Tech’s new edition features the rich, full-featured interface of a Windows application. “It’s the best of both worlds,” says Michael Richards, president of the Kailua, Hawaii-based company.
Designed for companies with five or more facilities, TSE runs on a single server instead of individual site computers. Under the old scenario, copy of RentPlus Windows would have to be installed at each facility. TSE, however, uses the Internet to link software and data from the home server to remote sites as well as local area networks.
In addition to geographic convenience, TSE gives systems the power to quickly and easily access data. “The home office has all the information under its control,” explains Richards. “It can run reports and do backups and updates as needed without having to travel to the site and do the work there. It really is a big revolution in the whole way people operate.”
Improved speed across the board is a factor because data doesn’t have to be exchanged—all work is done on the server side. Technical issues such as backup and restoring will basically leave the managers’ hands and become the responsibility of home-office staff. “Managers, who aren’t necessarily technically oriented, can focus more on customer service and not whether the backup has been done or the update has been installed. And, of course, when you have that scenario over multiple facilities, it becomes more of an issue,” says Richards.
Midsize businesses in such sectors as apartment management and healthcare have been using technology similar to TSE for years. Its relevance to self-storage has grown along with the surge in multifacility owners. Increased reliability of the Internet has also driven demand. These days, it’s rare for DSL or cable to go down. In cases where it does occur, clients can dial up through their phone lines to reconnect to the TSE system.
TSE costs a bit more upfront than standard editions of RentPlus; the more sites that participate, the more economical it becomes. Long-term savings come through easy access to data, enhanced information management and labor reallocation.
Richards points to a current industry pressure: Central offices are expected to have better and more combined reports as well as information access in near to real time. Though it’s obviously possible to retrieve data from numerous sites on a daily basis without a central clearinghouse like TSE, mistakes are bound to occur. “You’ll never have 100 percent reliability that way, because there is no such thing as a perfect system,” Richards says. “With our Terminal Services Edition, you have no loss of speed or functionality, yet you have all the data where you want it, in one place.”
Operators needn’t be in the office to enjoy wide access to any facility’s data either. They can be anywhere an Internet-linked computer is available. “If you get a call from a manager having a problem with ‘customer Jones,’ you can be in your office or at home in the evening, and look at that customer’s data and fix the problem,” Richards says.
Subscribers find overall IT costs are reduced for remote sites because only “thin” client computers are needed vs. fully equipped PCs with bulky hard drives. If a company needs to add new sites and users to the system later, no problem; the process is easy and painless. VPN, or Virtual Private Network, security is fully supported, and TSE furnishes two additional levels of access control to ensure information is protected.
Because TSE isn’t web-based, it provides the same experience to users as a Windows program. For instance, users control the printer directly without having to use the browser’s web button to print, and frames aren’t lost during back-and-forth page navigation.
Hi-Tech developed TSE in conjunction with the Microsoft Empower Program, which supports small companies by providing access to development software and technical expertise. The collaboration protects Hi-Tech customers, says Richards. “We’re committed to developing products we believe are the industry standard, and our solutions are based on technology that’s not going to go away or be bought out by anybody else,” he explains. “That adds stability to our products.”
Two main companies provide server software; Hi-Tech recommends running TSE with Microsoft Terminal Services. The server itself can be in a home office or outsourced to a host. “A lot of people we are talking to are not putting the server in their office but a ‘server farm,’ which is outfitted with generators and back-up emergency equipment,” says Richards. “Those are a good way to go, particularly in areas with power issues.”
Launched in 1998, RentPlus is a complete self-storage management system featuring more than 100 reports and graphs, onscreen interactive maps of facilities and their rentals, multiple collection and discount plans, and automatic charges and printing of notices. The software comes in four editions: Standard for small facilities; Professional for the majority of storage companies; International for operators outside the United States; and TSE. Each package includes technical support, updates and a guarantee. Also available are corporate-office software, interfaces with popular security systems, and automatic credit-card payment options.
Hi-Tech will exhibit at the Inside Self- Storage Expo in Miami, Nov. 17-19. Attendees are invited to visit the company’s booth for a detailed explanation of TSE and how it can benefit their enterprises. For more information, call 800.551.8324; visit www.hitechsoftware.com.