HI-Tech Stuff You Can Use

Kimberly Hundley Comments
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It’s official: HI-Tech Smart Systems Inc. lacks the ability to sit on its laurels, or even loll briefly on a single laurel. Already well-known for its popular RentPlus Windows self-storage software, the Kailua, Hawaii-based company has developed three major improvements for release in 2005.

Self-storage owners now have the opportunity to instantly enjoy web-commerce capabilities through RentPlus technology. Facilities simply link their own website to a secure HI-Tech site that retains the design, colors and feel of the original web page. Customers who go online can rent units, look up account details and make payments—without ever knowing they’ve left the facility’s actual site.

“What’s nice is it doesn’t require owners to create an e-commerce secure site,” says company President Mike Richards. “They just have to have the links and an Internet connection that is always on.” Also required, of course, is RentPlus software and the module that enables the web program.

An additional perk for facility owners is the software’s “real time” aspect. When customers pay a bill online, payments are immediately posted. “The manager doesn’t have to get an email saying something was paid, and then have to enter the information in the system,” Richards explains. To access their account, tenants provide their unit number and gate code.

Rentals likewise occur in real time, transforming storage facilities into virtual 24-hour convenience shops. Potential customers go to the website, choose the rent-a-unit option, and navigate a series of pages that allows them to select a size and enter personal information. Once the unit is booked, it can’t be rented by another person. The e-commerce abilities are like those available at onsite SAM kiosks, a product for which HI-Tech continues to develop supporting software.

Security should rightly be a concern for owners considering web commerce. HI-Tech uses the latest Internet technologies in crafting a program with excellent reliability. The technology, says Richards, evolved through collaboration with a Microsoft development program called Empower. “It’s basically a very secure way for programs to interact with each other. It’s very efficient; things like encryption are built into its capability.”

Fully Hosted RentPlus

Last fall, HI-Tech released the Terminal Services Edition (TSE) of RentPlus, which empowered companies to manage any site from one location with an Internet connection linked to their respective home servers. Now the company has gone one step further with a completely hosted version, tentatively titled RentPlus Online.

“Our server will host your entire program and data,” Richards says. “You don’t need to install any software at all on your local computers. You can run RentPlus Online through a browser or a special program. Server updates are automatically completed, and subscribers don’t have to worry about performing backups.”

HI-Tech designed the service to appeal to owners of smaller self-storage operations. “If you have 10 or more facilities, it’s probably more effective to put TSE on your own server,” Richards explains. “But if you have only one or a few facilities, it makes sense to go with the hosted solution because you don’t have to buy the server for $4,000 to $5,000. The main advantage is it’s a very inexpensive way to get in and get started on the software. Since you don’t have to do installation, downloading or anything like that, it’s very easy to get started, too.”

Rather than face a substantial licensing fee upfront, RentPlus Online subscribers pay a monthly charge that includes hosting of data, software licensing, tech support and updates. If the facility is to be sold, owners may transfer or cancel the service. The equipment requirements are also attractively inexpensive: Just about any beat-up computer lying around the office can be commandeered as host terminal as long as it has Internet access.

Found in Translation

HI-Tech has international clients in 22 countries that use the English-language version of RentPlus. This year, the company released its first fully translated version of the program, with all screens and reports presented in additional languages. The enhancement will give clients who have been dependent on English-speaking staff a wider pool of employees from which to choose.

“In the past, we’ve had the ability to translate everything that went to customers— letters and receipts, for example—into 10 different languages. Now our screens and reports will be translatable as well,” Richards says. “Our goal is to have four languages done by the end of 2005.”

The company has a major office in the Netherlands, so Dutch was selected as the first language to target. HI-Tech’s own employees as well as current customers offered their input as official guinea pigs. “It took almost a full year of programming to make it possible within the software, then we hired translators to do the actual work,” Richards says. “Within each language, there are about 20,000 words and phrases that have to be translated.”

Richards expects the translations to give HITech a big business boost overseas, especially in places that aren’t flush with English-speaking workers such as France, Mexico, some Eastern European countries and all of South America. Spanish likely will be the next featured language.

For more information, call 800.551.8324; visit www.hitechsoftware.com.

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