In the early days, self-storage security relied on chain-link fences and padlocks. Management “software” was limited to a pad of paper and pencil. How things have changed!
The personal computer revolution started in the ’80s, facilitating the use of software for managing tenant information and property access. Early DOS programs pioneered time-saving features, enabling managers to perform simultaneous tasks overnight such as posting rental and late charges, printing late notices and invoices, and automatically denying delinquent tenants gate access.
Microsoft Windows debuted in the early ’90s, prompting many companies to migrate from DOS management software. The new point-and-click functionality permitted many new features. Manager training became smoother and quicker, allowing for better customer service and more time for facility maintenance.
As the ’90s progressed, software and security systems matured. In the past, managers had entered tenant information and gate codes separately, often making mistakes and upsetting tenants. Now, companies could seamlessly integrate the two solutions, minimizing errors and streamlining the overall experience for property managers and tenants.
New Millennium of Management Software
Having survived Y2K and the new millennium, we are seeing previously unimaginable technology. Advanced Windows management software, coupled with tightly integrated security packages, controls gate access, elevator restriction, wireless door-alarm systems and more. Add a digital video-surveillance system and you have a hi-tech storage facility.
Management software has many new twists:
- Automatic credit card and bank account processing: Tenants are automatically charged on the same date each month, a favorite feature among operators. Funds are deposited directly into your account. The function reduces postal fees, processing time, delinquencies and loss of rentable units during the default process. Plus, it requires no equipment rental.
- Gate activity: This allows for on-screen, real-time, tenant gate activity without having to switch to a different gate software program, controller or security computer. It is an “at-a-glance” feature integrated into the main screen of management software.
- Tenant photos: Higher-end management systems allow you to keep a visual record. Capture multiple digital color photos of tenants and their unit contents to keep on file.
- Driver license move-in: If your state driver licenses have magnetic strips on the back, they may be swiped during move-in, providing tenants’ full addresses. This cuts down on data entry and ensures information is entered correctly.
- Automatic rental-fee changes: Let your software raise or lower scheduled rents based on number or percentage of vacant units.
- E-mail: Automatically e-mail tenant correspondences, notices, receipts and invoices—saving time and money.
- Home office: Set up daily backups and important reports to be automatically sent to an offsite e-mail address without manager interaction.
- Word processing: Powerful, built-in word processors let you customize important documents such as notices and leases to tenants.
- Tenant insurance: This option enables insurance invoices to be paid with rent.
- Choose your business model: Do you prefer to bill strictly at the first of the month or anniversary of move-in date? Or are you partial to partial-payment business models?
- User restrictions: Customized user setup allows you to decide what the manager can and cannot access.
One Step Beyond
Now that we’ve covered management software, let’s take a peek at other attractive options:
- Pay-at-the-gate (PATG): Tenants are always amazed by a PATG demonstration. When a delinquent renter enters a code at the gate, intelligent feedback on a large, brightly illuminated keypad offers him the option to pay his balance via credit card. Once swiped, the credit card is processed by the management software. If approved, the tenant may enter the facility; the software automatically e-mails him a receipt.
- 3-D site graphics: An interactive 3-D site map with real-time tenant status can indicate delinquencies, vacancies, gate entries and exits. Wireless door alarms allow you to immediately see when a door is opened or closed. User-defined setup provides custom tailoring of displays with side-to-side panning, static images or orbital modes. To really impress tenants, install site graphics on a large LCD or plasma screen behind the management counter.
- Wireless door alarms: Wireless systems have improved greatly. The battery life of door-alarm sensors now lasts 20 years; built-in tamper switches are a standard feature; and sensors have on-board intelligence for optimum performance. Further, wireless is not limited to stationary units: Imagine providing RV and boat tenants with the same high-level security as self-storage renters.
- Digital video surveillance: No more time-lapse VCR tapes! A digital video recorder (DVR) records events directly onto a hard drive. Better DVR systems include a built-in CD/DVD recorder. In the event of a break-in, a disk can be handed over to police, while the original recording remains in the system. DVRs provide an excellent security feature.
- Elevator restriction: Now you can restrict tenants’ access to floors other than their own. Coupled with wireless door alarms and digital-video surveillance, elevator restriction means you can effectively lock down your facility and provide the safest storage solution for tenants.
- Gate restriction: Similar to elevator restriction, this feature limits tenant access to specified areas. For example, certain renters may gain access to a climate-controlled building but not RVstorage areas.
As you can see, we are long past the days of chain links, padlocks, pencil and paper. The evolution of management software and security systems has served the self-storage industry in ways never imagined. Take advantage of the offerings.
Randy Fountain is an account representative and Tony Gardner is a licensed contractor/ installation manager for QuikStor, a provider of self-storage security and software since 1987. For more information, visit www.quikstor.com.
For more information about self-storage security, check out "Security: Choosing Tools, Protecting Your Investment," a 32-page e-book available through the Self-Storage Training Insititute. Click here for more info!