SMD Software Inc., a provider of self-storage management software, has released a new version of SiteLink for self- and mobile-storage operations. Markus Hecker, COO and the director of marketing and sales, spoke with Inside Self-Storage about this new development.
ISS: What led to the development of your new SiteLink product?
Hecker: We take our customers suggestions seriously. Their feedback revealed customers are increasingly mobile and want better access to their data for themselves, tenants and call centers. Owners want better control of rental rates and to automate yield management. Operators want their websites to allow customers to manage accounts online. Growing stores need full multi-user capabilities and lower hardware cost and maintenance. Customers asked for faster software speed.
The result was the development of a new product from the ground up—SiteLink Web Edition. We now have two products because we will not stop supporting, evolving and selling the older, PC-based SiteLink.
ISS: What does your new SiteLink Web Edition offer over the old SiteLink?
Hecker: The new SiteLink costs less to own and maintain and produces savings from better data safety, lower maintenance and faster setup. It offers automatic, monthly live updates, eliminating the need for clients to load CDs on all their computers. Clients enjoy more frequent changes to the program. Users no longer have to spend money on networking computers or backups.
We worked with leading industry experts to develop the most powerful revenue management module in self-storage. SiteLink Search brings owners’ websites up at the top of Web searches and eliminates spending on search-engine optimization.
The Web module lets owners integrate online management for tenants at little extra cost. Owners can change settings on their website anytime without programming or Web-design experience. They can reduce customer traffic to the store and workload for managers. Integrated certified mail eliminates time spent going to the post office. The new SiteLink architecture lends itself to offering a better Insomniac kiosk integration and offers new features like promotions and services such as insurance and merchandising. Call center tie-ins make the store available around the clock.
ISS: How has the new SiteLink Web Edition been received so far?
Hecker: In the last 18 months, more than 500 owners have installed the new SiteLink software at more than 1,000 stores. Owners are cutting credit card fees by implementing ACH. Almost 300 owners have already linked their websites to SiteLink, allowing tenants to manage accounts online.
By incorporating online services and features, owners can improve their operation’s money-making abilities. The system shrink wraps many requested features, such as online payments and ACH/bank draft for low-cost billing, which are ready to go “out of the box.” While the new SiteLink Web Edition is successful, we don’t want to startle users of the PC-based SiteLink because we will always offer and improve that older product.
ISS: How is pricing different?
Hecker: The new SiteLink is cheaper to operate. The up-front cost is much lower than the previous model. Many customers have the misconception that Web systems or software-as-a-service are about long-term commitments, difficult installation and customers losing choice and becoming beholden to their vendors. Quite the opposite is true: Customers invest less in software-as-a-service. It’s easier now than ever before to switch software if vendors do not provide top-notch service. With SiteLink, there are no binding or long-term contracts.
ISS: How is the new SiteLink different from other Web systems?
Hecker: SiteLink scales well. It’s easy to roll out to multiple computers and stores without any networking, setup or special maintenance. Web Edition is easy to load and to learn. When software can be installed on any PC with any operating system, and all browsers including Internet Explorer 7, most service calls and complaints are eliminated.
Clients are surprised by the speed of the new SiteLink. It’s an engineering challenge to make self-storage software work fast over the Internet because each store has so much data. Our solution is to employ a “Smart Client” architecture that runs passive operations, like reports and lookups, on local PCs.
Only active transactions like payments and move-ins interact with our Web servers. Most activities are passive: Users look up and print more than they change. This approach cuts down on the amount of data flowing over the Internet. Therefore, SiteLink does not slow during peak usage. Payments take less than three seconds. “Smart Client” means we store your data on each of your computers.
The new SiteLink looks similar to the old and requires little training. Users do not need access to browsers like Internet Explorer to run the new SiteLink, and the system works even if the Internet is temporarily out of service. Users can integrate our Web module in less than a day. Web designers are not needed to change settings such as office hours or specials. And you can update your prices automatically.
ISS: Does SiteLink work abroad?
Hecker: We customize SiteLink to requirements of all users. Microsoft’s .NET platform and sequel database let SiteLink run on Windows operating systems in other regions and countries. The robust product design lets us readily install SiteLink on computers around the world.
Canadian and Australian owners and tenants benefit from online management the same way their U.S. counterparts do. Canadians will soon have SiteLink integration with Interac. Australian owners find their unique tax structures and ACH/bank draft integrated in SiteLink. Later in 2008, we will have our first translations into Spanish and German, with others to follow.
ISS: Where do you see SMD Software going in the future, perhaps the next 10 years?
Hecker: All of our customers must know we will not stop supporting or selling the older, PC-based SiteLink. For Web Edition, we are working on improving our customers’ positioning in Google searches so they come up on top in Web searches and will be first in line for new business. Clients will no longer have to pay for search-engine optimization. With six programmers in addition to our technicians, we are well-staffed to equip our customers with the most current software.
SiteLink offers better programming tools and a more powerful SQL database that give us endless options for adding features to grow strongly and quickly. We already offer a powerful online-management system for tenants, and plan to add even more billing features for tenants and money-making functions such as online merchandise sales for owners. Later this year, we will offer barcode scanners and enhanced call center and kiosk integration. SiteLink already offers specials and promotions to kiosk users. This summer, we will offer these and other functions to tenants in the online management module.
For more information, call 919.865.0789; visit www.smdsoftware.com.