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No-Computer Disaster Plan: Operating Self-Storage Without Technology

Jim Chiswell Comments

“Get out your pencil!” I can still remember how much I hated hearing the teacher say those words because it usually meant a pop quiz. Well, I don’t want to disappoint you, so here is your one-question test: How would you operate your facility for an extended period of time—two days, a week or longer—without your computer?

How would you rent a unit? Take a payment? Tell a customer his unit number or how much he owes? How would you answer the question, “What would the prorated rent be if I move in this afternoon?” It’s an ugly picture, isn’t it?

This question came to me as I heard about power outages from the wicked weather some parts of the nation endured this spring. It really hit home when my main file server crashed. I forgot how much fun it is working on a laptop with backup files. Let’s examine the question above, which will hopefully encourage you to revisit your disaster planning and day-to-day office procedures.
Backing Up Data

How often do you back up your data to a medium or server outside your main office? The cost of a backup system will pale in comparison to what you’ll spend trying to recover from a data loss without one. And I’m not just talking about your facility operating data.

What about all those other little things you’ve added to your computer and taken for granted, for example, the “remember me” feature on the log in page for so many programs and websites? When I lost my server, I was amazed at the number of unique login passwords I couldn’t remember.

How about when the service tech says, “Now take out one of the original disks that shipped with your computer 30 months ago and load it into the disk drive.” I admit I’m guilty of not having kept good records of every website I use on a regular basis or kept track of every disk that shipped with my computer.

Let’s get back to the more mundane issue of taking a payment. A customer is standing in front of you and politely asks, “Could you let me know how much I owe today?” Your deer-in-the-headlights look won’t instill a great deal of confidence, and your inability to collect a payment from a willing customer could quickly become crippling.

Periodically printing your rent roll may seem like a waste of paper until D-day arrives. Just writing out a receipt for the customer on a blank sheet of paper makes it look like you might put the cash in your pocket. Or how about taking a credit card payment with no computer? Do you even have any credit card charge slips buried in an office desk somewhere? Do you know what phone number to call for manual approval?

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