By John Fogg
In the world of technology, “compatibility” is today’s buzzword. With changing operating systems, Internet providers, software platforms, computers and hardware devices, making sure multiple products work together can be challenging. Fortunately, the way of the world is to provide or make available interfaces for various programs and systems. In the self-storage arena, this hasn’t always been the case.
For a self-storage operation, it’s important that the management of rental accounts links easily with the management of renters’ movements through the property―and, of course, to deter the activity of any unauthorized wrongdoers. The goal should be to have a smooth-running office by linking valid software products designed for self-storage.
The word “compatibility” implies a relationship. In this case, the relationship may be between several different companies and their products. For example, the management software may need to communicate with the site’s access control, alarm system, kiosk, accounting package, video surveillance and the Internet. When marrying software developed by different manufacturers, some limitations are bound to exist.
As new products, features and companies are added to the mix, software modifications and additions are necessary to keep things working efficiently. When you receive updates or upgrades from one of your providers, it doesn’t always mean the new features will work with another system. There are several considerations to ensure systems work in harmony.
Your management software is where most transactions originate, so it’s the first component to consider. You may expect the program to communicate pertinent information to your gate and keypad software. New move-ins and move-outs, denying access to late tenants, and restoring immediate access privileges are accomplished. Keypads will need to communicate with individual door alarms to disarm the appropriate door, based on the code entered. Therefore, the keypad and door-alarm systems need to be from the same manufacturer.
The management software may be from different manufacturer than the security software. If this is the case, you’ll need to purchase the interface from both vendors. One will not have access to the other’s product. If you’re switching from one management program to another, it may require changing a part in the existing keypad and re-educating your customer to a different passcode sequence. In this scenario, ask your new management-software provider what it requires.
To ensure you have the functionality you desire, confirm with all manufacturers that the systems you’re buying will work together. Beware of representatives who say, “Yes, we interface with so-and-so company,” or “Yes, the interface is included” across the board. You’ll need to be specific which products you’re trying to marry. Each company and its products may be different.
You should also expect companies to charge for the interface service. Interfaces take time and development money to write and support. So ask all companies involved prior to purchasing if the particular system you’re considering will interface.