Web-based systems back up data up on secure offsite servers. These data centers are very secure—more than any self-storage facility could ever consider. However, not all Web-based software works the same way. Some programs operate from an Internet browser with all data stored in the data center; others operate by way of a downloaded “client,” with the data stored locally and regularly synchronized to the data center. You need to consider how you will access data such as a customer's account balance if the Internet is down.
While Web-based packages can take advantage of new technologies faster, and the deployment of those technologies is easier via the Web, there’s still a place for PC-based software in the self-storage industry.
Which features are the most important in a self-storage software program? For many, the daily tasks of processing move-ins, move-outs and payments—and the ease with which they can be accomplished—are the most critical. The daily grind is one aspect of using the software, and most packages operate in a similar way. The ability to log inquiries and reservations and easily transfer them to rentals is also a very important feature, as is Web interactivity and the ability to take online payments.
Rate management is now a significant tool in helping self-storage operators execute rent increases. The sophistication of rate management in a software package varies greatly, so if you plan to raise rents on a regular basis, check the vendor offerings very carefully in this area.
Most common software programs interface with electric-gate systems. You’ll need to make sure the program you choose offers an interface for the access-control system you plan to use or currently use.
Forums like selfstoragetalk.com contain many posts about self-storage management software. People are very passionate about the brand they use, and this is generally fueled by familiarity rather than any one particular feature. A question like “Which software is the best?” will be answered by many contributors, each pushing his favorite. Sift through this information carefully but, more important, speak with the vendors personally. Don't expect them to respond to you on forums, as many won’t and shouldn’t be expected to.