By Michael Sawyer
There has been a thunderstorm of talk recently about doing business “in the cloud.” Cloud computing has reinvented the way businesses deliver products, allowing them to do so faster and more cost-effectively. Adapting to accommodate fast-moving consumers with on-the-fly service is how businesses are making new and incremental dollars.
In effect, cloud computing has become the ultimate steroid or performance enhancement—a fast and affordable way to reinvent a business by replacing outdated practices with updated sales and service channels. Good examples of cloud technology are Intuit’s online version of QuickBooks, Constant Contact’s e-mail program, SurveyMonkey’s voice of the customer-survey system, and all social media sites.
In the self-storage industry, there are many vendors offering property-management software, online rental and payment services, lead tracking, VOIP phone systems, applications for handling phone calls and many other tools. Still, in the face of the noise, the cloud concept has been advertised loosely, and without accurately defining the what, why and how. This article delves into what it means to access “the cloud,” and how your self-storage business can reap the benefits of this technology. (For a great overview of cloud computing, software as a service (SaaS) and other commonly used terms, search "cloud computing" on Wikipedia.)
The What, Why and How
Cloud computing is an Internet-based service in which vendor resources such as hardware, software, sales tools, transaction programs, service accents or data-processing features are supplied to users on demand. Similar to how a utility company would supply water, gas or electricity, cloud-computing vendors provide the infrastructure to bring services to your business and customers on an as-needed basis.
Thus, it potentially reduces your overall costs because you don't have to pay for something you don’t need or use. To draw an even more popular comparison, think about how your kids do business today. iTunes delivers a variety of music, videos, TV shows, movies and mobile apps straight to their devices at a cost less than purchasing them through retail stores.
In the same fashion, some self-storage vendors are investing in cloud computing to offer their products and services in more of an SaaS model than requiring a big upfront investment and ongoing fees for enhancements and other services. By not having to invest heavily up front, operators have the agility to make changes to their business and the services they use.
Today, self-storage operators have new and better ways to rent units, serve clients and organize their facility by consuming data and accessing applications through a cloud. It’s no longer necessary to buy software on a CD or even check to see if your system has the required space and processing power to support it. Instead you can have immediate transfer of an application that can help operate more effectively now. And if it doesn’t work out for you, the service can usually be cancelled with short notice.