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Running Your Self-Storage Facility From Your iPhone: Tips From a Pittsburgh Facility Owner

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No. 2: Remote-Control Garage-Door Opener

Not long after opening for business, we ran into an integration issue between our security-gate system and the garage-door opener for our loading bay. Since they were purchased and installed from different vendors, they didn’t speak the same language. That led to an instance where our garage door got stuck open late one night (which we could verify from the security-camera feed on our iPhone).

We quickly got both vendors on site and figured out the issue. Everything works smoothly now, but we're the kind of people who wear both “belts and suspenders,” especially when it comes to security. We wanted to find a fail-safe backup should a problem like this ever occur again.

A little bit of Web research led us to a company called Mission Machines, which sells a control unit for garage-door openers that comes with the “miDoor” iPhone app. We tied this into our garage-door system and set it up so that if the door ever stays open for longer than the interval allowed by our security system, we get an e-mail and text alert (to our iPhone, of course). We could be anywhere in the world when we get that message and still be able to pull up our security-camera feeds, see the problem, open the miDoor app and hit “Close Garage Door,” which overrides all other systems. Then we can watch the door close by switching back to the camera feed.

And the No. 1 way we use the iPhone in our Pittsburgh self-storage business is (drum roll please)...

No. 1: Customer Video Testimonials

I’m sure you work hard to make your clients thrilled with the service you deliver, just like we do. Isn’t it great when a customer stops by and says something like, “I just have to say that this has to be the best self-storage facility ever because…”? Wouldn’t it be great if you could capture that moment on video and show it to every prospect looking for a self-storage facility in your area?

Now you can! The video camera on the iPhone is extremely high quality. When our manager gets that very happy customer in the office, he quickly asks, “Could I record this?” (We usually get a “yes” because people are so happy.) That creates a video testimonial we can use our on website. Want to see an example of just how powerful this is? Take a look at “Jamil’s Pittsburgh Storage Story” at

These are just our top five favorite ways to use the iPhone. We didn’t even get into routing our office phone to the iPhone for off-hours coverage or being able to quickly respond to customer e-mails and notifications of reservations even if we aren’t in the office. I’m sure other self-storage operators have found ways to use the iPhone that we haven't even thought of yet. We're eager to hear about them, so shoot me an e-mail (or photo or video)!

Nick Lackner is the founder and general manager of City Center Self Storage in Pittsburgh. To reach him, e-mail For more information, visit .

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