A "dashboard-view analysis” of all facilities will use icons to indicate sites that are not performing up to par. "It’s a quick and easy way to see where management should direct its time and attention," Taylor says.
There are also advances in software-analysis systems on the horizon. Expert systems and artificial intelligence will soon be introduced into the self-storage industry, according to Darden. Data mining will provide answers on improving income, including tenant-by-tenant analysis.
One move many self-storage operators are making is toward a Web- or cloud-based program. Essentially, this software enables authorized users to access a facility’s information from any Internet connection. There's no CD to purchase and no worries about having enough hard-drive space on an office computer to run programs. Vendors handle the complexity of program building and information storage, and users enjoy the simplicity of logging on to access it.
The benefits of cloud-based software are "enormous,” Smith says. "Having your facility's data in an accessible environment not only allows you access at any time, from any location, but also allows your data to be integrated seamlessly with a website, call center or reservation aggregator.”
Up of 40 percent of self-storage businesses are now using some form of cloud-based management software, according to Pennington, who lists these advantages:
- More integrations. A program that integrates with additional vendors offers more opportunities. Lower credit card rates are one example. This allows a business to add to the bottom line and cut operating expenses.
- Easy accessibility. An Internet connection or smartphone allows users to have access and file-sharing. Employees can review documents and e-mails even when they’re away from the office.
- Increased security. Cloud computing can be more secure than traditional IT infrastructure since providers usually build multiple levels of security and redundancy into their data centers.
- Business resiliency. Studies show that more than 50 percent of small companies will go out of business within a year of a major data loss. In a cloud environment, if a laptop is lost—or worse, the whole office—a business can be back at work in no time since the information and files are securely in place.
A Change in Programs
While it doesn’t happen often due to the cost, training and business disruption associated with such a major move, there are times when a facility owner will opt to change software programs. Before making the switch, however, owners should consider whether the new software will truly generate more revenue, says John Fogg, general manager of Sentinel Systems Corp., a provider of security-access systems and management software to the self-storage industry. Regarding the disruption to business, Fogg suggests owners ask themselves:
- Will my managers buy in, resist change or possibly leave if I change software programs?
- How much data entry will be required to catch up between changes?
- What is the cost for gate-access software interfacing with the new program?
Taylor suggests that in addition to considering the functionality needed by site managers to accomplish tasks such as error correction and providing customer assistance, the needs of accountants and management teams should also be considered before changing programs.
Daily reports of credit-data breaches at high-profile businesses such as Target and Neiman Marcus are leaving customers concerned about how any company they do business with handles sensitive data. The self-storage industry’s major program providers have linked with credit card processing companies to be compliant with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS).