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6 Do’s and Don’ts for Choosing Self-Storage Management Software

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By Mark Smith

“Choose well. Your choice is brief, yet endless.”
—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

After witnessing thousands of self-storage management software purchases and migrations over the last 15 years, I’m constantly reminded of this quote from von Goethe. Choosing a software solution can be a relatively quick decision, but the impact of your choice can ripple through your company for years. It will affect your policies, practices, procedures and, ultimately, your profit.

Choose well, and your business grows efficiently and unconstrained. Choose poorly, and your software might severely hamper growth potential and disrupt your operation for years to come.

Even though I work for a management-software company, when asked by industry newcomers to name the best platform, I often reply, “It depends.” Because what works well for most might not fit your unique business model and objectives. Many providers consult with potential clients to ensure there’s a good fit between needs and solutions, even referring a client to another company if necessary to achieve the optimal outcome. At the end of the day, finding the right solution for each individual operation is in the best interest of our industry as a whole.

Choosing the software that properly fits your needs requires a great deal of foresight, as well as homework on your part. To that end, here are six do’s and don’ts to help you correctly identify the management software that best fits your needs.

DO: Understand Software Platforms

First, understand the fundamental technology differences between software solutions. With more than 20 providers in our industry, a wide array of packages and approaches are on the table, each with its own pros and cons. It’s important to understand some basic variances.

Every management-software application stores your critical data within a database. Some products use databases that physically reside on your laptop or PC, giving you full control over the data but leaving you wholly responsible for all backup and maintenance. This usually works well for a single-property operator, but sometimes has limitations, especially if you acquire more properties or need to interface with other systems.

Alternatively, there are products that store local data at each property but sync that data with information from other properties using a centralized database in “the cloud.” This allows for easier data consolidation and integration with other systems such as websites and call centers.

Finally, there are software solutions that fully operate from a centralized database via the Internet. These typically use a Web browser to access data and perform business functions. This database allows for the most flexibility when you access, analyze, share and integrate data in real-time with other systems.

DON’T: Forget Future Needs

Don’t fail to hedge against future needs. A vital step is planning where you want your business to be three, five and 10 years down the road. Will you expand your portfolio? Will you be less involved in the day-to-day operation? Will your software be scalable and adaptable to new technologies?

Also, make sure your software provider has a clear roadmap for its own future. For example, over the last few years, sales of smartphones and handheld tablets have far surpassed the demand for desktop computing. The smartphone in your hand today likely contains a number of apps that conveniently perform very specific functions.

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