Many variables can be considered when designing a security system for your self-storage facility. It's an art to balance what is functional, marketable and easy to use when talking about these systems. Finding what's right is often more work than people realize.
It’s important that you start searching for a reputable security vendor early in the building process. By the time it nears completion, you may not have the resources to properly secure the site you invested so much time and money into.
Uncover Your Needs
Identifying available security options will take the most time, but it is also the most important activity you will undertake. Doing your homework and understanding how a security system works allows you to ask educated questions of potential vendors.
Start by visiting your local competitors to gain a better understanding of what’s offered in your area. If another facility is equipped with door alarms and yours is not, can you offer the same amount of security? Or maybe they have 24-hour access. Will this be more convenient for your renters? These are things you need to address to be competitive.
Attending a tradeshow is another great way for you to learn about the different security components available. Tradeshows also present an opportunity to talk to industry experts and ask for recommendations.
Your facility’s security is part perception, part functionality. What you offer your customer should be something to attract renters and draw the type that does not mind paying a few extra dollars to secure a unit at a state-of-the-art property. If having a gate that requires renters to use an entry and exit code sends a troublemaker somewhere else, then your system has just paid a silent dividend. The same holds true for individual door alarms, site graphics and closed-circuit TV solutions.
It’s important to choose components that make the most sense for your facility. Don’t go overboard on technology to secure your facility if it isn’t necessary for your area—or won’t be used. You want to ensure that your security system is easy for your facility manager to operate, and almost completely automatic. Choosing this type of system allows your manager to do his job: rent units and serve customers. Balance what will help you secure and market your facility with what is really necessary.
Finding a Vendor
After you have a better understanding of the components you want to include in your facility’s security system, it’s time to start looking for a vendor. You can find manufacturers in magazine publications such as this one, on the Web, and at the different trade conferences throughout the year.
Talk to the different vendors about your facility’s security requirements; if a vendor doesn’t provide you with a complete solution for what you need, move on. Piecing a system together from multiple vendors can result in integration issues.
Once you have narrowed the list to a few select companies, it’s time to evaluate the services they provide. Each company’s security applications will have its own bells and whistles, but functionality of the product as well as vendor support is what truly sets each company apart.
Take note of the relationship you have established with each vendor. If they are not friendly and candid with you now about their products, it’s very unlikely they will be in the future if you ever need help. Your vendor should show interest in building a relationship with you, and understand the needs of your business. This in turn leads to recommendations to help your business become even more successful.
Asking a vendor about the reliability of its products and support that comes along with them will generally be a canned “we’re the best in the business” type of response. In some cases this may be true, but the best way to determine the truth is by asking for a list of referrals from each vendor. A referral will be able to speak candidly about the vendor’s products, give you a better idea of the type of support you can expect to receive, and the turnaround time for support calls.
You should also investigate the different avenues for contacting the support department for each vendor. A company that is serious about providing top-notch customer service will provide you with several options to contact them. Examples of this include user groups and support-request forms that are submitted via the vendor’s website, e-mail and phone. It’s also important to understand hours of operation and the time zone in which the company is located.
Another important thing to consider is who will install your new security system. You’re best bet is to choose an installer familiar with self-storage. Your security vendor should be able to recommend a dealer in your area that can provide you with products, install the system for you, and give you a basic tutorial of how everything works.
Using a vendor-recommended dealer will also help establish a local relationship with someone familiar with your facility in case a question ever arises and you need someone to come out and help you with your system.
Take time to understand the vendor’s warranty included with the product. A copy of the warranty should be readily available at your request. Inquire about any cost you may incur for support calls and available support agreements.
Asking about development plans for new products will give you a better understanding of how serious the vendor is are about providing you with all of the security features you need today and in the future. There are many companies out there, so it’s important to pick one that will not only be able to support you now, but in the future as well. A company with a solid product development team will ensure tenure in the business and allow your security features to grow with the needs of the business.
Choosing the right security vendor is an important step to success in self-storage. Your customer’s perception of security at your facility will allow you to rent units at a higher rate and keep your occupancy levels up. The right vendor will provide you with the features you need to ensure your facility is secure and successful.
Nicholas Coe is the director of sales at Sentinel Systems Corp., which has been supplying software and security products exclusively to the self-storage industry since 1975. To reach him, call 800.456.9955, ext. 411; e-mail n[email protected].