By Steve Weinstein
In todays highly competitive market, its important to ensure your business is keeping up to date with the latest technology. Security is one of the most important features at any self-storage facility, and an aging system can speak volumes to a tenant.
Your investment in security makes tenants feel at ease. It gives them the sense that their belongings will be safe and protected. Digital video-surveillance cameras, electronic gate-access control, individual unit alarms, and a real-time site-graphics monitor in the office shows customers youre paying attention and in control. It provides them with the warm and fuzzy feeling of comfort, which is key to the storage experience. If tenants dont feel safe, theyll move.
There are many factors to consider when upgrading an aging security system. From evaluating your facilitys needs to sticking to a budget, heres some insight to the process of creating a safer, more secure facility.
Evaluate Your Needs, Review Your Market
The first step in any planned upgrade is to evaluate your existing system. Identify what it does well and where it falls short. Identifying shortcomings will allow you to determine if an upgrade is necessary and help point you toward the features and functionality the new system should include.
The next step is to review your market. Take a drive around to other facilities in the area and see what they offer. Are you already the only gated facility in a market of open lots, or is it the other way around? Would adding individual unit alarms give you a selling point that no one in your area offers?
Talk to your tenants. Ask them for feedback on what would provide a better experience. Are there specific security measures and features they would feel more comfortable seeing?
Create a Budget
Once you have an idea of the features your upgraded system needs to include, its time to create a budget. Everyone always wants the Ferrari, but is that a realistic solution for your business? How much of an investment are you willing to make at this time? What can the business support? Are you in a crunch where if you dont update now youll lose tenants, or do you have the financial space to entertain a larger investment for the long-term potential of higher return? Knowing the answers to these questions is very important in setting your budget and, therefore, your expectations.
Determine how your desired features fit with your budget. Go shopping. Attend a few industry tradeshows and see the options available. Spend some time online looking at storage security websites, and go to storage forums like Self-Storage Talk and read the good (and bad) of what others are using.
Compare the various vendors, their pricing, features, reputation and history in the industry. Which ones are going to give you the best bang for your buck and the least headache in the future? Do you plan to piece-meal your security solution from multiple vendors, or would you rather work with a one-stop-shop that can handle everything?
Talk to the Experts
Call and have a conversation with a security expert. Look for a company that has been specifically in the self-storage industry for a while and understands your needs. Ask about the warranty that comes with the products youre considering.
For example, if youre buying a new access-control system, does it cover lightning? How long is the warranty? Remember this is likely a long-term relationship, so make sure youre comfortable with your security consultant and he takes the time to answer all your questions.
Security equipment and features for the storage industry are constantly evolving, so choose a company that shows a history of innovation. The vendor should be able to grow with you in the future. Does it offer easy-to-add modular options? Just because you arent adding door alarms today doesnt mean your market wont demand them next year. Be sure the company you choose allows this level of modularity and upgradeability.
Taking the time to find the right vendor with the right suite of security products for your facility can make all the difference in the world to your tenants and your facilitys revenue stream. A bargain-basement system isnt going to perform well in the long run and can frequently wind up costing you more than a higher-grade system. But spending top dollar for the most expensive system is simply foolhardy if there are other comparable systems with the same features available.
In the end, do your research and explore your options before committing yourself to an upgrade plan of action. Youd hate to find yourself facing the same needs again in just a short amount of time.
Steve Weinstein has been a security consultant for the self-storage industry since 2004. Hes a senior account representative at QuikStor Security & Software, which provides security and software products to the self-storage industry. For more information, call 800.321.1987; visit www.quikstor.com .