For decades, self-storage operators across the globe have been controlling access to their properties. A typical access-control system includes a gate and controller, a keypad, and a software program. The software is how you lock out tenants, change access codes, and monitor who’s entering and exiting the facility.
Technology is ever-changing, and one of the biggest evolutions in self-storage access control is the ability to manage the system through the cloud. Let’s see how that works and how it benefits facility operators and customers.
One of the key ingredients is the gate controller itself, which is essentially the “brains” of the entire access system. Most of the older gate controllers can’t be plugged into a high-speed Internet connection via an Ethernet cable, but newer cloud-based gate controllers do. They also have built-in hard drives that store tenant codes in case your Web connection has a hiccup. When a user punches in his code at the keypad, it’s verified through the controller and access is granted.
But what if you need to change a code or block access? With a legacy gate controller, you had to drive down to the facility and update it on the computer where the access-control program resided. Now, if you have a controller tied to cloud-based software, you can change those items right from the convenience of your mobile phone, tablet or any Web-connected device.
The other nice thing is cloud-based technology can even allow you to remotely open your gate through a smartphone app or your management software, if there’s direct integration. This eliminates the need to manually admit contractors, police or service providers during non-business hours. It also comes in handy when a tenant is having trouble accessing the facility or has forgotten his gate code. You can either remotely change the code or just open the gate through your mobile device.
Because it doesn’t require having a computer on site, a cloud-based access-control program eliminates downtime caused by updates or crashes. Another key benefit is how fast things are accomplished. Since information is passed through the Web, you can change a tenant’s gate code on your phone and it’ll immediately be revised, with no lag. Updating codes through legacy gate controllers would sometimes take as long as 10 minutes!
Speed is also important when it comes to rentals completed through your website or another mechanism, such as an onsite tablet or kiosk. You need instant communication because you don't want the tenant to sit around and wait for his code to register in the system.
Another nice thing about a cloud-based program is you can add “groups” and levels to control which tenants have access to certain gates or doors on the property.
Finally, a cloud-based access system that integrates with your facility management software can help you keep track of and change tenant status, adding an extra layer of security. For example, if a customer becomes past due on rent, access can be automatically denied until he gets current. You can also auto-download an active log of onsite visits right into your software in real time; so, if you need to step away from your facility to run errands or you’re on vacation, you can see who’s entered and exited right from your smartphone.
With the evolution of new technology, a cloud-based access-control system is by far the best bang for your buck. This is especially true if you’re looking to automate your business and streamline day-to-day management activities. Having the right tool set allows you to be more hands-off with your business, and that’s what’s trending in the industry right now.
Jimmy Sorenson is co-founder of Easy Storage Solutions, which was launched in 2008 to provide access control, management software and other technology-based products and services for small- and mid-sized storage operators. He purchased his first storage facility in 2014. For more information, call 888.958.5967; visit www.storageunitsoftware.com.