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Learn about the components of a strong self-storage security system, plus get tips for choosing an equipment and installation provider.

Steve Reeder

July 25, 2023

6 Min Read
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The security system is one of the most essential infrastructure investments you’ll make in your self-storage facility. A poor choice can result in hardware or software that doesn’t perform as expected, resulting in frustration for you and your tenants. It might even harm your business’ reputation and bottom line.

With this being such an important decision, how do you ensure you choose the best security components? Which are the most critical? This area of the self-storage business is becoming much more sophisticated. Today’s systems allow facility operators to manage their operation remotely. Some even have tenant-facing applications that streamline property and unit access. So, which products do you really need, and how do you choose providers? Read on to find out.

Essential Components

When assembling the security system for your self-storage property, think of it as combining multiple layers of protection. The goal is to recognize and harness the power of each component, and then connect it to all the others in a seamless way. Your tenants will be reassured that their possessions are safe and accessible, and you can lower operating expenses by managing the facility remotely or with fewer employees. Additionally, you can justify premium rental rates because customers are willing to pay more for peace of mind.

While there are a variety of products available on the market, a quality security system should include the following primary components.

The access-control system is easily the most critical part of self-storage security, as all components link to it and transmit information. A malfunction here can directly impact the entire business. Fortunately, most modern access-control systems live in the cloud, which increases overall security while minimizing potential failure. Cloud-based systems allow tenants and operators access to data and tools 24/7, often through an app or desktop computer. They also make it easier to integrate new components, add additional self-storage units to the system or link multiple facilities together for a single view of all properties.

A significant part of the access-control system is the keypads. These are the first line of defense for any self-storage site, as they’re typically deployed around the perimeter. They come with several options, including a display screen, proximity-card readers, two-way intercoms and pinhole cameras.

Door readers, sometimes referred to as card or badge readers, are in-wall devices that allow easy access to a building simply by waving a card in front of it. Used to limit entry into an area, they’re often helpful around the self-storage front entrance and management office. However, they can create a vulnerability if lost or stolen. In these situations, it’s imperative that tenants notify the facility immediately so the card can be quickly deactivated.

Your self-storage unit-door hardware must be strong yet easy to use. On one hand, it should act as a visual deterrent to anyone who might wish to breach the property; on the other, it should be easy for the facility operator or tenant to open.

Smart locks have become a popular choice, as they can be activated or deactivated remotely, allowing operators to add or remove overlocks based on a tenant’s payment status. They can include Bluetooth or wireless connectivity options for greater convenience and enhanced control. The style and strength of the lock will vary depending on whether the door is interior or exterior and how easy it will be to run wires to it.

Door alarms can be leveraged to immediately warn you when a door has been breached and act as an additional layer of deterrence to criminals. The addition of smart locks and alarms is often considered a premium layer of protection and notification.

In-unit motion sensors work like door alarms but protect against internal breaches. A burglar's standard approach is to rent a unit, spend the night, and then crawl over or burrow through the adjacent walls. They then bring the stolen items back to their unit and walk out, making it look like it was their property all along. The sensors easily defeat these tactics.

Finally, available for the entire self-storage facility or on a per-unit basis, video cameras are becoming increasingly popular as prices become more reasonable and the hardware and software quality becomes more advanced. They can offer basic surveillance capabilities or allow operators and tenants to survey the property remotely. Recordings can be stored for a specified time, and remote monitoring can be used as an additional measure of security.

Choosing a Vendor

The first consideration when choosing a security vendor should be whether the company has a proven track record and how confidently it stands behind its products. Also, make sure its core business is security and that it has experience in the self-storage industry. Otherwise, it may not completely understand the protection challenges of your property, or the specific components necessary to obtain your desired level of security.

In addition, know what technical support the vendor offers and how long your equipment is under warranty. If your hardware or software fails, you want to know they’ll help you fix it. Understand how long support is available, whether there’s a cost to use it, when it’s available and what platforms the company uses (phone, email, chat, etc.).

Finally, can the vendor provide you with a complete security solution? Trying to assemble a system piecemeal from multiple suppliers can lead to components that don’t work well together. They may not even integrate at all, and it can be unclear whom to call for support. When a company provides a full palette of security components that work seamlessly together, it’ll make things easier in the short-term and allow your business to scale as your needs evolve.

When it comes to your self-storage facility security, you’re looking to find the right balance between functionality, convenience and budget. Plus, the ability to grow over time is key. Aligning yourself with a reputable supplier that understands your business needs as well as the self-storage industry will alleviate frustration.

As security technology continues to evolve, operators of older self-storage facilities will need to reevaluate their existing system and determine the right time to update it. The components commonly found at more properties were cost-prohibitive or not available just 10 years ago; but advancements will continue to accelerate, allowing you to offer a more secure site at a more affordable price.

Steve Reeder is the marketing director for PTI Security Systems, a provider of security technology for the self-storage industry. His diverse business-to-business and business-to-commercial marketing background includes more than a year of marketing and consultation with a multi-site self-storage operator. To reach him, email [email protected] or connect with him on LinkedIn.

About the Author(s)

Steve Reeder

Marketing Director, PTI Security Systems

Steve Reeder is the marketing director for PTI Security Systems, a provider of security technology for the self-storage industry. His diverse business-to-business and business-to-commercial marketing background includes more than a year of marketing and consultation with a multi-site self-storage operator. To reach him, email [email protected] or connect with him on LinkedIn.

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