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Cool Combo: Integrating Management and Security Software in Self-Storage

May 17, 2008

5 Min Read
Cool Combo: Integrating Management and Security Software in Self-Storage

Though you still see some facilities with little more than a small fence and a gate open all day, most sites now have a tight integration of high-tech security components coupled with various software packages. This seamless integration allows for better security for tenants and higher revenue for you.

First, let’s take a look at the diverse offerings of software that can be used to better manage your facility. The most important piece of software any facility will purchase is management software. This allows the manager/owner to move people in and out, accept payments, track delinquencies and run multiple reports, all of which will assist in greater control over the business. A well-designed management software system will also control inventory, have an easy-to-use interface and a tight integration to your access-control system, allowing you to see your gate activity right on the main screen through your software.

Another key piece of software is an electronic-commerce module that allows prospective tenants to reserve or rent units. E-commerce also serves existing customers by providing them with the means to make payments or check transaction history, all from the comfort of their own homes via the Internet. The invention of e-commerce has revolutionized the storage industry because it gives tenants the option to handle many traditional transactions independently, thus freeing your manager’s time to handle onsite customers and facility operations. The fact that you can collect money 24 hours a day doesn’t hurt either.

Having an integrated software and security package takes e-commerce to the next level. If a tenant rents a unit online at midnight, he will immediately receive an assigned gate code giving him access to his unit the next day without any interaction with the site manager. If you prefer to rent the unit, then wait to assign a gate code until the tenant comes into the office to meet the manager personally, that works too.

There is also software that enables tenants to make payments at the gate. Many times, a delinquent tenant will try to go to his unit after hours to avoid the site manager. Typically the access-control system will inform the tenant he is delinquent and deny access. However, wouldn’t it be better if the keypad system instead informed the tenant that he is delinquent and offered him the ability to pay right there on the spot? The keypad will tell the tenant how much is due, and give him the option to slide a credit card and pay at the gate. The transaction is processed in the office by the management software, and a receipt is e-mailed or printed and mailed to the tenant. This is seamless integration at its best.

Going Digital

What about offering a digital layout of your facility? Imagine having your entire facility, including your office, restrooms, RV-dumping station, elevators, etc., all electronically displayed on a large LCD monitor when a prospective tenant enters the office. Many software vendors have these programs, commonly called "site graphics." Some companies even offer a 3-D version of the program.

But this program isn’t just a pretty face to make your office look more inviting. In fact, it is actually a useful tool, giving your manager an immediate snapshot of your facility at a glance.

Once again, integration to your security system makes all the difference. Each unit is controlled individually via your management software, and each status is assigned a color based on a unique legend of your choosing. For example, if you have an integrated access-control system, you will instantly know when a tenant is onsite because the unit color will change from the "offsite" color to the "onsite" color. This gives you a good understanding of who is currently on the property throughout the day.

Higher-end facilities that incorporate wireless door alarms on each unit can take this software to the next level by not only knowing who is on the property, but also knowing if units are opened or closed by simply glancing at the layout monitor. This program is fantastic for marketing to prospective tenants as they enter your office, and also a great tool for your manager to use in his daily operations.

Another software system no storage facility should be without is designed for your digital video recorder (DVR) system. With aggressive pricing offered by most vendors, there is no reason to still use old VCR tapes and multiplexers. New DVR software allows you to record and multiplex just like the old systems, but with a lot more features. For instance, almost all systems allow you to remotely monitor your facility via the Internet by using either a Web browser or a software program. You can also easily copy events onto CD or DVD, or quickly search for an event using a date, time or other criteria.

The evolution of software and security systems—and the tighter integration of the two—has brought a myriad of benefits to tenants and owners alike. During the early days of self-storage, most people were forced to use pen and paper to track transactions. They were also required to either use featureless access systems that were not integrated with their management systems, or worse, open and close the gate manually each day.

Thankfully those days are over, and with the many options available there is no reason for any storage facility to not benefit from new software and security technologies. Both are affordable solutions that actually pay for themselves in increased efficiency, better control over cash flow, and improved protection of tenants and their belongings.

This month we have concentrated on the evolution of software and how its integration with your security system can save you time and money. Next month, in the Inside Self-Storage Annual Security Issue, we'll take a deeper look into the various security system components, such as wireless door alarms, digital video surveillance, paging systems and the next generation of access-control systems. 

Jacqui Kuzmin is an account representative for QuikStor. With an emphasis on customer service, she specializes in helping owners and managers choose security and software solutions based on their unique business needs. To reach Ms. Kuzmin, call 800.321.1987; e-mail [email protected]; visit www.quikstor.com

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