Data storage may sound perilous and complicated to some self-storage entrepreneurs. It’s a service few facilities offer. This article de-mystifies data storage and explains why you should consider it as an ancillary for your business. If done correctly, the service can be simple, inexpensive and a consistent money-maker with little or no risk.
Simply put, data storage is the safe-keeping of computer backup information on media such as tape or an external hard drive. All business owners should back up their computers daily, and many do. Computers hold a business’ operating and accounting system, client history, contracts, documents, spreadsheets, presentations—all vital records. This data is required to continue the operation in the case of a disaster.
There are several options for data backup and storage. The great majority of businesses use a small local area network (LAN) with two or more computers running off of a file server. The information is collected into various databases and, at the end of the day, should be copied to a backup medium. Media options include tape (the most common until recently), external hard drives or online backup services such as electronic vaulting (e-vaulting).
Unfortunately, many small-business owners are busy and become distracted by client, employee and service issues. These always take priority over an administrative task such as backing up data. Even companies with office managers sometimes run out of time. Worse, some may perform the backup process and then misplace or damage the disk. How many businesses practice an actual recovery of data similar to a fire drill? The percentages are quite low.
Here’s where your self-storage facility can become a solution to the problem. Self-storage is a natural for ancillary services such as records, wine and vehicle storage. The storage of data backup requires little expertise or added expense. As a matter of fact, you may recover your costs in as little as three months, and you’ll maintain a substantial ongoing revenue stream as long as you own the business.
E-Vaulting vs. Data-Media Vaults
There are two basic options for adding data storage to your existing self-storage business. The first is e-vaulting.This is how it works: You sell the service as an agent for an e-vaulting partner and earn an ongoing monthly commission for being the sales agent.
This may require a little expertise on your part. You may have to assist the client with installing the software and setting up parameters on his computer. This initial setup connects the client’s computer to the e-vault “server farm,” a collection of computer servers including backup servers. You may also need to train your client to use the backup software. Although e-vaulting companies provide you with all the resources and training you need, it will require a computer-savvy manager.
The second option is a better fit for most self-storage operators. It involves the purchase of a portable data-media vault. Some operators even keep two or three vaults on site. Typically about the size of a large safe, they come fitted with shelving and key-locked data-media containers, which are rented out to customers. The vaults take up a small footprint and require only a few minutes to set up. Some vault vendors even offer insurance and staff training.
To ensure security, the vault has fingerprint identification that requires the self-storage operator’s and the customer’s fingerprints to open. The storage customer receives his own containers designed to provide protected access. They’re about the size of a fishing-tackle box and can hold several backup tapes or disks.
Data-media storage fits well with self-storage because it’s a business-to-business value-added service. Companies have a new agenda in regard to disaster protection and recovery since 9/11 and the data breaches of recent years. Data-media storage can offer your tenants protection and security of recovery while giving you a stable income stream that uses minimal space. It’s a low-risk investment with potentially high profit that can be easily handled by your existing staff.
Cary F. McGovern has been in the commercial records-management industry for 32 years. He has assisted more than 500 companies in 23 countries enter and excel in this unique business. He is a member of ARMA International and PRISM International, and is a speaker at numerous industry tradeshows and conferences. To reach him, e-mail [email protected]; visit www.fileman.com.