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Buyer's Guide

by Taylor Short,
Market Research Associate
Last Updated: March 15, 2017

Self-storage organizations provide storage units—such as rooms, containers, lockers and warehouses—on short-term leases, typically on a weekly or monthly basis. The usual clients of self-storage businesses are individuals and businesses, such as retailers, importers, exporters, truckers and manufacturers. By charging a nominal rent, self-storage companies provide additional services, such as insurance cover, biometric access, video surveillance, climate control and personal guards.

Self-storage facilities have unique needs that set them apart from other types of property management. Gate access integration, additional sources of revenue, such as equipment rentals and merchandise sales, as well as online reservations are just a few of the elements a self-storage property manager would need to consider when selecting software. Managing the complexities of a self-storage business is time consuming and frustrating for many property managers. To avoid adding complexities to their business, executives should look for a self-storage solution that reduces human effort and, in turn, improves efficiency.

What is Self-Storage Management Software?

Self-storage management software is used by both single- and multi-property managers. It enables them to view facility maps, facilitate electronic signatures and manage payments. In addition, advanced systems provide additional capabilities to users by integrating with customer relationship management (CRM), accounting and work management solutions. Furthermore, various software providers are offering business intelligence tools for data analysis and visualization.

This buyer’s guide will be a starting point for you to understand self-storage software. The following areas are covered in this guide:

Common Features of Self-Storage Property Management Software
Benefits of Self-Storage Property Management Software
Deployment Options

Common Features of Self-Storage Property Management Software

Facility maps Electronic color-coded maps allow the facility manager to see at a glance the status of each unit—which are in use, which are reserved and which are vacant. You can also print maps for your new renters to show them where their unit is going to be.
Payment options designed for self-storage facilities The revenue model for self-storage facilities demands additional accounting features that a typical property management firm wouldn’t need. These include accepting payments and/or deposits for rental equipment, making merchandise sales, accepting credit card payments, scheduling automatic recurring payments based on the customer’s needs or locking the leaser out for failure to pay on time.
Integration with campus systems Oftentimes student housing is tied to meal plans, utilities or class schedules. A robust student housing program will integrate into the university’s other software programs to facilitate transfer of necessary information.
Online renter access Just as property management systems can have a Web-based portal for tenants, software for self-storage facilities will have a portal for renters and prospective renters. They can reserve a unit (based on the vacancies, as listed through the software) or pay their rental fee without leaving their home.
Gate access integration The more advanced software packages will integrate seamlessly with your gate access system. By giving each tenant a unique access code, the system will give the new tenants access immediately, allow you to track their visitation and lock them out when their payments are past due.
Reporting Property managers should be able to use reports to summarize business performance metrics and take corrective action. Advanced solutions provide real-time reporting functionality that prevents overhead tasks and provides up-to-date information.

Benefits of Self-Storage Property Management Software

Self-storage solutions not only help address challenges for storage unit owners, they also assist in achieving business goals, such as increasing revenue and process efficiency. Business owners can take advantage of the following benefits by using self-storage software:

Automate manual overhead tasks: The software allows property managers to automate manual tasks, such as billing and invoicing, sending payment reminders, sending move in/out notifications and generating reports. Additionally, self-storage software enables property owners to generate auction letters, rent agreements and notices. Property managers can also communicate any rent increases to clients with ease.

Monitor business performance: Self-storage solutions provide business intelligence and reporting functionality to users in order to help them monitor key performance metrics for their rental business. With up-to-date reports, property owners can address challenges and take corrective action in real time.

Enable customer self-service: The solution enables tenants to easily review available storage units with the help of a facility map. With a tenant portal, clients can check dues, customize storage plans, add additional services and view their documents. In addition, they can check their payment due dates and total amounts.

Facilitate digital payments: Self-storage software facilitates credit card, digital wallet and net banking transactions, which increases convenience for both the property owner and the tenant. In addition, advanced solutions also assist in bank reconciliations and tax calculations to help prevent errors during annual tax computations. Thus, software vendors are partnering with banks to integrate payments with their business accounts.

Access from remote location: Advanced solutions are offering mobile applications that enable remote access from any mobile device. The functionality enables property managers and tenants to subscribe a storage unit’s services on-the-go. In addition, the software helps clients locate the nearest storage units that are available based on their requirements.

Manage multiple facilities: Self-storage businesses operate in a number of locations with different storage units. The availability of these units keeps on changing due to the short-term demand of these spaces. Therefore, tracking every unit’s availability becomes tedious for property managers. The software creates facility maps that visualize available and occupied spaces to help prevent errors and thus, maximize revenue.

Deployment Options

Property owners should first discuss all available options in the market with their stakeholders before purchasing a solution. One of the most important considerations before finalizing is the deployment mode of the software. Here are the two most common deployment modes:

On-premise: An on-premise solution is installed on the computer and requires local infrastructure to support it. The software involves a one-time investment, but proves to be cost effective in the long term. However, on-premise deployments reduce a company’s agility and increase infrastructure requirements.

Cloud: Software deployed on the cloud enable users to access it via the internet without requiring specialized infrastructure. Cloud services are usually available on subscription basis in fixed interval billing periods. In the long run,cloud deployment reduces capital investment and companies incur only operational expenses, which further offers agility to the infrastructure. Overall, the entire software industry is gradually moving towards the cloud-based solutions.

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