As owners and operators of self storage facilities ourselves we understand the challenges involved in buying self storage software. That’s why we’ve created a straightforward guide to finding the best self storage software for your operation today. If you have any questions about the self storage software buying process please feel free to reach out to one of our experts at 800.817.7706, ext 1.
Understand Your Current Needs
The first step in the search for self storage software is to put down your business rules into explicit terms. If you haven’t opened your facility yet, now is the time to establish those business rules. The more explicit terms you can define the operation of the business, the more useful the information will be.
Every self storage operation is different. It’s best not to assume the nuances and caveats that set your facility apart are common practice. That is a surefire way to end up with software that doesn’t fit your business model, wasting time and money. The last thing any owner or operator needs is software that can’t do the job because a specific task wasn’t addressed during the search process.
How do I operate my self storage facility remotely?
Facilities are increasingly turning to automation to reduce labor costs while simultaneously improving customer service. Pin-code activated gates are the most common example of facility automation and one we are all familiar with. Yet what happens when a tenant forgets their pin-code ten minutes after you’ve sat down at home?
Does the self storage software you’re considering offer access to crucial information through mobile devices? Syrasoft has the Syrasoft MobileManager® to permit an increasing range of operations from the palm of your hand.
Check that your self storage software vendor offers a native application for mobile devices. This means the application resides on the device itself instead of loading through a mobile browser. Native applications unlock the full power of the computer each of us carries in our pocket.
Technology is developing at a rapid pace and there is no reason why you should be tied to a PC. Truly efficient software allows you to perform a wide range of common daily tasks without returning to the office.
Is this self storage software flexible enough to accommodate the terms of your lease?
It’s always a good idea to run the terms of your lease past the software vendor. This is to make sure none of the terms are outside of the range of the software. While a vendor typically does not offer legal advice they can spot terms in a lease that may cause issues during the initial setup. In the majority of cases the terms of the lease is reworded to leverage the existing merge field features but it never hurts to check.
Can I accept online reservations, payments, and move ins?
The overwhelming majority of facilities opening today offer online reservations and payments. Increasingly, full move ins with electronic signatures are becoming standard. Tenants now expect these features and not offering them can put a facility at a disadvantage.
Syrasoft offers the Syrasoft Internet Manager® to accept online reservations, move ins, and payments. The service also permits tenants to check their balance and submit changes to their account for manager approval.
It was only a few short years ago these features were a luxury but as technology continues to advance the industry follows suit. It’s now noteworthy to see a new facility erected or purchased that doesn’t open its doors with online services as a standard amenity.
Are any of my plans outside the range of standard self storage operation?
Develop a detailed list of your operational requirements and pay special attention to any practices that aren’t standard procedure at other self storage facilities. All software is designed with a range of business models in mind but if your business model falls too far outside of standard self storage you’ll want to be sure your software selection is flexible enough to accommodate your needs.
If you intend to offer services or use practices you can’t find at other local self storage facilities, ask the software vendor how those features would be supported. A flexible software package will likely have options that with some compromise on the operations side, can meet your needs but it’s better to know what the limitations are going in.
Anticipate Your Future Needs
There was a time when all we had to do was throw some buildings on a pad, a sign by the gate, and an ad in the Yellow Pages to fill our units.
Today competition between facilities has never been tougher and new legislation continues to encroach on the industry. We also have many more products and services to offer; from portable units, valet storage, climate controlled units and truck rentals. An online presence is mandatory in most markets, as are online reservations and payments.
It is difficult to predict where the next changes to the industry will come from next but there are some aspects of change you can plan for when purchasing self storage software.
Are there plans to expand the facility by adding more units or acquiring new facilities? You will want to understand how well the proposed software scales to meet the challenges of growth.
Here are the types of questions you should consider asking if there is growth in the future:
How much do additional units cost?
A great software package with all the features you want for your first phase of 100 units can become prohibitively expensive if the per unit rate is too expensive. Make sure you request pricing at your initial planned size and the final size you expect your self storage software to manage.
Can I access multiple locations seamlessly?
You will likely demo several storage unit software packages in your quest to find the one that is right for you. If your existing or future plans include more than one location ask if the demo software includes more than one demo location.
Operating more than one facility can be as simple as using a drop-down menu or as time-consuming as logging out of, then back into the software to switch locations. Think about the tasks you will be performing across locations and ask yourself how quickly that extra couple of steps will add up when repeated a few dozen times a day.
Is there aggregated reporting?
Think about how you intend to structure a multiple-facility organization. If you intend to view reports for more than one facility at a time you will want to review the aggregated reports the self storage software vendor offers.
Some reports are not conducive to aggregating but many of the occupancy and financial reports can have multiple facilities combined and save bookkeepers, regional managers, or owners a significant amount of time.
Consider how many locations you have, or intend to have, and ask yourself what your time is worth. Do you want to manually combine reports from multiple locations once a month or quarter or do you want the process to be automated?
How are manager permissions handled between locations?
Different staff may require different permissions. How does the software handle permissions across facilities? Owners and regional managers find the ability to work from the same PC as managers but with access to more, or all, of the information from other facilities
If a software has been thought out properly, it will give you and your staff that level of flexibility.
If a location utilizing the software is sold how is the data handled?
Even if you don’t anticipate selling, ask about the process when working with your self storage software vendor. Most vendors try to make the transition painless but you’ll want to know how they manage the hand-off. If new owners can easily take over the contract is another good question to ask. You never know what the future holds for a self storage owner
Who owns your data?
As the industry evolves and continues its shift into primarily cloud-based software, this question becomes increasingly important. We advise that owners and operators read their software agreement carefully to make sure they aren’t unintentionally opening up their facility data to anyone outside of their organization. Insisting any explicit, implied, or potential sharing of data be explained in detail and in writing is only sensible.
Your information is one of the most valuable assets you own, in a competitive market it may very well be the keys to your castle; and access, even in aggregate form, should be very carefully considered.
Features that were once considered luxuries and were relatively uncommon at self storage locations nearby can eventually become standard practice. If you take the time to examine what has changed in recent years you will develop a sense of where your particular market is going and can use that in your decision on what software to adopt.
Take a step back and look at how your local market has changed over the past couple of years. Are they upgrading their websites with more customer service oriented features like online reservations and payments? How about pricing listed on their website that seems to change daily despite being a mom and pop shop? Have they added pin-code activated gates to their facility or a kiosk?
These are services that depend on the facility’s self storage software to utilize effectively. If they’re cropping up with your competitors you may want to consider adopting management software that offers these features or that can integrate with services that do.
Owners and managers require training when adopting new software or switching from one vendor to another. Staff who are comfortable with technology won’t need the same level of training as ones who aren’t tech savvy. You should be prepared to ask yourself if the software vendor has adequate documentation to cover the fundamentals and the support staff to take your employees to the next level.
During the decision-making process, access to a usable demo of the software is an absolute must. A usable demo provides an opportunity to test drive the software and makes absolutely certain that your staff will be comfortable using the software in a real-world setting. Your staff should take some time to explore the software and try to get a feel for how intuitive it is.
We always recommend jotting down the top five tasks you perform on a daily basis then trying those tasks in the software you’re demoing. Your staff will quickly get an idea of how the day to day operation will go.
Third Party Compatibility
This is an area that has caught many experienced self storage operators by surprise. You might be looking at software that supports pin-code activated gates but does it support the hardware you already installed? An assumption made at this stage can result in wasted time and money dealing with equipment returns, deposits, and training then retraining your managers.
Self Storage software vendors will typically give you an explicit list of the vendors their software work with but we recommend confirming with each vendor you intend to use and the self storage software vendor that the pair of companies integrate before making any purchase or signing any contract. Syrasoft offers such a list of compatible vendors our Vendors page.
Desktop Vs Cloud
This is the debate that has defined the past several years on the software side of the self storage industry. Do you keep your data on your local machine or do you host it with one of the growing number of cloud-based alternatives? There is no universal right answer and your answer depends heavily on the needs of the specific business.
The largest objections to cloud-based software have historically been reliability and cost yet as technology continues to advance neither concern is as problematic as it once was. They are both still worth taking a closer look at.
Internet speeds and reliability have increased in nearly every self storage market over the past half decade and the addition of utilities like the Syrasoft Connect MobileManager® for iOS and Android, the reliability hurdle has been largely overcome.
We still recommend having the software vendor check your internet speeds prior to any switch to cloud-based software. This ensures you get the best performance possible.
The traditional model of self storage software sales required a large up-front purchase of software licenses and recurring support fees. Over the course of several years your support fees, additional modules purchased, etc will creep up. By the time you’re ready for an upgrade, you’ll have spent t
We recommend doing the math on labor savings and the increase in the quality of customer service. A cost/benefit analysis should reveal what kind of savings you should expect. In our experience, we find cloud-based software generally wins but the numbers will speak for themselves.
When to Make the Decision On Software
From time to time we see self storage operators shopping for software weeks or even days before the facility opens. This is a substantial missed opportunity that inevitably results in lost revenue, inadequate training. Without exception, these customers come back months in advance for future locations.
The setup process at any company is just that, a process; it requires a careful collection of information regarding business rules, map layout, and documents required by the facility to operate. Self storage software vendors must format the information to match their platform, input this information into their software, then work with the customer to fine-tune the configuration for the best possible experience. This process takes time.
There is also training to consider. Ideally, a facility should have all staff trained on the software so everyone can hit the ground running on day one. Every software has a learning curve so getting a head start on the training is critical to a successful launch.
Reservations and Search Engine Optimization
One element of the self storage software buying process that we don’t believe is considered often enough is having a website ready in time to build search rankings. Why start from zero on day one when you can have tenants finding you online and reserving units prior to opening day?
Self storage software can also work hand in hand with your online presence. By the time you open your facility, you could already be ranking competitively on search engines. SEO is a long game, the sooner you’re offering the answer to queries like “storage units near me,” the better.
The Syrasoft Internet Manager® and Syrasoft’s Web Design and SEO services were designed to do just this. Once set up by our experts, your website will begin paving the way to a solid opening day online presence.
If you’ve made it this far, you’re well on your way to running an efficient and profitable self storage operation!
We understand purchasing self storage management software can be a daunting task. That is why we are available every step of the way to review your needs and help you
We invite you to reach out and speak with one of our self storage software experts today at 800.817.7706, Ext 1.
We look forward to working with you during your software search process!