What Is Self Storage Management Software?
Self storage management software is one of the key components that will drive the success of your self storage business. Whether you have a smaller single location with 50 units or a large multi-site business with hundreds of units, it can introduce huge speed and efficiency improvements.
What is self storage management software?
Self storage management software automates many of the repetitive administrative tasks that are required in the daily running of a self storage business. This includes things like assigning units to tenants, tracking unit availability, managing site and unit access, communicating with tenants, creating invoices, and payment collection.
In the early days of self storage, these tasks were done manually by facility managers and were completed, tracked, and reported on through a combination of hand-filled triplicate forms, paper-filled customer files in cabinets, ledgers, bulletin and whiteboards, and lots of phone calls to and from customers and banks. As technology evolved, operators adopted computerization, relieving some of this load by using multiple pieces of separate software together—like Excel spreadsheets, Word documents, a customer database (remember Access and Lotus?!), and an accounting package like Quicken—to manage operations. Surprisingly, many operators today still are using basic, dated, and siloed digital methods like these, unaware of how much unnecessary effort they and their staff are pouring into this everyday admin.
Modern self storage management software doesn’t merely digitize more tasks; it combines the functionality from multiple pieces of software into a single, convenient platform and then upgrades and accelerates operations by fully automating entire business processes along the customer and operational lifecycles—from lead-gen to move-out and sale to reporting.
Types of self storage management software
You can’t answer ‘What is self storage management software?’ without also taking a look at the different types of software available. There’s a range of software solutions on the market, but here are two useful ways to differentiate them.
Desktop vs cloud-based
Older ‘legacy’ software products tend to offer only a desktop solution (also called on-premise software). This means the software is downloaded directly onto each computer and doesn’t require an internet connection to use it. However, this type of software can take up a lot of storage space on your machine, and this increases as you create more tenant accounts and files in it over time. You will often need to buy a copy of the software for each machine it’s loaded to, and be aware that some desktop software will only run on certain operating systems (for example it may run on Microsoft computers but not an Apple computer). Also, because you can only use it on the computers it’s been installed on, this can limit where staff can work—constraining them to working at one facility/office or some other fixed location to manage business tasks (eg, you can do business on your office computer, but not your laptop at home). Finally, desktop software often comes with large upfront costs, and installing updates can be tricky for some.
In contrast, modern technology now offers businesses the option of web-based or cloud software. With this type, the software lives online and you use a browser and a login to access it. This means you can manage your business from any computer with an internet connection, whenever and wherever. Payment is usually subscription based, with you paying monthly. So upfront capital expenditure is minimal, and if you’re a new business, getting started with your new software can cost very little and will scale as you grow. Some providers may offer tiers with a maximum number of user accounts included, while others will offer unlimited staff logins, no restriction on how many of your team can access the system at once, and no additional licence fees per staff member.
Traditional vs modern self storage software
Older, more traditional platforms have been built over decades. As a result, their attempts to offer modern functionality on top of dated, limited tech can sometimes result in what feels like half-baked solutions. For example, it may offer online reservations, but not allow customers to submit payment at the same time—instead having to wait for you to contact them. It may take a renter’s first payment, but not be able to take recurring payments each billing cycle. Or, it may support recurring payments, but only if you also use two additional software solutions (the payment processing company plus an additional solution to help manage the subscription side of things), resulting in two extra fees and more hassle for you as an operator. It may offer facility maps, but on closer inspection these are mainly color-coded images that you can’t use to assign to new tenants with or view renter’s details from. It may offer online sales and facility management, but only if you purchase their website platform separately and connect the two systems.
The market’s more cutting-edge self storage software, on the other hand, takes a 360-degree approach, building all the features and functionality in a single system from the ground up. They’re built for the way operators need to work today and they way customers shop online today, with a strong focus on automating as much as possible. An ecommerce website, fully automated billing and payment processing, customer management, facility management, access management, and reporting will all coexist seamlessly in the one system. Customers can rent space without ever speaking to staff. Reservations and payments can be taken while you sleep. Invoicing, recurring payments, tenant access is all handled by the software.
Making your self storage software decision
There are many questions you should be asking when selecting self storage software. There are numerous options out there, and the choice of which software to use shouldn’t just be based on what might work for your business now. Also consider whether the software has the longevity you need. Can it get you through the next 10 years as your business evolves and still allow you to operate as efficiently as possible?
For a detailed look at the key questions you should ask vendors when comparison shopping, and why, make sure to read our guide Choosing Self Storage Management Software: What To Ask.
The work self storage management software can do shouldn’t be underestimated. It can help reduce the number of staff required for a business and even enable you to operate completely unstaffed with a fully automated business model. For example, our CEO, Gavin, has a fully automated self storage business himself comprising two sites, both of which are using Stora and the Janus Noke Smart Entry System.