When it comes to self storage security, it’s not a matter of “if” but “when” someone will try to get away with something illegal on your property. Hopefully it’s just something small, like a tenant trying to store food illegally in their unit, and not something dangerous, like people living in their storage units or violent criminal activity at the facility. As a storage owner, you have the responsibility to protect managers, renters, and their possessions on-site, and having excellent security can be a strong marketing tool for your business. Renters want a clean, safe, and secure space for their stuff, and having the right access control system is key to all three. Read on to learn five tips for choosing your self storage gate and entry access control tools and avoid costly mistakes.

1. Know what your renters want.

Remember the old Christina Aguilera song? “What a girl wants, what a girl needs…” Before you choose access control for your self storage facility, you’ll need to understand what renters want. Depending on your location, your target market may have unique security concerns. Remember, if you’re planning on charging premium rates for space, renters will expect top-of-the-line security. Tenants will also expect your security features to be up-to-par with local competition in order to feel comfortable storing with you. Talk to your customers to get to know their security preferences. Ask renters what their biggest security concerns are on the property right now, and address them immediately. Find out their technology preferences. Would they prefer using an app for identification at your facility over a keypad? Don’t assume you know the answer without finding out for sure.

2. Perform a security assessment of your property.

Each property has its own unique challenges when it comes to security. If you’re out in the middle of the country, you might be worried about people breaking in during the cover of darkness and stealing from your tenants before distant neighbors notice. If you’re in a dense urban area, your big concerns might be vandalism or people tailgating into the facility. During your security assessment, you’ll want to find any weak spots at your facility (such as tall trees along the back of the facility that make it easy for people to break-in undetected, proximity to main highways and interstates, or large retail centers nearby). Some security tools you may want to consider based on your assessment include:

Keep in mind, your tenants won’t be the only ones using your gates, doors, and keypads. If you have a lot of non-tenants who need access to your facility (such as groundskeepers, property managers, maintenance workers, or contractors doing building work), consider how easy it is to track the comings and goings of non-tenants in your access control system. Find out what security concerns your closest neighbors are facing (storage or non-storage) and factor those in, as well.

3. Research what’s new with an open mind.

The old way of doing things isn’t always the best way. If you’re looking for a new, better way of managing access to your storage units, you’re in luck! The self storage industry is undergoing a technology overhaul. Whether you’re looking for a cheaper way to automate overlocking with tools like DaVinci Lock or wanting high-tech individual unit controls with the latest infrared technology, there’s tons of new innovation happening in the self storage security and storage unit access control space.

One of the best ways to start your research is by checking out an industry conference. You’ll meet with hundreds of like-minded real estate investors, learn from educational sessions, and check out new industry tech in-person (plus, get free storage swag) by browsing the trade show halls. By doing some research, you’ll be able to find the solution that’s right for your facility. Whether you choose the latest state of the art technology or a simple, affordable system that works on a tight budget, doing thorough research will allow you to pick and choose the features you care about most.

4. Determine what works with your current (or future) system.

Security cameras, gates, door and elevator controls, access control keypads, monitored alarms, motion-sensor lights, rental kiosks, individual unit alarms, office security - all of these moving technology pieces need to come together to form one fluid security system to protect the renters and managers who are on-site at your facility. One of the most important tools your security needs to integrate with is your facility management software. To prevent delinquent renters from accessing the property, your gate will need to communicate with your management software to pull tenant data, payment statuses, and rental information. And it needs to work fast - delinquency status can change from hour to hour, day to day, and you don’t want your gate to accidentally let in renters who are past due.

If you don’t currently have facility management software, you’ll need to do extra research to figure out what kind of software system you’ll be using in the future to ensure your access control security tools are compatible with your new software system.

5. Get advice from top operators before you pull the trigger.

Last but certainly not least, talk to storage owners you respect and find out what security tools they recommend, what they’d do differently, and what their biggest security concerns are for the future. Don’t underestimate the power of networking in self storage - you’ll learn more about the industry, make friends, and get valuable insights from people who’ve learned things the hard way.

Whether it’s crowdsourcing your question on Self-Storage Talk, calling up a few top operators in similar markets, or chatting with other industry members at self storage trade shows, find a way to get advice from other people in the industry who’ve faced problems like yours before. As a storage investor, you’ll surely make mistakes, but choosing the wrong self storage access control technology doesn’t have to be one of them. By doing plenty of research and getting advice from other owners, you can streamline your on-site security and prevent unwanted visitors from accessing your property.

Thanks for reading! If you liked this blog post, you may also like: How to choose the best gate security system for your self storage property, What technology do you need to run an unmanned self storage business? (Infographic), and How to automate your rental rates to boost revenue.