Shopping around for self storage software? You’ve come to the right place. Before you start talking to vendors and doing demos, it’s smart to do a little research on cloud-based software. It’s the perfect time to make your technology wish list and find answers to your questions, like, what is cloud-based software, really? And how can you tell the real thing from outdated software that’s been adapted for the web?

To start, cloud-based software is hosted over the internet instead of installed on your computer. It’s simple: instead of purchasing a CD or disc with the software on it and using it to install the program, cloud-based software is all online. The benefits? Cloud-based software is more secure than storing data on a CD or your on-site computer, it’s accessible from anywhere with an internet connection, and it receives frequent updates (like once a week or more!).

There are tons of benefits to cloud-based software. It’s perfect for access on mobile devices and smartphones, making it ideal for 2017 and beyond. Not sure if the system you’re using is cloud-based? Don’t be fooled by tricky wording like “web-compatible” or “web-enabled.” Learn to spot the warning signs of outdated software by checking out this article. Here are some of the biggest tip-offs of software that isn’t cloud-based:

If you have to pay for updates…

Nope. You’ve been duped - it’s not really cloud-based if you have to pay to update your software to the latest version. Think of it this way: Facebook is a cloud-based social media website. Your profile information is stored online, and available whenever you log in. When Facebook updates the site, they don’t send you a bill or ask you to pay to start using the new update. You simply log in, and voila! The updated version of the site is there and ready for you to use.

Your self storage software is no different. A cloud-based software will update without any work from you, and you’ll be able to start using it right away, as soon as you log in, without having to pay for the latest version or bug fix. It’s one of the benefits of having a team of engineers and software developers working night and day to improve your software.

If you have to install something onto your computer…

It’s not cloud-based software. Just like the Facebook example, you can access cloud-based software completely online, without having to manually install or download a program on your computer. Because it runs on your web browser (like Safari or Google Chrome), you’re able to access your cloud-based software from any device - whether that’s your office computer, your smartphone, your tablet or iPad, or your friend’s smartphone! All you’ll need to do is open up a web browser and log in.

Don’t be fooled by software providers who claim to offer cloud-based accessibility but require you to run a different program on your smartphone or tablet than you would run on your desktop computer. You shouldn’t have to install anything, use a mobile version of your software, or pay extra for mobile access to your cloud-based software.

If you have to leave your computer on overnight to download updates…

It’s not cloud-based software. Your software should be constantly improving with updates at least once a week. Why? Because the self storage industry is always changing. Lien laws change, new technology is released (like new smartphone tools, gate software, payment processing systems, and security systems), and tenants expect more and more online accessibility. Your software provider should be consistently adding new features and tools to keep your self storage business at the forefront of industry technology.

If you have to install updates by leaving your computer or device on overnight, that’s a big red flag. It’s outdated and time-consuming, and not ideal for cloud-based software. Plus, it makes it nearly impossible for users to access the latest version of your software on any device. You should expect your software to update automatically without any work or effort on your end - no downloading, no running updates, and no overnight system upgrades. You’ll simply log in and see a notification that your software has updated. When you click the notification, you’ll be able to check out all the improvements that were made by the update and start accessing new features right away.

If your software is “going out of support” by your provider…

It’s definitely not cloud-based software. This is the worst-case scenario for your self storage business: you’re running a version of a software that is outdated, and by “no longer supporting it,” the provider is essentially forcing you to pay for the latest upgrade. You should never have to pay for the latest updates to your cloud-based self storage software. If you find yourself running on unsupported software, it’s probably time to start shopping for a new technology provider.

Support is one of the most important aspects of your software. Your software provider should offer around-the-clock support with a wealth of online support tools, like tutorials, videos, and training courses that help you learn new features or train managers how to use the software. Another major red flag? Having to pay to talk to a real human to get help with your software. You should be able to pick up the phone and talk to a customer support specialist anytime, at no extra cost to you.

If your on-site computer runs a different version of the software…

Run far, far away. PC software or standalone software is rarely updated - yearly updates are not nearly enough to keep up with ever-changing industry laws and technology standards. If you have a web-based version that goes along with your on-site software, you’re not running a truly cloud-based software. The two versions won’t be updated in real-time to reflect current changes being made on-site or online, so one of the two will always be outdated. And isn’t it important to have the latest information at your fingertips, especially if you’re working remotely?

It’s nearly impossible to do online move-ins from a mobile device if you have to manually enter the same information on your on-site software program. By simply running a software that works off Internet connection, you’ll be able to have the latest updates available anywhere, from any device. You should never have to download anything or update your software to get the latest version on any device. What happens if your on-site computer crashes? You would lose all of your data and have to manually (read: painstakingly) enter it again. That’s not a risk most self storage owners are willing to take.

The best way to protect your data is to operate on a completely cloud-based software with the latest in business intelligence and data reporting tools. May we recommend storEDGE? Our 100% cloud-based self storage software offers the industry’s most integrated business intelligence tools, accessible from anywhere with an internet connection. No downloads, manual updates, or paid upgrades, ever.

Thanks for reading! If you liked this article, you may also like: The ABCs of cloud-based technology, How users search for self storage + the #1 reason why you shouldn't obsessively Google yourself, and Everything you need to know about cloud-based software.