If you’re just starting your search to find technology tools for your new storage business, you’re bound to run into the same terminology, acronyms, and storage-y words over and over. If you’re feeling out of the loop and need to catch up, you’ve hit the motherload! Here at storEDGE, we’re practically self storage technology dictionaries. In fact, we literally wrote the book on self storage technology! Learn your self storage technology ABCs below to get prepared for your search:

A is for Access Control

In self storage, access control encompasses the monitoring and control of all entry and exit points, from gates to man doors and elevators to unit doors. No matter what your facility layout or where you want to monitor the coming and goings of tenants, there is surely an access control system available that can help you provide additional security at your facility. Storage owners have lots of great options when choosing their access control system. Whether you want security controls at the unit, cloud-based access that is integrated with your management software, keycard or bluetooth access, or app-based access, there’s something out there for every facility style.

B is for Business Intelligence (BI)

Business intelligence is all about data collection and analysis - specifically, the technology, applications, and practices involved in collecting, integrating, analyzing, and presenting business data. For self storage, business intelligence (BI) means gathering all of the disparate data (such as lead data, rate management information, occupancy percentages, net move-ins, and more) created by your self storage business and bringing it all together for intelligent analysis. With high-powered technology tools, storage brands can get these detailed insights and make connections across all of their business touch points.

C is for Customer Support

Shouldn’t your technology come with a group of people who are there to help assist you every step of the way? Customer support should be fast, free, and personal - whether it’s via online help site tools that allow you to find your own answers, email support where it’s easy to send screenshots or share your screen, or being able to pick up the phone and chat with someone, high-quality tech support is key to your storage facility’s success.

D is for Data

You can’t have business intelligence without data - the facts, information, and stats collected for your storage facility’s reference or analysis. So where is all this data coming from? Online, offline, and everywhere in-between. With the right tools, data can be aggregated to bring in lead source information, website data, lien information, detailed software data, marketing spending, report mapping, economic occupancy percentages, and more to create useful charts and graphs for your self storage business. You don’t have to be a data scientist or a spreadsheet nerd to reap the benefits of data - you just need the right technology tools that can analyze and present the data in a way that’s easy for business owners to understand.

E is for E-Sign

Electronic signatures (e-sign) allow your self storage tenants to sign their lease documents digitally through their phone, computer, or your on-site kiosk, tablet, or iPad. With e-sign, there’s no need for printing paperwork, meaning tenants don’t have to come into your facility to sign a lease - they can do it all from their phone at home! If you want to let tenants complete full move-ins online, you’ll need to implement e-sign to be able to track, store, and manage lease agreements digitally in your cloud-based software.

F is for Facility Map

A facility map is an interactive map in your software offering a bird’s eye view of your storage property, complete with unit and tenant statuses and actionable tools that allow you to complete move-ins and move-outs, overlocking, bill pay, or new leads. If you’re using your facility map on a cloud-based facility management software, it’s easy to complete tasks from the facility map using your tablet or iPad while on the go.

G is for Google Maps

Google Maps offers satellite imagery, turn-by-turn directions, and panoramic street views that make it easy for leads to find your business online. In just a couple clicks, they can see a bird’s eye view of your facility and its location in relation to their home. Along with Google Maps, it’s important to keep your Apple Maps and Bing Maps listings updated and accurate, otherwise people may get lost trying to find your business!

H is for Hosting

A web hosting service provider is a business that provides the digital marketing expertise and technologies needed to create a website for your self storage business. Websites are hosted, or stored, on secure computers called servers, usually in a separate location at what’s called a server farm. A server farm is essentially a warehouse data center with beefed-up computers receiving round-the-clock maintenance to ensure their security. For example, Facebook has a massive server farm the size of six football fields on the edge of the Arctic Circle in Northern Sweden. Data centers like Facebook’s are extremely secretive and heavily guarded to protect user data and ensure backup in the event of a system failure.

I is for Integrated Services

In self storage technology, integrated services are helpful products that work together to streamline your operations. Whether it’s postal mailing integrated in your software that makes sending lien notices easier, or payment processing and insurance that’s baked into your online move-in process, it’s important that your website and software function with these services seamlessly to provide the best experience for your renters and make work easier for your team.

J is for JavaScript

No, not the java that’s in your coffee mug. Although, you’ll probably need that, too. JavaScript (JS) is a web programming language, and if you have a website, it’s most likely written in JS. As a self storage owner, you don’t need to know a lot about JS, but your web design team does! Make sure you’re working with a professional website team that knows how to program your storage website to function flawlessly across all devices, rank well in search, and provide easy-to-use actionable tools to your leads and renters.

K is for Kiosk

A self storage kiosk is a self-service rental station, often on-site at your facility with a touch screen that allows users to browse available units, select a unit and move in, sign a lease, and submit payments. Many kiosks also have vending services that allow the user to complete actions and buy items, such as locks, boxes, or moving supplies, and the items are dispensed below, just like an ATM. Kiosks are great for processing cash transactions at a mostly unmanned storage facility.

L is for Lien Letters

Whether you call it a default letter, demand letter, certified letter, certificate of lien notice letter, lien notice, or lien letter, it always serves the same purpose. Lien letters serve to inform tenants of their delinquency status, or failure to pay their rent. By law, storage owners are required to send proper notice to delinquent tenants that informs them of their lien status before their unit goes to auction and their items are sold. As of 2018, nearly 40 states allow for lien letters to be sent via email. The remaining states require lien letters to be sent by postal mail. If you’re curious if your state allows you to email lien letters (saving your facility time and money), start with this blog post and SSA’s resources on the topic.

M is for Management Software

Of course! You need management software, aka the software you use to process move-ins, move-outs, manage unit and tenant statuses, communicate with tenants, manage delinquency, run reports, organize leads, track gate access, process payments, manage rates, and run your storage business in general. We recommend storEDGE (cough, cough).

N is for Net Profit

Your storage business’s net profit is simply your bottom line: what your profit is minus bill and operating expenses for your business. Many small storage facilities simply use Quickbooks to manage their accounting and payroll. Whatever accounting software you’re planning on using to manage payroll and business expenses, make sure that your facility management software offers easy exports and imports to keep your books clean.

O is for Online Rentals

Just like ordering a pizza online or reserving a table at your favorite restaurant, tenants can rent a unit, digitally sign a lease, get a gate code, and move-in all on their own from their smartphone with online rentals. Your storage customers are used to serving themselves. From the grocery store self-checkout line to online shopping on Amazon, consumers are used to the fast-paced, self-serve environment, and waiting to talk to a human seems painfully slow in comparison to online ordering in three clicks or less. The trick to online rentals in self storage is keeping your unit prices, unit availability, lease and payment information up to date on your website. Your storage website can’t be static - it has to constantly be communicating back and forth with your software to gather and show the correct information to your leads and tenants.

P is for Pay Online

How often do you write a check? If you’re like most consumers, you don’t even carry your checkbook with you, and you rarely ever pay with cash. By allowing tenants to pay online, you’re simplifying the rental process and making it accessible for modern renters who don’t want to have to drop a check off in your office or bring cash. Plus, studies show that consumers spend more when they pay online, meaning tenants are more likely to rent more expensive units and stay longer when they pay with a card online or set up autopay.

Q is for Query

As in a search query, like “self storage near me” or “climate-controlled units near Scranton.” When people start their search for self storage, they simply go online to find a facility near their home or work that looks good enough for their stuff. The more expensive, sentimental, or hard-to-replace their stuff is, the more amenities they usually look for in a storage facility, like climate control, high-tech security, and 24-hour access. Your website should be geared to help new renters find the tools they need to make renting a unit easy. (Most people don’t know how much they can fit in a 5x10’’ storage unit!) To get their attention, you’ll need a well-designed website and great search engine optimization (SEO). Learn more about how people search for self storage online in this detailed blog post!

R is for Responsive

As in, mobile-responsive website design. A mobile responsive website is one that changes to fit the size of the device that users are viewing it on. When you’re viewing a mobile responsive website on a small device, like an iPhone 5, the website will appear streamlined so that it’s easy for users to read blog content, look at images and videos, and complete actions in the smaller view. Most of your renters will find your website by searching from their mobile device, so you’ll want to make sure your self storage website looks fantastic and allows for easy online move-ins on smartphones. Check out our ebook on web design to learn all about mobile responsive websites (and more) in an easy-to-read format.

S is for Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Search engine optimization, or SEO, refers to the process of catering a website’s design, layout, content, and marketing to the needs of search engines in order to rank highly in search results for relevant keywords and maximize the number of clicks and conversions on your website. (Whew! That’s a mouthful. For a really slick overview of SEO, check out this blog post.) SEO has everything to do with your website and your success online, and whole professions are dedicated to optimizing content and learning about search engine algorithms to fine tune SEO strategies. It’s a BFD (big friggin’ deal!).

T is for Two-Way Texting

Two-way texting is just as simple as it sounds: it’s sending and receiving SMS text messages, just like on your smartphone, but with your self storage tenants and through your management software. It might not sound like something you need when you’re first shopping around, but some software providers offer it for free, and it’s more convenient than you might think. There are tons of things you can do with texting in self storage, like sending an automated message that has a link to your online payment portal before rent is due, or shooting a quick message to a tenant who is having trouble at the gate. Plus, there are lots of tenants who prefer texting over phone calls (in fact, most of them do!).

U is for UI/UX

That’s user interface (UI) and user experience (UX), or the interaction and overall experience of a user with a website and how easy and helpful the technology is to use. Websites that are optimized for UX are easy to use and provide useful information that helps the user answer questions from their search. (For example, a search query of “self storage in Scranton” and easy-to-find location information for a Scranton location on your self storage website .) As a web user, you can probably think of time you’ve had a horrible user experience on a website due to pop-up ads or web content that’s hard to view on a phone. Check out our tips for UX for your self storage website in this web design ebook.

V is for Video Surveillance

Smile! You’re on camera. Video surveillance and security camera monitoring are common amenities in self storage, and you’ll definitely want to explore the right security tools for your location and market. Even if you’re running a traditional facility with an on-site manager (a manager who lives in an apartment, RV, or built-in home at your property), you’ll want to explore security options to prevent theft and illegal activity at your property. Research the options and find out what your local competitors are doing for security to get started

W is for Website

You know, the home of your business online. Without a website, people are going to struggle to find your storage business. It offers the best ROI for your marketing dollars, and it allows you to bring self-service tools to both leads and tenants that allow them to rent, sign their lease, and pay their bill online. A website with online rentals is the easiest way for tenants to rent a storage unit. They can even do it from their couch!

X is for Xerox

As in get rid of it. With e-sign, you’ll never have to make copies of your lease again! Xerox printers are expensive, loud, and they break all the time. By taking your move-in process paperless, you’ll avoid the unnecessary hassle of printing and the pain of buying ink that costs more than your child’s college education. Plus, cloud-based document storage is much more secure and accessible than in-office document storage. (Get the ABCs on going paperless and storing your business documents in the cloud here.)

Y is for Yelp

Reviews! You can’t live with them, you can’t live without them. Or maybe that’s donuts? Either way, Yelp is one of the top places where customers go to look for in-depth reviews of your business. It’s important to keep an eye on your reviews across Google, Facebook, Yelp, and Bing to ensure the health of your business online. If you’re not sure how to get started with reviews, or you’re trying to repair a damaged star rating at a newly acquired facility, check out our guide to getting more reviews for your business.

Z is for Zip Code

Your zip code is a keyword for your site’s SEO, meaning it helps users find you with relevant searches like “self storage near me” or “storage in Scranton, PA 18505.” Why does this work? Because of search engine bots! Search engine bots work within search algorithms gather information from around the web and determine what is relevant for users’ search queries based on location, device, search history, and more. It’s pretty rad stuff, but it can get complicated. To ensure your website’s success for location-based searches, make sure your website team comes complete with SEO and local search experts.

Thanks for reading! If you liked this article, you may also like: The ABCs of cloud-based technology, Top 10 best blog posts for new self storage owners and investors, and 5 things to know before you become a self storage owner.