Cybersecurity Considerations for Self-Storage Facilities

Since the global pandemic has sped up most businesses’ digitization roadmaps, your self-storage facility is likely experiencing digital changes that impact your business. With more customers performing functions on mobile devices instead of in your office, your company undoubtedly faces more cyber risks. Here’s what self-storage facility owners should consider when it comes to cybersecurity.

Cybersecurity Risks for Self-Storage Facilities 

Small companies face significant cybersecurity threats, with half of all cyberattacks targeting small businesses. Unfortunately, many small business owners don’t consider themselves at risk of a cyberattack — and don’t adequately protect themselves. 

All too often, self-storage facilities are a prime target for cybercriminals, mainly because these online thieves steal and use customer information to access bank accounts. If you’ve updated your customer relationship management (CRM) systems to be more tech-enabled, your business could face more risks than you know. 

Common Cyber Attacks 

Understanding the cyber risks your business faces is vital; however, it’s also crucial to educate yourself on trending scams. The following are some of the most common cyberattacks on self-storage facilities:

  • Malware: Short for “malicious software,” malware is any software purposefully designed to damage computers, servers, or computer networks (i.e., viruses). 
  • Phishing: Impersonators, or “bad actors,” pretend to be a trusted party via email and then fraudulently obtain sensitive information, such as passwords, usernames, or credit card numbers. 
  • Passwords: Whether by brute force or an automated system, cybercriminals attempt several password combinations to gain access to confidential information. 
  • Ransomware: This type of malware threatens to make your sensitive information public or block access to it unless you pay the ransom. 

Cyberattack Costs

In the United States, the average cyberattack costs small businesses $955,429 to restore operations after a successful attack. Merely determining how the attack occurred could cost an astounding $15,000. Human error counts for over half of all cyberattacks, including compromised employee passwords.

After a breach, self-storage facilities must notify their tenants, manage recovery efforts, pay fines and penalties, upgrade software systems, monitor credit reporting, and more. Sadly, 60% of small businesses that experience a cyberattack go out of business within six months

How to Mitigate Cybersecurity Risks

With so much at stake, self-storage facility owners must double and triple-check their security measures to safeguard their software. Here are a few ideas to get you started. 

  • Protect your network: Change your router’s default name and disable remote management. Also, ban personal devices from connecting to your network and limit connectivity. Require multi-factor authentication, such as a rotating PIN when employees access their email or the company’s network. 
  • Password training: Implement a password-security policy to help employees create strong passwords to outsmart cybercriminals. 
  • Use encrypted data: Only 22% of small businesses encrypt their databases, making the others easy targets for cybercriminals. Store system data safely in the cloud and backup your information regularly. 
  • Make a recovery plan: Consider mapping out restoration efforts or investing in cyber insurance to help mitigate the damage of a cyber attack.

Three Security Measures That Will Help Self-Storage Owners

One of the most important things a self-storage owner should do is protecting their tenants’ property. Self-storage facilities exist to give people some extra space to keep their things and it is important your tenants see that you take security at your self-storage facility seriously. There are a number of tools you can use to improve the security of your facility and using them will limit your liability if theft does occur. Here are a few security tools that will help self-storage owners protect tenants’ property.

Install smart cameras

Installing a security camera system is one of the best steps to beef up your security. Cameras allow you to record who comes in and out of your self-storage facility, gives police evidence if theft occurs, and deters potential thieves from burglarizing your facility. Every self-storage owner should invest in some form of security camera system.

Harrison Ward a Systems Design Consultant for smart tech installer Automated Environments said that self-storage owners should install people-oriented smart cameras that track license plates and have facial recognition.

“You are going to want to install security cameras that can recognize who is a tenant and who is not,” Ward said. “There are affordable security cameras that effectively record license plate numbers and recognize faces. Using these types of cameras ensure only people that need to be there are going into your self-storage facility.”  

Ward went on to say that it was imperative your cameras are people-oriented and motion-sensitive.

“You don’t want any camera with motion sensors. You want a camera that can distinguish between a person and an animal,” Ward said. “These cameras only start recording when a person walks in their vicinity. Using these cameras will save you a lot of money on data storage because the camera will not have recorded hours of useless footage.”

Self-storage owners should also look to install security cameras with infrared technology and the ability to record at night. Most commercial security cameras have this technology but it is still important to ask your security camera provider if the system you are considering has nighttime and infrared features.

There are both wired and wireless security cameras. A wired system is preferred since the cameras will still function if WIFI is down; however, not every self-storage facility has the necessary infrastructure for a wired setup. Wireless cameras are a great secondary option for self-storage owners who want to increase their security measures but don’t want to invest money to create the infrastructure for a wired system.

When you install your camera system you are going to want to place cameras in every major walkway, roll up, and doorway. It is imperative that you consider your tenants’ privacy when installing security cameras. Place cameras in areas that limit anyone’s ability to view the inside of an occupied self-storage unit.

Hire trained security guards

Cameras are a great visual deterrent for potential burglars, but you also need a physical deterrent. Hiring private security guards to look after your self-storage facility is another way to beef up the security at your facility.

Hiring a security team creates a physical presence that can respond to situations in real-time. A good security system can record or alert you to someone breaking into your facility, but hiring a security team can help you stop break-ins when they happen. Any burglar is going to think twice about stealing from a place that is being patrolled by a good security team.

Bill Herzog, Director of Operations at Lionheart Security Services in Tempe Arizona said a good security team is one of the best ways to prevent theft.

“Someone physically watching your property is the biggest deterrent to theft at self-storage facilities,” Herzog said. “You can have the best security system in the world, but only a human can stop a crime when it is happening.”

It is important you hire a security team that will respond to situations appropriately as they happen. You want to hire a team that knows how to deescalate situations. The point of hiring security is to protect your tenants’ property so you want to get someone who will not run and hide but also not try and start a fight.

Herzog said any security firms you hire should be licensed through your States Department of Public Safety and they should be willing to go over their security plans with you.

“You want to work with a company that is licensed and is willing to provide you the proper guidance,” Herzog said. “A good security team is walking the entire property with you, taking notes, finding access points, checking crime stats, and asking you what you need.

Do not hire a security team that is unable to give you a detailed plan for how they will protect your self-storage facility.

Hiring a security team creates a physical security force to go along with your security cameras.

Implement two-way radios for instant communication

A self-storage team that communicates effectively will be able to respond to emergency situations more quickly. Two-way radios are an efficient way for self-storage employees, owners, and security teams to communicate during a break-in. Two-way radios instant push-to-talk communication allows self-storage team members to reach one another from any area of the facility.

Stewart McClintic, Corporate Account Manager at two-way radio retailer HQ98.com said two-way radios are one of the quickest ways for self-storage teams to reach their colleagues.

“Instant communication via two-way radios is one of the best tools for employees and security teams at self-storage facilities to communicate suspicious incidents or distress calls,” McClintic said. “The push-to-talk benefits of two-way radios ensures that you can call for backup in a criminal situation at your self-storage facility.”

There are multiple types of two-way radios and selecting the right one is important. Self-storage facilities and their security teams should consider a high-powered digital UHF radio. UHF radios get better coverage in a more localized area and are better at getting signals through structures.

Security is important for every self-storage facility. Installing the right cameras, hiring the right security team, and giving employees the right communication tools are key to implementing a security strategy that will keep your tenant’s property safe from criminal activity.

Max Lancaster is a freelance writer specializing in stories to help small businesses.

Self-Storage Unit Fire Hazards and Prevention

Fire hazards are a serious risk for self-storage units. While most clients are responsible unit renters, there are some that might not be so attentive when regarding safety. Protecting tenants belongings from fire hazards is a key tenant of fire safety for self-storage owners. Letting your clients know the risks and supplying them with information to prevent fires is critical when renting units to individuals.

Spotting fire hazards

Fires can start in many ways. Some fires are started by natural causes such as lightning, but most fires are started by people. Self-storage operators need to post signs notifying tenants of potentially hazardous materials that are prohibited from being stored inside their units. These materials include flammable liquids, chemicals and gas-powered tools.

Operators should also inform their clients about inspection processes and encourage them to carefully observe the storage facility’s landscaping and maintenance. Self-storage operators who do not take the time to perform regular maintenance may not be observant about looking out for potential fire hazards.

Preventing fires 

When renting out units to clients share a few fire precautions:

  • It may make financial sense for a person to rent out a small storage unit but overcrowding can become a potential fire hazard.
  • Explain to the client the need for a larger space when necessary to prevent any hazards from taking place.
  • Paper items, photographs and important documents should be store in a fire-proof safe.
  • If the storage unit is equipped with a sprinkler system, discuss the potential damage that can be caused to items in cardboard boxes and furniture in the instance the sprinkler system is activated.
  • Show your clients where the fire extinguishers are located on your property. Extinguishers should be located within 75-feet on the unit for quick and easy access in case of a fire emergency.
  • The fire extinguishers should be ABC models capable of putting out most basic fires.

Discuss with the client the fire prevention protocols you have in place within your units. Smoke detectors, heat monitors, alarms and lighting should all be pointed out during the initial meeting with the client. 

Knowing the fire risks

Self-storage facilities do not provide insurance for their client’s items. Clients need to provide their own insurance when renting storage units in the event of damage resulting from a fire. Self-storage facility owners need to speak with their clients annually to review their insurance policy and ensure they have the correct coverage to protect their items. If available, self-storage operators should advise their tenants to purchase insurance available through the storage unit facility.

Fires can start quickly and unexpectedly. Knowing the fire risks and how to prevent fires at your storage facility is essential in keeping clients and their belongings safe. Have your facilities inspected annually by a professional fire inspector to ensure you are following federal fire safety guidelines and that your facility is up to code.

Author:

Chad Connor is the Owner of Affordable Fire & Safety, LLC in Gilbert, Arizona with almost 30 years of experience as a fire inspector.

How to Use Technology to Retain More Self-Storage Customers

Winning customers is one thing, but keeping those customers around for the long haul is another challenge. This post covers how self-storage facility owners can improve their customer relationship management by offering various conveniences. 

E-payments

For starters, modern-day society appreciates easy and safe payment methods. Checks and large cash transactions are no longer as popular as they once were. Most consumers are tech-driven and desire quick clicks to accomplish the most sophisticated tasks. 

For example, if a tenant finds it too inconvenient to make their monthly payment to your company, they might go elsewhere. According to the Federal Reserve’s 2019 study, the Diary of Consumer Payment Choice, 42% of consumers opted to use a debit card as their payment method. 

However, thanks to digitization and the 2020 global pandemic, digital wallets, and other methods are catching on quickly. No matter what payment option you offer to your customers, they need to be online and tech-enabled

In-App Notifications

Besides online payment methods, consumers frequently wish their customer experience to be hassle-free, interactive — and enjoyable. While websites are still necessary as an online base for your business, mobile apps are swiftly becoming deal-makers and breakers. 

According to Statista, there were 218 billion mobile downloads worldwide in 2020. Tools, communication, and travel are among the most popular apps, to name a few. Naturally, the self-storage industry falls in the category of markets benefitting from in-app purchases and notifications. 

Remember that you don’t have to hire a developer or develop an app yourself to maintain more self-storage customers. Plenty of software exists that you can use to run your business. Not only is this type of software generally easy to use, but it’s an excellent investment in your self-storage company

Online Applications and Reservations

Websites and apps provide user-friendly services, such as tenant screening, applications, and reservations. These options prevent prospects from having to make numerous phone calls, fill out paperwork, and visit your facility in person. Plus, as an owner, you no longer have to upkeep a spacey brick-and-mortar office or mounds of paper files. 

Although not every home in the United States has a reliable internet connection, most individuals in the US have access to an electronic device and internet. Consider that 97% of Americans own a cell phone, while 85% own a smart device. Cafes, colleges, libraries, and more organizations, offer free or budget-friendly internet access. What this means for self-storage facility owners is that online is the place to be.

The Digital Age offers a more cost-effective way to serve your customers. With the right software, your tenants can enjoy the conveniences of in-app services, and you can maintain more self-storage customers. 

How to Manage Pests in a Self-Storage Facility

Every self-storage facility owner understands the damage pests can do to personal belongings. On that same note, prospective clients tend to shop around when searching for the best self-storage facility. Not only do they compare prices, security, and location, but they also look for cleanliness — meaning pest-free. Here are a few tips to help keep pests at bay.

Understand the Risk

No one knows better the harm pests cause than the former tenants of an Armuchee, Georgia self-storage facility. Not only was its sudden closure partially due to damage caused by a barrage of rats, but tenants only had weeks to remove their belongings. 

Unfortunately, pests cause hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of damage to homes and self-storage facilities alike. Battling these nuisances requires an understanding of why they want to invade buildings in the first place — and then spread the words to tenants.

Educate Tenants 

Pests tend to rely on the vulnerability of paper to fulfill their appetite for destruction. Rats, bugs, and a slew of other annoyances can chew straight through cardboard boxes or paper bags. Using plastic totes helps to ward off pests, especially when storage bins are stacked or up off the floor. 

Additionally, clean cooking items thoroughly and avoid storing any food altogether. Even candles and potpourri can attract pests. But it’s not enough knowing the ins and outs of successful pest-free storage. 

Educating tenants takes effort. Include these tips in the contract. Leave helpful pamphlets in your main office area. Make beneficial information available for your tenants to help their self-storage experience a positive one. 

Hire a Pest Control Professional

If rats, mice, or other varmints make it past your frontlines, it’s time to hire a pest control professional. Keep in mind that not all professionals are created equal, so do your due diligence in hiring one. 

Choose a licensed pest control professional, and be sure they’re bonded and insured. Ask for referrals and use word of mouth to find the best professional for your needs. Aside from confirming their certifications, make sure they know their stuff. Do they answer all your questions in detail? Are they willing to contract for ongoing service? What chemicals or traps do they use?

Remember, all of this information is useful and practical. But keep in mind, the cheapest isn’t always the best. Be willing to get a “guaranteed satisfaction” agreement and expect documentation for the services provided. 

Protecting your self-storage facility from pests is a hefty task. If you don’t call the shots, though, the pests will undoubtedly win this battle.