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.

5 Tips for Increasing Your Self-Storage Facility Profits

Although plenty of people need a place to store their belongings, getting those folks to choose your facility can seem tricky. Competition is steep. Plus, legal and financial setbacks can damage your longevity. Here’s a look at some insider tips to help your facility get the exposure it needs to win new business and increase your self-storage facility profits.

1. Analyze Current Data 

For starters, it’s vital to know how well your current marketing strategy is working, which means you must measure marketing results. Consider figuring out how your customers find you (i.e., online search engines, referrals, Yellow Pages, and ads). What marketing funnel works the best as a sales lead? Data analysis is telling; you can learn a lot about your business. 

Furthermore, what do your customers honestly want, and are you giving that to them? What are your competitors doing differently? Take stock in your current data, and use it to your advantage. 

2. Master Your Brand 

Think about what’s special or memorable about your self-storage facility? Do you have a unique selling point that sets you above the rest? Many times, business owners focus solely on pricing, disregarding niche products or angles. 

Upon closer inspection, you’ll likely discover organic specialties you offer customers. Consider highlighting those aspects of your business. Perhaps you have climate-controlled units that are scarce in your area. Or maybe you offer helpful in-app services. Avoid being shy about your best features. 

3. Recruit Marketing Help

There’s nothing simple about executing a successful marketing campaign. Sometimes trends shift overnight, and industry best practices change. Keeping up with all the new information is challenging. 

Instead of tackling your marketing efforts alone, consider hiring help. Marketing agencies and firms can strategize for you, even when you’re dealing with a shoestring budget. From digital strategies to networking freelancers to telling your business story, a marketing firm can help to increase your self-storage facility profits

4. Offer Unique Deals

We mentioned this point earlier; however, think about what you offer your current and potential customers. What kind of deals do you offer prospects? Do you have a rewards program?

Many self-storage facilities sell boxes, tape, and other storage products for their customers to use. Maximize your profits by offering package deals, such as sign up for automatic payments and get ten boxes free. Try to cater to the customers in your area and your unique business specialties. 

5. Encourage Referrals

How much business do referrals drum up for your self-storage facility? If the number is low, it’s time to think about pursuing this marketing strategy. Although it might take some time for it to pan out, it’s a multi-tiered marketing campaign that you can profit from for years to come. 

Referrals can come from former and current customers as well as employees. It’s about turning these individuals into strong advocates for your business. Plus, once you’ve found your rhythm, this campaign will continue to gain massive momentum. 

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.

Alternatives to Traditional Padlocks for Self-Storage Facilities

As a self-storage facility owner, you owe it to your tenants to give them top-notch security. Aside from video surveillance and other reasonable precautions, a clever move is to consider alternatives to traditional padlocks.

Although padlocks are often the go-to security for self-storage, plenty more options are available. New technology and materials mean more protection for site owners. Here’s a look at three high-security locks to replace your padlocks.

Padlock Problems

Only a few external locks offer maximum protection; however, thieves and burglars easily defeat the old linchpin of the padlock regularly. Its pitfall is the schematic pin and tumbler system, making it a cinch to pick the lock. With hundreds of DIY lock-picking tutorials online, it’s only a matter of time before thieves take YouTube videos to heart.  Padlocks are only a deterrent, not a full-proof method of preventing a break-in.

1. Combination Locks 

Combination locks add a layer of protection by coupling the power of the traditional pin-and-tumbler lock and adding a sequence of symbols or numbers. Inputting this sequence is the only way to unlock it. Also, these lock types don’t use keys like padlocks, so no more losing keys.

Remember, combination locks are susceptible to traditional cracking methods — but not many thieves can master that skill. Unfortunately, unless they’re closed-shackle locks, this type can be snipped with bolt-cutters, too. Even though they work in many situations, sometimes you need more protection, so it pays to consider disc locks and electronic locks. 

2. Disc Locks

Disc locks are similar to padlocks but have a more reliable history. They have a short, embedded hasp, making them suitable for self-storage facilities. Plus, bypassing the keyhole is challenging, so potential thieves tend to give up on the endeavor. The locks’ shape makes it nearly impossible for criminals to snip it with a pair of bolt-cutters. They’re often designed with a pin and tumbler keyhole, making them susceptible to bump keys. Using an alternative to the pin and tumbler is essential to ensure security. Thankfully, plenty of disc locks use alternative designs. 

3. Electronic Locks

If you’re looking for ultimate security, consider the electronic lock. It’s unusual to find these locks on self-security units, but they’re trendy on gates or external doors. They’re highly resistant to tampering thieves. Plus, they don’t have keyholes to breach. 

One reason these locks are so effective is that the design removes the traditional lock and key function. Instead, they’re opened with keypads or magnetic swipe cards. This layer of protection makes it incredibly challenging for thieves to breach your tenant’s personal information and beat the lock.

No matter which lock design you choose to use for your external gates and doors, remember that your facility’s security is of utmost importance. 

Self Storage Developers: Equity Partnerships to Launch Projects

Entering the self-storage industry can be an exciting prospect. The chance to develop and build your own facility can lead to a financial windfall but getting started can also bring with it many newfound risks. Getting the most out of your self-storage facility requires the right amount of capital, good locations and industry expertise. All of these things can be difficult for one person to obtain which is why building an equity team can help you mitigate risk by allowing you to team up with expert business partners who can assure the projects optimal success.

Here are a few things to consider when building your equity team.

Why build an equity team?

You usually want to build an equity team when you have a self-storage project but you are lacking the key ingredients to get that project off the ground. For example, you might have a good plot of land, but may lack the capital needed to develop the property or vice versa. Perhaps, you have both the land and the capital to develop the project but you lack the expertise in dealing with municipal building codes.

An equity team adds an infusion of management, financing and expertise to a project you are unable to complete on your own in exchange for split ownership on the project. However, the formation of an equity team should not be taken lightly because working with bad business partners can only hurt your project. Here are a few things you need to think about.

Draft a summary of the property location

If you are looking to build an equity team for your self-storage project, then it is important for everyone on your team to have all the necessary information regarding the location. Bring a summary of the location that tells potential members of your equity team the size of the land, the zoning and the history of the site. The land history should tell team members what the land was originally used for in the past and if there is proper access to utilities. Be honest about the condition of the land and tell reveal and issues that could be prohibitive.

What is the entitlement status?

What do your local municipalities think of your project? Has your project been zoned for self-storage and do you have all the necessary permits to build a self-storage facility? The biggest thing you need to avoid when it comes to entitlements is resistance to your project. If a city or its citizens are against your project it can be almost impossible to get your facility properly zoned.   

Figure out if it is feasible

Make sure you have a feasible project before you and your team begin investing in a self-storage project. Know how much competition is in your area. What is the demand for a self-storage facility and how many self-storage facilities are in your area? Do a feasibility study and learn how much your competition pays in rent, how occupied they are and what it costs to build their facility. Knowing these things will give you a greater sense of the market and allow you to correctly assess your own project.

Create accurate projections and a budget

Make sure you have projections of how you think the project will do month by month by creating a proper profit and loss statement. Create accurate traffic reports so you know how many people come through your area at a given time. Report on each phase of construction so we can accurately asses the cost of the project and when it is projected to be completed.

Most importantly make sure you have good character references for every member of your equity team. You always want to work with people of high integrity. Character references should be with people and organizations your team members have worked with in the past. They should have a good credit history and consistently pay their loans on time. A past lawsuit does not need to be a deal-breaker but a history of lawsuits is a bad sign. Doing your due diligence with the people you are working with is so important in preventing unwanted risk.

Starting a self-storage facility can be a difficult but rewarding process. Building the right equity team around you can ease some of the burdens and mitigate your risk in a hot market. Follow the steps and cover all your bases and you should be on your way to a strong partnership.

Dave Kotter is the Principal of Integrity Capital LLC, a commercial mortgage brokerage in Scottsdale Arizona. Integrity Capital has obtained self-storage financing for clients across the nation. They are an expert in the industry.