Self-storage owners weigh Cloud-based operations

While growing pains around moving operations to cloud-based operations centers will continue for some time, there's little question that it's the wave of the present-and future. Especially for operators with more than one location, the Cloud can offer a level of organization, accessibility, and affordability unparalleled by on-site solutions.

Essentially, the Cloud enables multiple self-storage facilities to operate from one centrally stored and easily updated "playbook." New and updated software, organizational protocols and applications all funnel through the Cloud.

This creates more robust operational tools and can save money, among other benefits. Because everything is handled through a central Cloud-based server, the same information given to one operator is given to another at the same time, "pushed" by the server to every authorized user.

Among other savings, this can minimize or eliminate need for locally-controlled computers and servers, all of which require constant attention, troubleshooting and maintenance. Instead, local computers become "dummy" terminals, able to access and work with the Cloud server without having to maintain local files, programs, applications, et al. All that is required is a reliable Internet connection.

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Ramona Taylor, President of Space Control Systems, Inc., advises those moving to the Cloud to:

1. Check to see where data will be stored. Make sure to work with a professional hosting company to ensure that data is safe and always accessible.

2. Be open to changing management practices to take full advantage of the Cloud. Leverage the ability to use real-time information on operations such as new advertising campaigns or discounts. Get a heads-up on developing issues before they become big problems.

3. Look for software that tells at a glance the state of business at each site. To follow operations more closely, owners do not want to spend a lot of time getting to needed information.

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Other benefits include near-flawless and secure backup and recovery protocols. If a stand-alone computer crashes with all key organizational data on it, major challenges can result. One is permanent loss of non-backed-up data. Besides wreaking havoc with present operations, this alone can kill a business within months.

Another is loss of productivity. In a Cloud environment, you may lose use of your local machine because of malfunction. But, you won't lose access to all your information. Through prescribed access protocols, you will be able to access the information from another computer. That can limit downtime, and potential loss of business.

For those interested in migrating to the Cloud, following are a few cautions and considerations:

1. Vet the security. In theory, Cloud computing is more secure than locally-based systems because high-level, constantly updated security is included. Anti-virus and firewall protection, accessibility and other security issues are handled, updated, and addressed through one system. Role-based permissions enable different employees to access different levels of information, depending on their "security clearance." This clearance level also can block employees from personal web browsing and email, two ways that hackers love to break into corporate systems.

2. Vet the vendor. For self-storage, look to self-storage authorities wherever possible, versus general Cloud-based solution providers. As with other industries, self-storage has highly specific operation and organizational requirements. Finding a well-respected self-storage centric provider likely will eliminate most of the issues that can arise when seeking to get one's head in the Cloud.

3. Vet the references and reports. Once you have selected a potential vendor(s), thoroughly check references and online reports about the firm. The key here is to be savvy and to connect consistent dots among multiple sources. For example, if you talk to three references and see a dozen online reports that applaud the same basic strengths, that establishes a believable pattern. One malcontent in the mix, however, could be a competitor planting information. Either discount it, or uncover more specifics to see if there's merit.

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