"What kind of security do I need at my storage facility?"
That's a question I see almost every single week from both new-to-the-industry and veteran storage owners, and it's no surprise. Self-storage break-ins are practically a staple of today's local news because they happen all the time, all across the world.
And yet, choosing the best self-storage security tools still remains a mystery to many owners looking to take a proactive approach. Technology has improved by leaps and bounds within the last decade, and tools like new Nokē ONE technology enable owners and tenants to bring security all the way down to the unit - no cables, door replacement, or hasps required.
In this guide, I'll walk through the industry's best options for both entry point and unit security, break down high-tech security features like thermal motion sensors and smartphone door locks, and provide tips on how to best update an older facility's security tools.
Thieves are an unfortunate fact of life as a self-storage owner, and owners know that if bad actors want to get into your facility bad enough, they'll find a way.
But you don't have to make it easy for them.
Just like anything else, burglary and theft go through trends and cycles. One of the current trends in self-storage burglaries is for thieves to rent a unit at your facility, access it, and cut through the wall of their unit to get access to their neighbors’ stuff. Once inside, they keep repeating the process until the entire row of units has been burglarized.
All it takes is three to four people like this to rent from you, and your entire facility can be burglarized in one night. And unfortunately, thieves have found a way around background checks. They’ll just ask someone they’re close to who doesn’t have a rap sheet to rent the unit for them.
According to 2018 data from the FBI on property crimes (such as burglary, motor vehicle theft, and larceny), these are the 10 worst cities in America for property break-ins and thefts:
These crime statistics often correlate with areas that have a large income gap, so you could be even more of a target if you’re offering class-A storage for vehicles and RVs.
Scary crime statistics aside, there are a lot of business benefits to updating your self-storage facility’s security. Your facility’s security is your #1 marketing tool, and with upgraded security, you’ll be able to charge a higher rate for your units and increase your revenue per square foot.
Savvy business owners know that return on investment (ROI) is the most important thing to consider when considering any major investment into your storage business. When you restore, replace, or rebuild your storage facility by upgrading your buildings and doors, you can increase your rates, double your ROI per month, and even rebrand your business as a premium facility.
And replacing unit doors may not take as long as you think - in fact, owners across the country do it all the time to compete with new, modern storage competitors.You can even include all-in-one exterior smart locks pre-installed on your new roll-up or swing doors, making it possible to transform your outdated facility into a high-security, smart facility with brand new doors in a weekend.
The takeaway: Security upgrades translate to better marketing, higher rent rates, and increased revenue for your storage business.
The type of security features you’ll need for your business will depend heavily on your facility’s layout. In this article, we’ll focus on the two most common facility layouts: traditional, drive-up facilities and multi-level, temperature-controlled storage buildings.
The traditional model of sprawling concrete parking lot with drive-up mini-warehouses is highly convenient for customers, but the most inviting to thieves. If your facility is traditional and also offers motor vehicle, boat, and RV storage, you’re even more of a target. (Storage thieves love expensive toys with wheels.) As a drive-up storage facility owner, you’ll want to make sure you have these basic security tools in place:
Multi-level, temperature controlled storage buildings may be easier to fortify on the outside, but if the inside of the building isn’t also highly-secure, it’ll be like fish in a barrel for thieves. Thieves know that more expensive items are more likely to be stored in temperature-controlled units, making them even more enticing. As an owner of a multi-level storage building, you’ll want to make sure you have these basic security tools in place:
Hopefully, you already have basic security tools in place at your storage facility. But if you're looking to take it beyond just the bare minimum, or you're ready to upgrade a few of your basics that are out of date, you're in the right place. We've compiled a list of the hottest high-tech security tools in the industry. When choosing what to include on this list, we focused on security, customer and manager convenience, and marketability. Check out the full list below!
What are smart storage units? Smart storage units are the latest technology in storage unit locks. Instead of a traditional unit door hasp that is secured by a disc lock or padlock, smart storage units have a smart lock and hasp system that is wireless, cloud-based, and managed with a digital key. Smart storage units allow tenants entry into their unit using a smartphone or a bluetooth key fob.
Why you need smart storage units: Smart storage units offer best-in-class security for storage units. As well as securing the unit door, they also monitor interior unit motion and body heat - so you’d know immediately if someone was sleeping in their unit or breaking in through the wall. Because of these premium features, owners can also charge a premium rate for smart units.
Benefits for owners: Smart storage units can be remotely locked or unlocked by admins, so managers can ready vacant units for new tenants and overlock delinquent units without having to go on-site and remove a yellow lock or red lock. Smart storage units also give owners a wealth of on-site data for both security monitoring and predictive analytics. All smart storage unit activity is monitored in the app and web portal. Any after-hours access, motion, or thermal heat triggers an instant notification.
Benefits for tenants: Tenants enjoy both convenience and exceptional security with smart storage units. They can lock and unlock their smart storage unit using their smartphone or key fob, so there are no codes to remember. Tenants can also share or revoke access to their unit to others (like movers or family members) using digital key sharing.
Further reading: To learn the ins and outs of smart storage units and see how other owners are utilizing this technology, check out Talking smart storage units with Janus International Group, What are smart storage units? and Are smart storage units right for retrofits?
What is smart entry? Smart entry is 100% digital access control at the gate, door, elevator, stairs, office, or man door. Instead of typing in a code on a keypad, smart entry uses Bluetooth technology via a smartphone or bluetooth key fob. Smart entry systems are wireless, cloud-based, and managed with digital keys.
Why you need smart entry: Smart entry access offers premium security for entry points. It’s a lot more than a keypad - smart entry access tools monitor for motion and body heat, so you'll know immediately if someone is lingering at your gate after-hours. Because of these premium features, owners can charge a premium rate for tenant access.
Benefits for owners: Owners and managers can arm entry points remotely via their smartphone or web portal. Admins can also create customized access groups for 24/7 tenants or maintenance. All entry point activity is monitored in the app and web portal. Any after-hours access, motion, or thermal heat triggers an instant notification. Smart entry access data can also provide owners with information that can help predict move-outs.
Benefits for tenants: Tenants get ultra-convenient access with the ability to open the gate without getting out of their car. They don't have to remember gate or entry codes to get to their unit. Tenants can also share or revoke access to others (like movers or family members) by sharing their digital access key.
Further reading: To learn the ins and outs of smart entry and see how other owners are utilizing this technology, check out 3 technology trends impacting self-storage security, 10 benefits of upgrading to the Nokē® Smart Entry System, and Smart entry systems open new doors for self-storage owners.
What are cloud cameras? Cloud surveillance cameras record activity at your facility and store video recordings remotely on the Internet. Other than the cameras themselves, cloud surveillance doesn’t require any physical equipment or wires—only an Internet connection.
Why you need cloud cameras: Traditional DVR and CCTV security cameras were the industry standard until cloud surveillance came about. Unlike traditional DVR systems which store video recordings in a physical drive on-site, cloud surveillance video recordings are stored on a cloud network accessible from anywhere in the world. Meaning thieves can’t destroy video evidence by smashing your computer and you’ll never run out of storage.
Benefits for owners: Self storage owners don’t have to worry about DVR system maintenance, storage capacity, or improper installation with cloud surveillance. Owners don’t have to trust their staff to monitor DVR storage or organize/delete video recordings. Cloud surveillance also makes it easy for owners of multiple facilities or remote managers to monitor activity at multiple sites.
Benefits for tenants: Security cameras deter criminals, and cloud surveillance video monitoring gives tenants peace of mind. Admins can easily pull up footage for tenants who request it. In the event of a break-in, cloud surveillance video footage is not at risk of being destroyed like a traditional DVR system, so tenants have a better chance of recovering their stuff.
Further reading: To learn the ins and outs of cloud surveillance cameras in self-storage and see how other owners are utilizing this technology, check out How to properly monitor your self-storage facility, 7 common self-storage security challenges and how to solve them, and How important are cameras at your storage facility?
What is smart lighting? Smart lighting connects to an app so you can automate your lights and control them remotely. They're designed to be highly energy efficient and can be used to brighten your office, storage building, units, parking lot, and more.
Why you need smart lighting: Lighting deters criminal activity, plain and simple. And smart lights are much less likely to fail because they last longer, generate less heat, and use less energy. Smart lights can be configured to provide security and motion alerts, and controlled individually or as a group. So owners can automate lighting based on location, time of year, or activity on-site.
Benefits for owners: Smart lights go beyond typical security light motion sensing to allow owners to automate lighting at the facility 100% remotely. This can come in handy when lighting needs to be adjusted for camera surveillance or technicians are on-site after hours. Plus, smart lighting is energy efficient and saves owners money on energy costs. Smart lights can even be used to help market your facility as secure and modern. (Plus, it’s fun to change your lighting colors to be festive around the holidays!)
Benefits for tenants: Brightly-lit facilities make tenants feel safer when accessing their unit after dark. Most storage units are dark and dim, but with smart lighting, tenants can see everything in their unit vividly and feel their stuff is secure.
Further reading: To learn the ins and outs of smart lighting and see how other owners are utilizing this technology, check out 4 ways smart lighting can benefit your business, LED lighting for self-storage facilities: Benefits, products and partners, and these threads in the Self-Storage Talk Forum.
What are automatic door openers? Automatic door openers open doors...well, automatically. Automatic door openers combine a motor and smart entry technology to open storage unit doors from a smartphone or bluetooth key fob.
Why you need automatic door openers: Automatic door openers meet the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements for most states. Self-storage owners are subject to all general ADA building access regulations. Based on these standards, storage owners must identify a specific number of units as ADA-accessible to be compliant.
Benefits for owners: Automatic door openers allow owners to quickly and easily achieve ADA requirements. Automated entry makes it easy for managers and owners with physical limitation to open, clean, and inspect units. Owners also get all the remote monitoring, security, and data of smart storage units.
Benefits for tenants: Automatic door openers are a game-changer for tenants with disabilities. Nearly 1 in 5 people in the United States has a physical disability. ADA-compliant smart storage units make your facility an easy choice for seniors and renters with disabilities.
Further reading: To learn the ins and outs of automatic door openers and see how other owners are utilizing this technology, check out ADA requirements for self-storage, Everything self-storage operators need to know about the Americans with Disabilities Act, and ADA standards for self storage providers.
If your facility is outdated or you’re giving it a facelift, consider upgrading your security as part of your renovation. It’s a great idea to tour some facilities (or secret shop competitors) to check out high-tech security features in-action. Check out a few of the REITs while you're at it. The REITs are leading the industry and setting the standard when it comes to self-storage security, and they’re not doing anything crazy (like implementing robot guard dogs). Many have simply introduced the high-tech security tools listed in this guide.
Remember: your facility’s security is your best marketing tool. With the right tools, you can deter criminals, win more tenants, and increase revenue at your storage facility.
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Janus International Group is the leading global manufacturer and supplier of turn-key self-storage, commercial and industrial building solutions including: roll up and swing doors, hallway systems, re-locatable storage units, and facility and door automation technologies. The Janus team operates out of several U.S. locations and five locations internationally.