How to Choose the Best Access Control System for Your Self-Storage Property

Alexander Harris Aug. 17, 2021

Every time I chat with a new storage operator, one of their first questions is always, “who do you recommend for gates?

Their concern is valid: setting up a gate can be intimidating, and selecting the right access control system is crucial to the safety and security of your facility. So where to begin? Let’s work through the process of selecting a gate access system from start to finish.

In this post we will cover:

  • Types of automated gates
  • What is access control?
  • How to choose the best access control system for your self-storage facility

Types of automated gates in self storage

The three most popular gate styles for self storage facilities are slide gates, swing gates, and vertical pivot gates. The less popular barrier arm gates (like the kind you see at paid parking garages) are sometimes used to prevent tailgating into storage facilities and to monitor vehicle traffic.

Slide gate

Swing gate

Vertical pivot gate

Barrier arm gate

Typically a customer will open the gate using an access code. The gate will then close behind them after they enter the self-storage facility.

Entrances, exits, and elevators

If you have a climate-controlled facility, you’ll also need to secure man doors and entry points into your building, as well as elevator access to various floors of your facility and/or your office space. You’ll want to choose a reliable elevator provider and sturdy, locking doors that are easy to control with keypads or card readers..

What is access control?

Along with these gates come the need for an access control system (seen by tenants as a keypad) that controls who can enter and exit through the gate. In self storage, you want to be able to not only provide gate codes to renters, but also to revoke gate access from delinquent tenants. This is where gate access and security systems come in – there are a handful of gate security systems that communicate with your facility management software system to automatically revoke gate access from delinquent tenants, or to easily assign a gate code to new tenants.

What about cloud-based access control?

Unlike traditional access control tools, cloud-based access control systems do not require an on-site computer for data sync from the gate controller to your facility management software. Contrastingly, access control systems that are not cloud-based do require an on-site computer (usually a Windows computer) to be actively running the access control software and connected to the internet so that the system can sync with the facility management software in real-time.

Why is sync with facility management software necessary?

This is how your access control keypad determines who to allow into the facility (paid-up tenants, managers, and the like) and when to restrict access (delinquent tenants, after business hours, holidays, etc.). But systems that require on-site computers can be a headache for owners and managers, as they often run software updates, reboot, and restart at odd hours of the day while running the access control software, causing failure to sync with the gate and facility management software and leaving tenants stuck outside your facility unable to get in.

What to consider before choosing a gate and access control system

Ready to get started? When selecting a gate security and access control system for your self storage facility, consider the following factors to make sure you’re choosing the right security for your business needs:

1. Research the local competition

Not sure what kind of amenities your gate access system needs to provide? Check out the gate systems (or lack thereof!) at your local competitors’ storage facilities. If renters in your area are used to having high-security, digital gate access, you’ll definitely want to make sure you’re keeping up. If not, you should still consider utilizing a digital gate access system to help your facility stand out from the rest and provide an enhanced customer experience. While the upfront investment might be larger, your enhanced security and the convenience of digital access will allow you to charge a premium rate.

If you haven’t already, now would also be a good time to do a little research on the crime trends in your area. This can be as simple as setting up an alert using SpotCrime or buddying up with a local police officer. It’s important that your facility’s gate access is up to par with competition and stands tough against any criminal behavior.

2. Research gate providers

First things first, you’ll need a gate. Whether you choose a slide gate, swing gates, vertical pivot gate, or barrier arm gate will depend on your facility’s budget, security needs, and physical attributes, such as the slope and landscape of entry and exit areas. For example, if your driveway is on a steep incline, a swing gate might not work for the layout of your entrance – a vertical pivot gate might be better for your needs.

There are many gate choices available, with everything from solar-powered security gates to crash-proof, anti-ram barriers available for your storage facility. For added safety and convenience, many facilities also install a side gate for pedestrians, which allows tenants to enter on foot without going through the main vehicle entrance. This is very handy for facilities in urban areas with a lot of foot traffic.

Other things to consider? Maintenance and weather restrictions. If you’re using a swing or slide gate and you’re in a region that gets heavy snow, you’ll need to remove snow in the gate’s path before using it to prevent damage. If you’re a 24-hour access facility, this means you’ll need to have a plan for snow removal lined up 24/7 during wintry months.

Curious to find out more? Check out these popular self storage gate providers to see specs and prices for a gate install at your facility.

3. Assess your facility’s security needs

Once you’ve scoped out the competitors and learned about crime trends in the area, you’ll be able to put together a list of must-haves for your security system. This list will likely include gates and fencing, digital keypads, and cameras, but there are many more options.

You may also want to include door alarms and electronic locks on your facility doors, which help to secure and monitor each individual storage unit door. If you have an elevator, you’ll want to check out elevator controls that prevent tenants from accessing your office or retail areas after hours. Investing in motion-sensing or timer-activated lights can also help protect your facility from unwanted access after hours.

Get a lot of storms in your area? You might also need a backup generator to provide emergency power to your climate controlled units and security systems during a weather event.

All of that security monitoring can take a lot of energy, so examine your facility’s electrical system before making any big decisions. If you’re taking over an existing facility, check out the site’s historical power requirements to make sure your new features won’t put a strain on your property’s maintenance costs. If you’re building, work with your contractor to design an energy-efficient way to power a modern security system on-site. With state-of-the-art security comes a premium price, so keep your ideal rent rate and overall facility budget in mind when choosing your security features.

4. Determine the access system requirements you’ll need

To control gate access at your facility, you’ll need hardware and software that work together seamlessly. While cloud-based access control is the most advanced gate system, it may not be right for every property. Keep your ideal customer in mind when assessing gate access systems – their convenience and safety is of utmost importance. There are dozens of gate access and keypad features available, such as:

  • Bluetooth proximity readers
  • Key card access
  • LCD screens
  • Mobile entry apps
  • Pay-at-the-gate options
  • Wireless or wired keypads
  • Two-way intercoms
  • Touch screens
  • Video monitoring
  • Weather-resistant features
  • 100% cloud-based integration
  • Mobile apps

What features you choose will depend on the layout of your facility and your customers’ comfort level with technology. If you’re running an unmanned facility, consider how you’ll monitor gate access. Some access control systems allow you to view a full entry and exit history from your mobile device, or even open and shut your gate remotely from anywhere in the world, making it easy to keep an eye on your facility from a distance.

5. Check for integration with your facility management software

As a self storage owner, you’ll use your gate access control tools and facility management software every single day. Make sure your facility management software integrates seamlessly with all the major gate access providers to save you time, money, and hassle. You do not want to be updating tenant profiles with gate information and restricting gate access to delinquent tenants manually – it’ll take you hours every week!

Automate the process by choosing a gate access control system that integrates with your facility management software – this way, every time a new customer rents a unit online or at your facility’s on-site kiosk, they’ll receive a ready-to-use, custom gate code allowing them to move-in immediately.

The takeaway: Integrating your gate access control system with your facility management software makes gate access ultra-convenient for both customers and managers. Don’t skip this crucial step!

6. Talk to tenants

Last but certainly not least, talk to your customers to gauge how they’re feeling. If you’re an existing facility looking to renovate and upgrade your gate access or security features, ask current tenants how they think things could be improved, and how safe they feel accessing the facility after dark.

You might be surprised to find out that your motion sensor lights turn off too quickly, leaving tenants in the dark as they’re accessing their unit, or that your door alarms are too sensitive, startling tenants when they try to unlock their unit door. Whatever the issue may be, address it immediately. If one tenant is feeling unsafe or annoyed by inconvenient security issues, you can bet more tenants are feeling the same way.

Final thoughts

Any modern facility should have a well thought out self-storage access control system in place. Make you choose an access control solution that works for you, and provides the level of security and technical support you need. Streamline the process when you pick an access control system that works with your self-storage management software.

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