If there’s one thing that is the bane of self-storage facility owners and operators, it’s controlling unauthorized access to their site. Ensuring that only your renters and their authorized guests are accessing your self-storage facility is often an uphill battle, one that feels like it’s almost impossible to win due to the ingenuity of trespassers and would-be thieves interested in nosing around your renters’ units, ready to abscond with anything they can get their hands on.

This tendency for humans to get up to no good is what drives the fight to keep self-storage facilities as secure as possible. Unauthorized individuals prowling the halls of your facility threatens the property of your renters, possibly threatens their physical wellbeing, and certainly threatens the bottom line of your business. In fact, if an incident occurs in your facility and your renters take you to court over it, you might end up being found completely responsible if your site’s access control and security measures are found to be wanting. This could be damaging in the extreme, to the point of essentially shuttering your business.

With the stakes so high, it’s only natural to want to take steps to ensure your facility is locked down tight. However, old, 20th-century access control methods simply aren’t going to cut it anymore. Older, analog tech is simply too easily overcome by determined criminals; in fact, even some of the older digital security technologies are less than ideal in comparison to the best and brightest access control options today. If you want to remain competitive — and keep the property of your renters safe — you’re going to have to upgrade to a fully-integrated security system to increase your site security.


The Components of Access Control

“Access control” is an important concept to understand when it comes to self-storage site security. However, it’s a term that needs a modicum of explanation, as it encompasses several different facets. All of these separate components then come together synergistically to help ensure that only individuals with authorized access are admitted to your facility. There are a number of different components, including things such as

• adequate site fencing

• surveillance video monitoring

• 24-hour on-site staff

• backup power generators

• high-capacity site lighting, both inside and out

• secure door locks

• automated gate systems

Having even just one or two of these components will have a positive effect on your overall site security. However, it would be ideal to ensure that your site has as many of these systems set in place as possible and that you are relying on the most up-to-date technology.  Yet if it’s impossible to institute all of these security features, there are some that should be prioritized over others, specifically automated gate systems and secure door locks.


The Role Gate and Lock Security Play In Access Control

When it comes to the highest priority access control systems, gate and lock security are indisputably of the utmost importance. It’s true that a self-storage site that has these upgrades, as well as the others listed above, will be more secure, by several orders of magnitude, than those without at least good gate and door security solutions. However, any site without secure doors and gates is woefully unprepared, making it a prime target for unauthorized access.

There are a number of different gate systems that can be employed by site owners. The most rudimentary one, a simple lifting bar that is primarily designed to stop unauthorized vehicle entry, does nothing to discourage unauthorized foot traffic. Instead, a full, motorized fence-style gate that either opens horizontally, vertically or on a recessed track is much more secure.

Of course, a gate system is only as secure as its locking mechanism. Modern gate locks make use of an integrated keypad where renters can enter their access code to gain entry. Sometimes these gate locks include a magnetic swipe card reader as an alternative. Both methods are far and above more secure than locks that make use of traditional keys. These same electronic locks are often used on the front doors of facility buildings as well in order to provide a second layer of access control in case a trespasser bypasses the front gate somehow, perhaps by scaling a perimeter fence.


Fencing and Lighting

Access control goes much further than simply ensuring your site’s access points are sufficiently secure. Much of keeping sites secure is about deterrence and making it simply too difficult or inconvenient for would-be criminals to risk trespassing and causing mischief for you and your renters. Some of the best methods for accomplishing this is through supplemental security features like adequate fencing and lighting.

A good gate is useless unless the rest of your property’s perimeter is protected from unauthorized access. This is, of course, where a sturdy, hard-to-defeat fence comes into play. Fencing of at least eight feet tall is ideal to prevent individuals from easily scaling it and gaining access to your property in that manner. Additionally, the material of the fence is also important; while chain-link fences may preserve sightlines, it’s simply too easy to gain access with a pair of wire clippers. This makes wooden privacy fencing or even prefabricated concrete fencing a much better choice, though this will quite clearly be more expensive.

Site lighting is another important facet, especially as a deterrent for those who wish to gain clandestine access to your facility during nighttime hours. A well-lit building inside and out will leave few places for any trespassers to hide. Installing lights with motion sensors also ensures that your lights will only come on while they’re needed, thus saving you some overhead costs by requiring every single light in your facility to be blazing every night.


Other Supplementary Features

There is a myriad of additional supplementary features that have either a direct or indirect impact on how secure your self-storage site is and how well you can control access to your facility. All of these can be considered optional, especially if your facility has top-notch access control otherwise, but the functionality these features provide should leave you thinking long and hard before deciding not to implement them as well.

The hardest feature to overlook is the installation of a security camera system. A highly visible system provides excellent deterrence to prospective criminals, as these individuals hardly want video evidence of them breaking into private property and possibly making off with goods that don’t belong to them. A second “optional” feature that ties into the first is ensuring your site has a 24-hour staff of some kind, at the very least to monitor that security camera feeds during the evening and early morning hours. While remote monitoring of these feeds is possible, your site will have a better response time if there’s an actual staff member on-site.

Finally, a highly underrated security feature is an electrical backup system in the event of power loss. Either in the form of a battery bank that keeps the electric lock systems powered or a generator that can keep the lights running (not to mention any climate-controlled storage units you might provide to renters), backup systems help keep your site operating smoothly.


A Step Beyond: Cutting Edge Smart Technology

All of the security features discussed above contribute greatly to access control for your self-storage facility. However, there are ways to supercharge these systems by integrating them with upgraded, cutting-edge technologies that take them a step beyond their current capabilities. The key concept behind these new abilities is the connectivity that smart devices and the Internet of Things bring to technology.

The idea of the “Internet of Things” (IoT) is that you can take traditional devices and combine them with internet connectivity to create a network of objects, usually in a residential setting, that you can interact with remotely. This is most often accomplished through a mobile phone app, as it allows you to do things like monitor and adjust your home thermostat from work, for one example. However, almost any type of device can be combined with wireless internet connectivity, leading to any number of smart devices such as:

• front door locks

• video-enabled doorbells and intercoms

• home security systems

• kitchen appliances

• heating and cooling systems

• outdoor lighting

• garage doors

• televisions and entertainment systems

The list, of course, goes on and on. However, it’s the application of smart connectivity to access control systems that truly provides even higher levels of security for your site and your renters.


Integrating Smart Connectivity in Your Site

If you have an existing access control system that already makes use of digital door and gate locks, you’re in luck — integrating smart connected technology will be relatively painless. Additionally, any other modern and programmable security features you have, such as video surveillance and motion-detecting lighting systems, are also much less difficult to integrate than if you have older, more antiquated systems.

The core component of such a system will be a base controller, usually located in a central location such as your security office. All of your systems will be tied into this controller, allowing you access in a centralized location. In some cases, you may need to swap out existing door and gate access keypads for those that can establish a wireless connection with this new controller. However, if you already have systems like wireless security cameras, integration may be simpler. Even lighting control may be as simple as installing an adapter to enable wireless lighting control.


The Advantages of Smart Access Control Systems

With smart connectivity, your access control isn’t just in your hands, though — it’s in the hands of your trusted renters. If your smart access control system comes with a customer-facing mobile app, renters don’t have to worry about losing their magnetic swipe card or forgetting their access code; a simple tap of their mobile phone’s touchscreen can grant them gate or front door access, and even access to their unit if you opt for electronic smart locks on individual units.

There are a number of benefits for you as a site owner or operator as well. A fully integrated smart access control system provides detailed records of renter visits through time-stamped gate and door access events, making it easy to sync up with your video surveillance if necessary. You can track how long each visit lasts as well, and taking this data in aggregate can identify which times of the day or the week your facility is most busy. This data paves the way for you to provide better customer service to your renters by ensuring you have sufficient staff during these periods.


Implementation Matters

All of these new and emergent access control technologies means that there are only a few organizations that know how to implement these systems necessary. In order to protect your investment and ensure that your new smart connected access control system is implemented and integrated successfully, you need to rely on experts that have the skills and experience to install these cutting-edge systems.

This need for excellence, however, can be easily satisfied. The expertise of PTI Security’s installation and integration teams are highly qualified and proficient in all the latest smart connectivity equipment and techniques.


Ready to upgrade your self-storage facility’s access control system and implement smart connectivity?