Does your business need to use off-site storage for files, supplies, materials, inventory, or equipment? If so, a simple self-storage unit could be a cost-effective and easy solution to your storage problems. But one of the most important elements of using commercial self-storage is how to control, manage, and facilitate access to the unit.
What should you know about access management for off-site storage? Here are the who, what, when, where, why, and how of business storage access.
Carefully consider who should have keys to the storage unit. Certainly, the owner of a small business and their manager or managers should generally have free access to stored items so they can keep tabs on their business operation.
However, most small business owners shouldn’t be the only ones with access to their off-site storage. While this may make things more secure, it also means you are the one who must drop everything when something is needed from the unit. This takes time out from other things — some of which may be a much better use of management’s time. A good balance between security and convenience is needed.
Assess several potential candidates in your organization to determine how granting them access might make the work easier, safer, or more secure. This often includes at least one member from each relevant team, key personnel, on-call personnel, or even some owners’ spouses or family members in a very small business.
What will come in and go out of the storage unit? Once you give out any additional keys, the likelihood of misplacing or losing things grows. So don’t underestimate the need to be organized no matter what’s inside. Get this in place before you authorize anyone to enter.
If you store inventory, make sure you have a good inventory management system — whether digital or hand-written — in place. If equipment is stored, how will it be checked in and out? And if the storage is old files, ensure these are only being accessed by personnel who will respect privacy rules and maintain your document organization system.
Certainly, the vast majority of access to storage areas occurs during business hours, but this is not always the case. Employees working late to prepare for an auditor may need to get into files after hours. You may need to expand work hours during the holiday shopping season. And you can experience an emergency at any time of the day or night or on weekends.
Prepare for the possibility of 24/7 access by ensuring that after-hours staff — permanent or temporary — have at least one person authorized to get into the storage unit. Check with the facility about their hours of operation and hours when storage spaces are available. And if your employees need to access the space at unusual times on a regular basis, let the facility’s staff know so they can help with safety.
Facilitating good access starts with choosing the right locations. The facility’s location should be within easy distance to your main business site. Drive the route to ensure minimal interruptions or points of conflict like traffic jams, trains, or high-pedestrian areas.
Once you choose a facility, opt for a well-placed storage unit within its layout. This usually means drive-up access to the storage space itself whenever possible. If staff will work after hours, choose a well-lit, well-traveled spot as well. Consult with the facility’s staff for suggestions.
Why are you using off-site storage? Your goals and needs will inform how you approach access control. By defining the overall goals, you can decide where to focus your efforts when making an access control plan.
If the business has outgrown its main storage locations, for instance, staff may need to come and go from this secondary site often. In this case, a close location and plenty of authorized personnel will make things go smoothly. If, on the other hand, you need to store one large piece of bulky equipment, convenience should be secondary to ensuring the environment is ideal for the equipment and that it’s secure.
How will you manage access to the storage unit? Once you assign keys or codes, the company should log who has which and reassess who needs access at least once per year. If there is a potential security issue, will you collect keys and reissue new ones? If an unauthorized employee needs temporary access, what is the procedure for granting and tracking this? And who will be responsible to oversee the site?
Where to Start
Covering all these bases when planning access to your new storage site can be difficult. The best place to start is by learning more about the self-storage unit options in your area. North Star Mini Storage has provided Minnesota businesses with the right storage for their needs for over 40 years. Call or visit today to learn how we can help you keep your business assets safe, secure, and convenient.