Self-storage sector creates data management niche

Self-storage businesses that do not have the budget for enterprise database and reporting software have found a low-cost combination of the two.

National Storage and Storage King are two businesses that have implemented StorMan, a database and reporting application developed by Australian company Storman International.

National Storage IT manager Michael Berry said the 900-plus self-storage industry in Australia forms a niche market for data management. “A lot of storage businesses are run by ‘mums and dads’ and, as such, have a low profile,” Berry said. “These businesses do not have the financial capacity or technical expertise to use enterprise data solutions.”

Berry – who has experience with Access, dbase, and Progress – said StorMan “is it” if you are running a storage centre.

“StorMan presents key data on the screen, has a built-in search facility, and at around $1850 per centre per year, it’s as cheap as chips compared to Oracle and Progress.”

Berry said local companies tend to offer better support than the “larger-scale operators”.

“Storman International is proactive with development and bug fixes and, if need be, does free consulting,” he said.

Berry said the only key data component not processed by StorMan is the company’s financials which are done with Finance One.

Storage King IT manager Phil Bannister described the pace of StorMan’s development as “fantastic”.

“There are things Storman International has customised for our business purposes,” Bannister said. “Over the last two years StorMan’s functionality has doubled every year. For example, StorMan can do custom reports across tables for a unique design.”

Storage King previously used Access but migrated to StorMan which uses 4D as its database.

Managing director and CIO of Storman International, Dallas Dogger said the industry had previously been dominated by US companies.

“StorMan is developed in Australia and New Zealand and 45 of the 46 sites in New Zealand use us,” Dogger said. “A company our size couldn’t afford an Oracle database so we chose 4D which fits between Access and the mid-market.”

Dogger said 4D provides rapid development, real-time data tracking, including sales inquiries, types of spaces rented, and general statistical CRM information for reporting.

“It’s generally easy to integrate data with 4D and it now has the ability to deliver all the reporting information over the Web using XML,” he said. “Traditionally storage businesses do monthly reporting. With StorMan they can do reports easier more and regularly.”

4D Australia managing director Damon Carley said the database is best described as “mid-tier” being more sophisticated than FileMaker but lacking features expected in an enterprise database.

“4D has between 800 and 900 built-in commands, supports 250 clients, is fully portable across the Windows and Mac platforms, and does two- and three-dimensional reporting,” Carley said. “At this stage 4D has no native SQL support but that – along with more enterprise-class features - will appear in future releases.”

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