A Guide to Business and Commercial Storage

Businesses often need storage space to hold their inventory, coordinate shipments, and keep equipment when it’s not in use, but it’s not always as simple as driving up to any old self-storage facility and renting a unit.

Businesses have variable needs that even the best self-storage facilities may not always be able to meet due to leasing regulations or even just limited space.

Keep reading to dive into the ins and outs of business and commercial storage and how it can work for you so you can make the right choice for your growing company.

What is business and commercial storage?

Business and commercial storage facilities provide additional space for all types of businesses. Many facilities offer various storage unit sizes –– some of which may even be climate-controlled –– to accommodate a broad range of business needs, including storage for excess inventory, hard copies of legal and tax documents, office equipment, and more.

Personal storage is designed for personal needs for your home and hobbies. That said, small businesses may be able to get their start out of the same facilities that work with non-business owners. Many self-storage facilities offer business storage units as long as you’re transparent about their intended use.

However, self-storage facilities have their limitations. You may want to consider additional office space, warehouse storage, or specialized commercial storage as your business storage needs change.

Business and commercial storage services

Self-storage offers very bare-bones storage features for businesses, but they’re not the only option. Commercial storage facilities often offer more robust services, including:

  • Document management: Some commercial storage facilities will handle recordkeeping, organizing, and management of your hard copy business documents.
  • Climate control: Climate-controlled storage is often available for an extra fee. This type of storage can prevent pests, preserve office furniture, and limit damage to other sensitive items.
  • E-commerce inventory storage: Some commercial storage facilities will help you manage your e-commerce business by pulling, packaging, and shipping inventory in addition to storing it.
  • Office equipment before you move in: If your business is undergoing renovations or you’re waiting to move into a larger office space, business storage can be a good way to keep your equipment until needed. This option can be much more cost-effective than buying new office furniture and equipment.
  • Full service: Some business storage solutions will take all the hard work out of the process, including handling packing, loading, pickup, and delivery to the storage unit and back to your business when you need it.
  • Security: Any reputable commercial storage facility will advertise its security features. Look for gated and guarded facilities, especially if you have a lot of high-value items.
  • Vaulted ceilings: Commercial storage facilities efficiently use space with vaulted ceilings, so inventory can be stacked higher than personal storage facilities.
  • Vehicle storage: Commercial storage facilities can store work vehicles and equipment, which can be particularly advantageous for seasonal businesses.

Pros and cons of business storage units

Business storage units have advantages and drawbacks you’ll need to consider if you want to make an informed choice. We’ve outlined the potential upsides and downsides below.

  • Better organization: By reducing the clutter in your workplace and home, you can have a clearer mind and feel more intentional about the items that occupy your space, especially documents, excess inventory, and office furniture.
  • Advanced security: Compared to your home or office space, commercial storage facilities and warehouses offer more advanced security features like 24/7 video surveillance and locked main access gates.
  • More efficient use of office space: You can grow your business by adding more employees or additional services if you’re no longer dedicating office space to storage.
  • Ample storage locations: The storage industry is growing exponentially year over year, which means you can often find more than one storage facility near your business or home.
  • Convenient access: Many storage facilities, especially self-storage facilities, offer 24-hour access and even drive-up access to your belongings.
  • Inconsistent service offerings: Every storage facility will be different, and not all of them offer the same services or quality.
  • Limited access: Some storage facilities limit access to business hours.
  • Strict rules: If you’re leasing your business or commercial storage space, you’ll have to abide by the rules in your lease.

We recommend talking to a rep from the storage company at length before signing anything to confirm you understand the terms of your agreement and all available services.

Business and commercial storage cost

Commercial storage pricing can vary, and it doesn’t stop at the cost of the rental or property purchase.

There’s a formula you can use to estimate your total warehouse storage costs:

Storage cost = warehouse utilities cost + material handling cost + personnel cost + climate-control cost + (locality cost x area in square feet)

You may be able to cut costs if you’re willing to store your inventory outside a major metropolitan area or if your inventory doesn’t require a climate-controlled storage unit.

Temporary storage cost factors

There are a variety of factors that affect the cost of temporary storage, including:

  • Length of reservation: Long-term commitments may be eligible for a lower rate than short-term month-to-month rentals.
  • Storage unit size: Larger units naturally cost more than smaller units.
  • Location: Major cities will have greater demand for storage than rural areas, which can drive up the costs.
  • Replacement value: Insurance and replacement value can add to the total cost of your storage unit rental.
  • Security: Locks and additional security features can add to the total cost of your rental, especially if the storage facility has 24/7 guards on-site.

Finding the best commercial storage units

You can find your best commercial storage options by taking your time doing your research on the front end.

Here are some of our suggestions:

  • Be honest about your specific needs. Will you need climate control, or can you forgo it? How often will you need to access your unit?
  • Read customer reviews and ask for referrals. Other business owners can leverage their network and past experiences to help you find storage facilities that meet your needs. Follow up by reading customer reviews to ensure the company has a solid track record.
  • Work with a commercial real estate agent. Commercial real estate agents have further-reaching access to business storage solutions that you may not easily find online. They may also be able to negotiate discounts on your behalf.
  • Consider retail space with storage options. If you need storage indefinitely, purchasing a dual-purpose property you can use as retail space and storage can be an excellent investment and cost-saving measure.
  • Request quotes and conduct cost analysis. Compare the costs for all your available options and bake them into your business plan. Go with the option that fits your growing business storage needs and budget.

FAQs about business and commercial storage

What is the difference between warehousing and storage?

Warehousing often gives businesses access to larger storage space for a long period of time, whereas storage can be month-to-month in a smaller space. Storage may also present access challenges depending on how the facility does business.

You should look at your business needs then compare the value of storage and warehouse space to find the best option for your budget and inventory.

What are the advantages of commercial storage?

Commercial storage has many advantages, such as:

  • Reducing clutter for retail businesses and workspaces
  • Affordable scaling for small businesses
  • It’s more cost-effective than extra office space
  • Additional storage space for retail inventory and surplus
  • Easy access
  • More advanced security features than home, business, or garage storage
  • It can be used short-term during renovations or expansions
  • Meeting the needs of various types of businesses
  • It can provide climate-controlled options for sensitive items

What are some disadvantages of commercial storage units?

There are some disadvantages of commercial storage units, including:

  • Limited storage space compared to commercial warehouses
  • They may not be the best for vehicle storage, substantial inventory, office furniture, or oversized items
  • Not all commercial storage facilities offer drive-up or gate access

Can I run my business out of a storage unit?

You usually can’t run your business out of a storage unit. Most self-storage facilities prohibit renters from operating businesses and occupying units beyond storage. Business owners should ask detailed questions when renting self-storage units for their business needs, as they may not accommodate all types of businesses.

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