Self-Storage Company Relies on Remotely Managed 4G LTE at Facilities Across the U.S.
Life Storage’s hundreds of self-storage facilities, spread all over the U.S., require reliable connectivity for many technologies and applications, including in-office computers, VoIP phones, Point-of-Sale (POS), doors, gates, and video surveillance. Downtime is very expensive, but costs also prohibit on-site IT personnel and frequent third-party truck rolls.
The company replaced its third-party-managed, USB-based modems—which they had been plugging into routers—with Cradlepoint’s cloud-managed branch SD-WAN router, which features an embedded 4G LTE modem. This all-in-one enterprise network solution provides reliable and agile connectivity that is easy to deploy and manage remotely.
From its headquarters in Buffalo, New York, Life Storage operates nearly 750 self-storage facilities throughout the U.S.— spanning from Maine to California. It is one of the largest self-storage companies in the world.
Life Storage is a public company that trades on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol LSI (formerly NYSE:SSS). It prides itself on its customer-centric focus, progressive growth, and innovative technologies.
Innovation is one of the driving principles of Life Storage, and it’s evident throughout their numerous locations. Each self-storage site includes many technologies that must be connected to the corporate network, including:
- An access system for doors & gates
- A POS system
- A security system featuring video surveillance
- A network video recorder (NVR)
- Multiple computers
- VoIP phones
- All-in-one printers
- Access points for guest WiFi
“The importance of constant connectivity has changed over the years. Today our mission-critical needs include real-time inventory at the store level. Our 24x7 call center leverages that information, so having 100 percent uptime is more important than ever,” said Chris Vandrei, infrastructure manager at Life Storage.
The third-party-managed, USB-based 3G/4G modems that Life Storage had been plugging into routers for failover were not ideal for mailing to remote sites, as they often would be lost, would break, or would even damage the router. Also, as more and more connected devices became necessary at every location, the company recognized the need for enterprise-grade routers with many PoE ports and a strong power supply.
These branch locations required always-on network connectivity through wireless failover that could be monitored and controlled remotely by the company’s lean IT team, instead of continuing to pay monthly for a managed service. Life Storage was looking for a cloud-managed, all-in-one network solution.
Life Storage now deploys Cradlepoint’s AER Series routers, delivered through NetCloud, in every new storage facility. These all-in-one branch SD-WAN solutions, which include a built-in stateful firewall and LTE-Advanced cellular modem, are monitored and managed from company headquarters through NetCloud Manager (NCM), a single-pane-of-glass platform.
“It saves time for my team to be able to manage all of our devices from a single location through NetCloud Manager,” said Jeff O’Donnell, VP of information technology at Life Storage.
WIRELESS FAILOVER FOR 24x7 UPTIME
Built-in 4G LTE failover was Life Storage’s number one priority, which it accomplishes with Cradlepoint branch solutions that feature embedded enterprise-grade modems. Network outages no longer are a concern, as the company trusts that its many important devices and applications will remain connected all the time, no matter the region.
“We have a number of stores in locations where hurricanes are a risk. When storms hit, very often they wipe out Internet service for a length of time. We can set up LTE to failover automatically, which gets those stores up and running immediately,” said O’Donnell.
BUILT-IN MULTI-WAN FLEXIBILITY
Cradlepoint’s dual-modem branch solution provides the flexibility to leverage a variety of WAN types through one device, without having to hook up additional pieces of hardware. The WAN source that exhibits the best performance and most cost-effectiveness at each unique location is used as the primary link.
“We rely on wireless connectivity because it is highly reliable and flexible. Some of our storage facilities use LTE as the primary WAN all the time, and every store uses LTE at least as backup.” said Vandrei.
When new storage sites are being built but wired lines have yet to be provisioned, Life Storage uses 4G LTE through the Cradlepoint routers for primary WAN, providing day-1 connectivity so office work and various technologies can be operational immediately.
STREAMLINED HARDWARE STACK
“Having an all-in-one solution has been really helpful. The fact that wireless failover, IPsec VPN, and the firewall and security services could all be accomplished through the same box really attracted us to the Cradlepoint brand. There aren’t many companies that offer that,” said Vandrei.
Life Storage no longer has to send power injectors and other separate devices to its new locations along with the router. Everything is done through Cradlepoint’s branch solution.
REMOTE MANAGEMENT & TROUBLESHOOTING
At hundreds of sites, the Life Storage IT team handles deployment and management of their network solutions—creating and updating policies, handling IP schemes and VPN tunnels, pushing out updates, and more. However, they can’t be everywhere at once.
NCM gives Life Storage the single-pane-of-glass tool necessary to take direct control over management of their endpoints, which saves them a lot of time and money.
“From a network management perspective, what we used to pay in a month we now basically pay for the entire year with NetCloud Manager. When you multiply that over hundreds of stores, the cost savings are huge," said O’Donnell.
EASY DEPLOYMENT WITHOUT ON-SITE IT INTERVENTION
When starting a new site, Life Storage’s IT team preprovisions Cradlepoint solutions with a custom group configuration template in NCM, then sends the router to the location. With a plug-and-play device and zero-touch deployment, no on-site IT presence or third-party truck roll is necessary to get the storage facility connected.
Cradlepoint’s cloud-managed branch solutions provide Unified Threat Management features including application-based control, multi-zone firewall, and web content filtering through CP Secure Web Filter. Life Storage also has the flexibility to easily scale up its security services at any time. As the company’s branch network security needs change, the IT team can use NCM to deploy IPS/IDS, powered by Trend Micro, and analytics-rich web content filtering, through Zscaler Internet Security, to any or all sites. NCM enables the IT team to leverage all of its data security measures with a single sign-on experience, instead of having to subscribe to multiple vendors and licenses.