Business security systems are designed to protect businesses and their assets from thieves, vandals and other threats. Whether you need to protect your inventory, real estate or personnel, it’s essential to choose the right business security system for the job. This buyer’s guide will give you a better understanding of what to look for in a business security system and the other factors to consider before you buy.
The features and functions of a security system can vary greatly depending on the type of business being protected. A reputable security company will perform a site survey before recommending an alarm system or any security equipment.
“A jewelry store, for example, has different needs than other businesses that do not have the same type of high-value inventory,” said Andy Lowitt, vice president of Lowitt Alarms, a security system provider.
While the configurations vary, business alarms systems have several key components: video surveillance, alarms and sensors. Any security system should provide the ability to monitor entrances, exits, windows and other ways burglars might enter the premises.
In many cases, surveillance cameras are accompanied by heat, motion and other types of sensors to detect unwanted activity on the premises. Wireless sensors provide flexibility and can help you avoid some of the costs of installation. These sensors can be moved to reconfigure the security system as conditions and needs change.
“Wireless sensors are not prohibited by wall, glass or metal and can be used indoors or outdoors,” said Brian Hess, founder and CEO of Tattletale Portable Alarm Systems. “If you change where your high-value inventory is stored, for example, you can move the sensors to provide the necessary protection.”
Additionally, unauthorized access of any monitored areas should trigger an alarm. Alarms may alert those nearby (think the classic alarm bell) or off-site (usually via mobile device notifications) and often do both. An alarm should serve as an immediate notification to security personnel that an incident is underway.
Security systems also may include keypads, security key fobs or other access control systems, the most sophisticated of which incorporate biometric technologies such as fingerprint identification, facial recognition or retinal scanners.
Security providers do more than just sell you the equipment you’ll need; they also install it and, in many cases, provide monitoring services once it’s up and running. When small business owners are choosing a security provider, one of the first things to ask is whether the security company is licensed, Lowitt said.
Additionally, get an idea of the costs for the type of system you’re choosing before you make a decision. Be sure to get this information in writing, including fees for services such as ongoing monitoring and password changes.
“Many business owners don’t spend enough time getting a complete understanding of the alarm system costs upfront and can be blindsided by costly add-ons and ongoing maintenance and updates,” said Charles Black, president and CEO of iWatchLife, a security equipment provider. “Find out what any changes to your system will cost. For example, is it going to cost you extra to have passcodes or pass cards updated or changed in the event that an employee is terminated?”Your relationship with a security company will generally begin with the installation of your system. Your provider should be familiar with the best practices for security system installation and be willing to explain them to you. These best practices include how and where to install each device, as well as how to configure them to work together and over a network.
There’s a good chance that your security system provider will also offer monitoring services, which means it could become a long-term relationship. As a result, you’ll want to pick a reliable company. Do your homework, and keep an eye out for red flags before you sign up for any services. It’s a good idea to avoid companies that use high-pressure sales tactics or are cagey about their pricing. It’s also smart to speak with a few providers and look them up online or with the Better Business Bureau.
You should consider who in your company can use the security system. Providing access to multiple people could be useful. But offering too much access or access to too many people may create security risks, so it’s important to find the right balance.”Business alarm systems should have the ability to assign passcodes and update passcodes in the event of new hires or employee dismissals,” Black said.
Ask yourself whether every employee will get passcodes or if access will be more limited. And once passcodes are assigned, passcode management should become a regular part of your security process. Don’t simply assign and forget them; be sure to regularly update your system as personnel come and go.
If you are leasing office or warehouse space, it is important to ask building management about installation. Many landlords or building managers have restrictions and required processes to follow, and failing to do so could result in additional costs and disrupt your relationship.
“Discussing your intention to install an alarm system with your landlord or building management company will help you avoid issues or additional charges down the road by finding out any restrictions or requirements from the building owners on what you can and cannot do in terms of your installation and system functions,” Black said.
A security system is in place to deter threats and alert the proper parties to unauthorized access, but in many cases, these systems cannot resolve an incident on their own. That’s why it’s important to develop standard operating procedures for what happens when your security system is tripped.
According to Black, that starts with knowing how your security system works and who is monitoring it. While many companies have a centralized monitoring center to coordinate a response when an alarm is triggered, small business owners should inquire about how the system will be connected.”Does the system use your phone system or your internet connection?” he said. “What happens if those services go down or are changed? Are there any charges for making any changes? You need to find out who will respond to an alarm, how fast they will respond, how they will enter the premises and what their response to an actual burglary will be, who they will call and how you will be notified of an event.”
According to Lowitt, business owners should choose a modern system that operates with an internet connection, which is harder to disrupt and offers near-instantaneous communication to all important stakeholders when an alert is triggered.
“You do not want the system connected to your main phone line because that will be the first thing that the criminals cut,” Lowitt said. “By sending video immediately to the business owners’ smartphone, he or she can determine if it is really a thief or maybe just an employee who tripped the alarm by mistake.”
Small business owners also should request training from the security provider to avoid costly and inconvenient false alarms. This is especially important for security systems that are designed to automatically alert law enforcement or a private security company.
“You need to be aware that some vendors may charge for false alarms, so be sure to understand who is called when an alarm is triggered and any charges for that service,” Black said.
Today, artificial intelligence and “machine vision” can be paired with video surveillance to spot anomalies in less than a second. This promises the ability to anticipate crimes before they happen. These technologies are largely deployed in high-traffic areas, like airports, where it’s not practical to have human eyes on every area at every moment.
For example, activity in a predetermined restricted area after business hours could immediately set off alerts and notifications that are delivered to stakeholders’ mobile devices even when they’re not on the premises. In some cases, live feeds from surveillance cameras could also be accessed via mobile devices, allowing users to remotely confirm whether a security incident is occurring and respond accordingly.
As technology becomes ever more essential to businesses, physical security measures increasingly must be complemented by a robust cybersecurity strategy. A company’s data is among its most valuable assets, but for most companies, that data now lives in the cloud rather than on the physical premises. Securing that data often means relying on a third party, so you should make sure to choose a provider with a good reputation.
Additionally, cybersecurity for remote workers and thoughtful bring your own device (BYOD) policies are as essential to business security as surveillance cameras and alarm systems. Anyone who is accessing your business network, either on-site or remotely, should be subject to your cybersecurity policies.
Security systems are an important investment and should be installed and monitored by a reputable security company. They often require an ongoing commitment and partnership, so choosing the right service provider is as important as purchasing the right equipment and configuring it properly. Selecting the right security vendor is not a decision to be taken lightly. This company will be guarding your key assets – a commitment that can extend to cybersecurity as well.