Pros & Cons of Self-Monitoring Security Systems

by | Jun 11, 2021 | Latest News

Theft costs small businesses and major retailers immense amounts of money each and every year. A survey by Jack L. Hayes International, Inc. discovered that “just 22 large retailers” reported “over 184,000 shoplifters and dishonest employee apprehensions in 2020,” and they “recovered over $81 million from these thieves.” Additionally, the National Retail Federation found that the “financial impact of organized retail crime is considerable. ORC costs retailers $703,320 per $1 billion in sales.” Naturally, such stark realities have led most businesses to invest in security hardware and personnel. But smaller businesses have struggled to balance effectiveness and cost, and some have selected so-called self-monitoring security systems as an alternative to manned or hosted security systems.

What exactly are self-monitored security systems (which are sometimes called DIY home security systems in the residential space)? What advantages do they offer? And should you select one for your company? Read on to learn more about this increasingly popular security option.

How Does a Self-Monitored Security System Work?

Security systems are pretty intuitive to most laypeople. Weak points throughout a property (think doors, windows, and areas that my encourage loitering or break ins) are safeguarded by special sensors. Those sensors are connected to a central panel by either wires or some kind of wireless protocol. When a door gets opened without a code being entered or something breaks a window or a figure steps into a security camera’s line of site, that panel communicates with a dispatcher at your security company. The dispatcher then reaches out to you or to local authorities as appropriate. (Increasingly, security companies will also send push notifications to authorized computers, tablets, or smartphones.)

So what’s the difference between traditional security systems and self-monitored systems? Commercial self-monitored systems, no-contract home security system monitoring, and DIY home security systems all have one thing in common: They do away with the security company overseeing the system’s data. Instead of getting a call when something trips the sensors, you simply receive a notification on your smartphone. It’s up to you and your staff to handle any break ins or vandalism when they occur.

If that sounds like an attractive proposition to you, read on to learn more about the benefits and drawbacks associated with these systems.

Pros of Self-Monitoring Security Systems

Self-monitoring security systems come in many different flavors, so to speak. Most business owners are likely familiar with self-monitored solutions such as Frontpoint security solutions, the Ring alarm security kit, and Bunker-Hill security. Commercial options have even more configurations, including bespoke options that you can cobble together yourself. This offers adopters many different advantages such as:

No or low monthly fees. With a traditional alarm system, installing the hardware is only the start of your expenses. You must also pay monthly service fees in perpetuity — and you’re contractually bound to continue doing so. Also, there’s no guarantee that your system will work correctly if you switch to another provider, and doing so will likely incur hefty penalties and fees. And if you do change, you’ll end up in a very similar arrangement with a more or less equally stiff cost.

  • No middleman. What happens when an alarm goes off accidentally? Or a sensor malfunctions? Or you decide that you need to add a new security camera? Or you need to disable the system to perform some repairs. You guessed it: You have to deal with your monitoring company. That usually requires an appointment and a waiting period — and more than a few hassles.
  • No false alarm penalties. Whether you’re managing a large or small company, an unaddressed alarm will have your monitoring company sending the authorities to your property to ensure that everything is O.K. Have too many false alarms, and you could find yourself facing very expensive fines and having police become less responsive during a real emergency. With self-monitoring systems, you decide when an alert gets reported to emergency services.
  • Easy portability. Some self-monitoring security systems use wireless technology, meaning that you can shift components fairly easily — and even move them to entirely new facilities if need be.
  • Flexible configuration. Because you control what goes into unmonitored business and unmonitored home security systems, you get to configure it exactly the way you want with no annoying upsell.

Cons of Self-monitoring Security Systems

Despite the clear benefits that they offer, self-monitored security systems also have several disadvantages that you should consider prior to purchasing one. These include:

  • No backup. While dealing with security companies can be irritating, self-monitoring’s downside is that everything relies on you. If you or another decision maker miss an alert, no one else will call the police. The price of not having to pay a monthly fee to a third party is eternal vigilance over your property, something that many managers and business owners want to avoid. And in cases where your vigilance should happen to fail during an incident, your self-monitoring system becomes a de facto unmonitored system, and your only hope lies in having a caring bystander reach out to the authorities for you. That’s not exactly a thought to bolster one’s confidence.
  • Limited connection. The wonder of the internet of things is how it expands the usage of everyday items by placing them online. In fact, that’s basically the only reason why self-monitoring security systems actually work. Consider, though, what happens if you find yourself in a location with spotty cell service or nonexistent wifi. Similarly, what happens if the internet goes down at your offices and your cellular backup malfunctions? You would suddenly find yourself without any backup whatsoever — and you might not even know it at the time.
  • No equipment or installation assistance. In a recent commercial for a home-security provider, rapper Snoop Dogg purports to “show you how to install a smart outdoor camera.” He then proceeds to take the installation manual and drill holes in it, saying that you should “focus on more important things.” While the ad seems to overstate the difficulty of installing a relatively simple home alarm system, correctly putting together a system for a commercial enterprise can prove particularly daunting, particularly because so much is at stake.
  • No fail-safe option. Because self-monitored security systems don’t automatically connect to emergency services, you lose the fail-safe (or “silent alarm”) option that’s prevalent on so many managed systems. Fail-codes allow employees to call the police during an ongoing incident without the perpetrators knowing that the alert has gone out. You won’t have this option with a self-monitoring system.
  • Added stress. The more work and responsibility you have, the more stress seems to go with it. That’s doubly true when an alert pops up in the middle of the night at the company you’ve poured your life into. Many may find that they’d rather pay the higher price and have an experienced professional handle such situations.

Should I Get a Self-Monitored Security System?

There’s no easy way to state whether or not you should get a self-monitored security system for your commercial concern. The answer really depends on your specific situation. Will pinching pennies make a substantial difference for you? Can you guarantee that you’ll have a connection to the internet 24/7? Are you available all day and every day? Do you have the technical expertise to install the system and the level head to manage alerts when they come in? If so, then a self-monitoring security system might work well. If not, consider a managed system.

Want to discuss the installation or management of your security system in greater detail? Contact us here at AT&I Systems! We have more than 25 years of experience in security companies throughout South Florida.