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Best business security systems of 2020

(Image credit: Pixabay.com)

The best business security systems around offer you peace of mind. You might not be able to deter burglars altogether, but you can certainly guarantee your ability to take clear footage and notify the authorities.

While there are plenty of solid options out there, selecting the best business security systems is another challenge altogether. This buying guide will help you pinpoint all the features you need, everything you can do without, as well as the options you may not have considered previously. We've provided an overview of the five most popular systems, highlighting both their strengths and weaknesses.

One thing is for certain: there is no business out there that does not need a security system. No matter what your field of work is, protecting both your products and your employees should be of utmost importance. Purchasing a security plan and maintaining it may be a little costly, but it will save you future hassle and expense.

(Image credit: Frontpoint Security)

1. Frontpoint Security

Likely the best money can buy

No contract
No fees
Professionally monitored
Pricey

Frontpoint is a smart security system, featuring integration with almost any sort of smart device such as lights, locks, outlets etc. It’s also a self-installed security system. This, on one hand, means you’ll have to do the dirty work yourself, but on the other, you’re not paying any installation fees.

Which brings us to another major feature: there are no additional fees, hidden or otherwise. The company has recently decided to do away with the required 3-year contracts, now offering month-to-month subscriptions, so there are no cancellation fees either, nor do they charge an activation fee.

However, compared to many others, Frontpoint is still quite pricey. It offers two monitoring plans, Interactive ($44.99/mo) and Ultimate ($49.99/mo). The initial costs start at $99 for the most basic security system, but various add-ons can drive that outlay up to $500. On the plus side, all the equipment comes pre-configured, meaning you should expect to spend around an hour installing it.

For those who can’t keep an eye on their smartphone at all times, Frontpoint may be a perfect choice, as their systems are also professionally monitored. Their customer service is excellent, according to numerous reviews, as well as the fact that their system improvements are often directly addressing customer complaints.

(Image credit: Verisure)

2. Verisure

All the options you need, plus more

ZeroVision smoke barrier
Fast response time
High monitoring fees
Price quote only available at consultation

Verisure offers a wide array of different options, making it customizable for any sort of space. If you’re interested, the company will send an agent out to analyze your space for free and find the best solution for you, based on potential weak points. 

The firm does not offer pricing estimates before a consultation, because there’s no knowing what exact services you'll need.

The bespoke approach also means every part of the system will have to be professionally installed. While that may drive off some of the tinkerers among us, for others, knowing that an expert handled the installation adds another layer of assurance.

Verisure claims an average response time of 45 seconds from the first alarm. When time is of the essence, this may seem like a lotm, but they also offer a unique feature called the ZeroVision smoke barrier, which expels a dense fog to confuse the burglar and buy extra time for help to arrive. And if the burglar decides to make a run for it, Photo Detectors will still have their face on file, automatically sent to their Alarm Receiving Center for evaluation.

(Image credit: SimpliSafe)

3. SimpliSafe

Wireless, simple, elegant

Alexa and Google Assistant integration
Both DIY and professional installation
No contract required
No external siren
False notifications from movement possible due to lack of person detection

SimpliSafe is a smart security system that’s true to its name: it’s very simple to set up, if you’re up for some DIY. If not, the company offers professional installation as well at a markup.

The kit is also even easier to use thanks to integration with voice assistants like Alexa and Google Assistant, as well as other smart home features such as smart thermostats and locks.

The system is also completely configurable, with five different packages available. Prices range from $229 for the most basic set, called Foundation, up to $489 for the Haven package, which also has freeze and water sensors. The former works with your thermostat to let you know if the temperature drops below 41°F (5°C) so you can keep your pipes from freezing, and the latter can detect leaks and floods.

However, the system has AI-based detection features, which means you may get a few false notifications, from pets, robot vacuums and the like.

Another significant drawback is that, while it’s advertised as a system you don’t have to have a monthly subscription for, you will have to fork out at least $14.99 a month to control the remotely or receive notifications when an alarm goes off.

(Image credit: Vivint)

4. Vivint

Seamless smart integration

No installation fee
Alexa and Google Assistant integration
Door to door sales
Pricey

The Vivint smart security system is unique in that it offers two-way communication through its cameras and Sky Control panel, the touchscreen command center of the setup. The whole system is professionally installed for free, and the technicians will also give you an in-depth tour, explaining every feature. It also features a number of different home automation options, controllable from both an app (smartphone and PC supported) and the aforementioned control panel.

All of this comes at a cost, and it’s not negligible. While the company’s website doesn’t offer any pricing information, PCMag’s review from April 2020 states that a starter kit will set you back $599, and additional components are also at the higher end of the price range, with the outdoor camera priced at $299, and the Vivint Ping Camera at $199.99. However, its monthly service plans are relatively affordable, ranging from $29.99 to $59.99, depending both on the service and on the number of cameras you want.

You could also choose not to pay a monthly fee at all, but then you don’t get 24/7 monitoring and support, nor in-app notifications if any alarms are triggered.

Speaking of alarms, Vivint also offers a smoke alarm, a carbon monoxide sensor, and a water sensor, along with a Kwikset smart lock that can be operated through the app.

(Image credit: Protection 1)

5. Protection 1

For more traditional customers

Geofencing features
A wide array of devices available
Three-year contract
A lot of fees

Protection 1 is one of the oldest security systems in the market, in business since the 1970s, and is now a household name in the United States. In 2016, it was merged with ADT, another security giant, and the two share enough features that a review of one can almost be considered a review of the other, but Protection 1 made our list due to fewer customer complaints.

The packages range from basic to advanced, with the latter set apart by video surveillance. The first package, Secure, is a basic landline security system and will cost you $34.99 per month, while Secure+ (with the added bonus of cellular connection and two-way talk) is $44.99 per month. The two smart options, Smart Control and Video, which boast features such as smartphone controls, motion detectors, and home automation, will set you back $49.99 and $54.99 per month, respectively.

However, for a quote, you’ll have to call the company directly. They also require a minimum 36-month contract, with early termination fees.

The contract-based system does offer one perk, however: you don’t have to pay for the equipment (unless you want more than the basics). A one-time installation fee costs $99, and with monthly monitoring, as well as add-on equipment fees, the total cost tends to add up.

Determining what you need from a business security system

With the number of options offered on the market - and the possibility of salesmen talking you into purchasing more than you actually need - you need to figure out exactly what your business needs in terms of protection. There are several important factors that go into such a decision:

Budget

To some, this may seem like an obvious point. However, if you’re not completely certain how much you can spend, both for the equipment and on a monthly basis for monitoring, a savvy salesman will be able to talk you into adding more features than you can afford. While a one-time purchase of extra equipment may not seem like much, many companies will need you to get a more expensive monthly plan for all those gadgets, and those costs quickly add up.

Equipment quality

If you’re only planning to use the cameras to scare off potential burglars, you don’t need a high-end system. But the thieves that will damage your business the most are likely not intimidated by a baby monitor equivalent - and if you want more than just to collect your insurance, you need a way to identify the people stealing from you. Additionally, you want something durable for the same reason you need to have a budget figured out: repair and maintenance costs are rarely negligible.

Customer support

Monitoring a business is a more demanding task than monitoring a private home. This means that in the case of equipment failure, you want your provider to help you out as soon as possible - but also to notify the authorities should they receive a distress signal. While the former may seem less important than the latter in a general sense, basic customer support is often indicative of the way the company treats their clients in any and all events.

Level of responsibility

No business security system provider can guarantee that your business will not be attacked. However, an overlooked part of the discussion is also the level of responsibility they are willing to assume in the event it does happen. Do they offer any sort of insurance? Is it dependent on the plan you purchase? Can you get the insurance that covers you in the event of a natural disaster (usually offered with water and smoke sensors, etc.)?

What if it fails?

It’s hard to imagine a burglar, no matter how inexperienced, notice a security camera and leave it alone. What happens if it is broken? Will the system notify the authorities immediately? Does it store a backup of its feed on the cloud for future reference? Does it remain functional or will it have to be repaired, or even replaced? Is the replacement offered by the company or do you need to pay for it out of pocket?I

These topics fall under the scope of general concerns, but there are more specific ones that you may be interested in. Those depend on your circumstances, budget, desires, etc. They include, but are not limited to:

Professional vs. DIY installation

Many systems offer both, but just in case you’re not comfortable with installing it yourself, you should double-check whether you’ll have to put any work into it or not. Also, keep in mind that some may charge a professional installation fee, which may not be openly advertised.

Smart home integration

This is another relatively common feature, but you should still check whether the system supports your exact gadgets. For example, some may offer smart lock integration and/or energy management, but not Alexa/Google Assistant integration, and vice versa.

Landline or wireless

Security systems are increasingly going wireless, but if that’s not an option in your case, landline plans tend to be on the cheaper side (but also notably harder to find).

Two-way talk

This feature tends to come at a significant markup, but can seem like a must-have. While it may be useful, for example, to scare off intruders by yelling at them through the camera, there is a very real possibility that the system could be broken by them before you get the chance. Simply installing it to talk to your employees while you’re away could also seem like a great idea, but smartphones are still the superior option for that.

Sensors

Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide sensors are legally required in many locations, but if you don’t have them yet, having them installed along with your security system can save you money. Some companies even offer insurance in case something happens. You can also find other sensors, like freeze and flood sensors, among the available equipment.

Conducting your own security review

Every security system provider will take a tour of your premises, checking for weak spots and placements for their equipment, and then give you an estimate of what needs to be covered and what can be safely ignored. Still, doing your own research in this matter, as in all others, can pay off tremendously: you will have a better overview of your building and upselling you becomes a lot more difficult. 

The review should contain the same steps a professional would take, which include:

● Locating all entrances and exits

● Determining the scope of employee access to the building

● Possible vulnerabilities, like an out-of-the-way window

● How often employees or yourself can be found on premises past working hours

● Flooding, freezing and fire risks.

Some companies may also offer you the possibility of describing your situation rather than sending their own technicians to conduct this review. However, having a professional along with you offers more peace of mind, as well as removing the possibility that you overlooked something someone else would not. 

Most common mistakes you want to avoid

Knowing more or less what to do does not imply you automatically know what not to do. So, here are a few additional pitfalls to avoid:

Choosing the cheapest system just to get it over with

While you may not need all the fancy equipment and gadgets, but in some cases, the cheapest plans will not fit your needs.

Underestimating the number of cameras your building needs

People often decide the only need a few cameras, in order to save money. Don't underestimate the value of solid camera coverage.

Foregoing a professional consultation

The possibility of upselling is real, which is why our guide stresses the importance of doing your own research before contacting the provider you’re interested in. However, no amount of internet reading makes up for the professional experience the provider has, and they may even be able to point you in a completely different direction from what you had envisioned.

Not planning ahead

You’re not only choosing a security system for today - you presumably want to use it for years to come. That’s why you need to have a clear vision of how your business might change in the future, and whether your property will be undergoing any changes. If you’re planning on extensive renovations, ask your provider if the system can be moved around or scaled up or down according to your future needs, as well as if this is going to cost you more than what you’re already paying.

Not monitoring your employees

It’s a harsh truth, but employee theft is all too common and should not be underestimated. Not only will you have evidence of any theft that may happen, but employees will also be less likely to try to steal anything when they know they’re being watched. This is another reason the cheapest option may not be your best choice, as it can be easy to dismantle by someone with intimate knowledge of both the business and the system.

Choosing flashy instead of trusty

With the number of options now available, it’s easy to splurge on the most sophisticated system you can find just because you convince yourself you need every feature. But it’s much easier to add features than it is to remove them, so start with the basics and build up.