When evaluating a security system for your business, here's how to determine the critical features you will need.
The features you need in a business security system depend on your company, budget and the typical security risks you face. If you manage a warehouse that is full of merchandise, you need a vastly different security system than what a small brick-and-mortar store needs.
If you are considering installing a security system for your business, by understanding the different types of alarm systems, the available features and the benefits they provide, you can install an affordable, useful system that will benefit your business for years to come.
Top features of business security systems
Business security systems protect your company's property, your employees, and inventory, and they can lower the cost of utilities. The exact features you should look for in a security system depend on your building's setup and your business's needs. However, many businesses look for these top features when shopping for a security system.
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Fire/smoke and environmental hazard detection
Sensors can detect the presence of carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and/or heightened temperature to trigger alarms. Similarly, low-temperature sensors can be installed in bathrooms, kitchens, break rooms and other areas where water pipes are present. Sensors can also be placed in flood-prone areas to detect water.
When these sensors detect any unusual readings, an alarm is sent to the security system monitoring service, police and/or fire departments, and company designated personnel, so these responders can act quickly and minimize (or even eliminate) potential damages.
If your commercial security system is connected with local law enforcement, one thing to be aware of is that you may have to register with your local police department. Usually, there is a small annual fee, along with a requirement to keep emergency contact information up to date. Many jurisdictions charge for false alarms – anywhere from $50 to $500 per incident.
Lighting/HVAC/office equipment monitoring
Many systems monitor your heating and air conditioning, lighting and office equipment. If someone forgets to turn the lights off, for example, leaves the coffee maker on, or fails to reset the thermostat, the system sends a notification. You can then remotely turn the lights off, shut off the coffee maker or set the thermostat to the correct temperature.
For businesses that have expensive machinery, some systems can install customized sensors that sense overheating (or other dangerous conditions), and can then send alerts and shut off the machines.
Most business security systems provide some form of 24-hour monitoring. In the event a door or window is breached, some alarm systems make a loud noise or flash lights. In some situations, that might be sufficient to scare off intruders, but if you have valuable inventory or equipment and someone breaks into your building, or a fire alarm goes off, you want to instantly know about it and have a response in place.
That response depends on your contract with the monitoring service. The service might first notify you, the business owner. They might investigate the alarm via video monitoring, or they might send an employee to check on the situation. Another option is that depending on the type of alarm, the police or fire department is immediately notified.
Electronic access control not only eliminates the cumbersome use of keys to enter your office building (and other secure locations), it also tracks who has accessed the location and when. Data files can be viewed from any authorized, web-enabled computer. The access control system can be integrated with the alarm system to trigger alerts if someone is trying to gain unauthorized entrance. [In need of a security system for your business? Check out our recommendations for the best access control systems.]
Identity verification systems
For businesses where confidentiality and security are paramount, identity verification systems allow only approved employees to enter a building or a specific area. This prevents unauthorized individuals from gaining access to areas they shouldn't be in.
In place of a physical key, a user's identity is ascertained and authorized in one of four ways:
- The employee swipes their identification card (or a smart card or key fob) using a card reader installed at the access point.
- Employees enter a personal identification number or password via a keypad installed at the major access points.
- The user's identity is verified via photo identification.
- The system uses biometric recognition of an individual's fingerprint or face.
Time and attendance integration
Many access control systems are integrated into time and attendance software. This streamlines payroll accounting while also encouraging prompt and consistent attendance at work.
If you install video cameras with your system, recording may be continuous or can start when a specific condition is met. For example, your system can begin recording if it detects movement, a sensor detects that a door or window has been opened, or you may record during certain times of the day (or night). While continual recording requires more storage, it may be necessary, especially if you have high-risk areas where security is paramount.
Types of security system for businesses
Once you know which features you want in a commercial security system, the next decision is choosing which type of system best meets your business's needs. Here are seven common types of security systems for businesses:
Wired alarm systems
An alarm system comprises sensors at key points which, when triggered, send a signal that warns of a potential problem. The signal is often transmitted using a landline telephone system that phones the alarm company and/or police or fire department. This is called a "wired" or "hardwired" notification service. One problem with hardwired alarm systems is they don't work if the phone line doesn't work, such as when lines are down due to bad weather.
Wireless alarm systems
Wireless systems send an alarm or notification when an alarm condition is discovered over a broadband Wi-Fi network or cell phone network. Wireless alarm systems do not work if the cell network or Wi-Fi network is down.
If you opt for a wireless security system, verify with the provider that it uses a cellular connection, which is less likely to fail than an internet connection.
Another benefit of wireless alarm systems is that you can monitor your building via an app on your cell phone.
Video monitoring systems
Camera surveillance protects your assets, including your employees. Besides providing 24/7 observation of everything happening on your premises, recorded footage can identify intruders and be used as evidence in court proceedings. Here are three options for monitoring your business via video surveillance:
Closed-circuit TV (CCTV) systems continuously transmit a signal to one or multiple monitors. For high-risk areas, a security guard watches the monitor(s) for suspicious or dangerous activity.
Wired video monitoring systems
Video systems can be wired or wireless. Wired systems are more suitable for permanent and continuous surveillance situations. They do not require batteries to stay powered, nor do they need slow or unpredictable wireless connections for transmitting and storing video streams.
Wireless video monitoring systems
Wireless cameras are useful when you may need to move cameras around or if you don't anticipate staying at a facility long enough to justify the cost of installing a wired system.
In terms of the cost, installation is less expensive with wireless systems, and, in many cases, the business owner can position the camera as needed without hiring a professional installer. However, a disadvantage is that wireless cameras require batteries to operate, and these batteries need to be changed regularly. Further, if the system doesn't offer free cloud storage, you can spend quite a bit annually to store and access video footage.
An intercom system is one simple way to safely identify and monitor visitors to your building. The one drawback, however, is that the system must be continually monitored, which could be impractical, depending on your budget and the staff you have available.
However, the intercom system could be an audio-only operation, or it could be combined with video to provide a time- and date-stamped visual record of people who have entered and left your building.
Benefits of security systems for businesses
Having a business security system allows you to monitor both internal and external activities, so you can protect your organization and lessen the impact of any negative incidents. From catching thieves in the act to observing your building in real time from any location, here are some of the top benefits of investing in a business security system:
Enables video recording
Many security systems not only offer video monitoring, but they can record video. DVRs (digital video recorders) allow you to record and date images for future reference, which can be used to solve internal issues and track down external intruders. Video footage is stored on either digital video discs (DVDs), a computer hard drive or the cloud.
Provides remote access to video monitoring
Most wireless cameras use the same internet protocol (IP) to transmit data that is used across private and public networks. This makes the digitized video remotely accessible through a computer, tablet or smartphone. In some cases, video monitoring equipment can be remotely operated using an internet connection.
Having remote access to video monitoring allows you to see what's happening on-site at any time, no matter where you are and take any necessary action.
Having a video security system in place can significantly reduce both internal and external theft. If you are concerned about employee theft, hidden cameras can catch thieves in the act. Retail businesses can also more easily identify shoplifters and prevent them from returning to the premises.
Even the mere presence of a camera can deter theft or unauthorized access. "Dummy" cameras that are not hooked into any monitoring system are frequently used for their ability to deter crimes.
Boosts safety and productivity
Video systems also monitor employee behavior and detect inefficient or unsafe work habits, allowing you to better understand daily workflows and how to improve upon them. The "dummy camera" effect may even encourage workers to be on their best behavior, which can increase safety and productivity. Recorded footage can also be used in performance reviews or as a training aid to point out unsafe work practices.