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Updated Apr 14, 2023

Features of Business Security Systems

When evaluating a security system for your business, here's how to determine the critical features you need.

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Sean Peek, Senior Analyst & Expert on Business Ownership
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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 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, understanding the different types of alarm systems, the available features and the benefits they provide, gives you the best shot at choosing 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, employees and inventory and they can lower the cost of utilities. The exact features to look for in a security system depend on your building’s setup and your business’ needs. However, many businesses look for these top features when shopping for a security system.

Editor’s note: Are you looking for the right access security system for your business? Fill out the below questionnaire to have our vendor partners contact you about your needs.

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 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 and 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 with expensive machinery, some systems include customized sensors that can be installed to sense overheating (or other dangerous conditions) and can then send alerts and shut off the machines.

>> Learn More: How Lighting Affects Productivity and Mood

Monitoring services

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 know about it instantly 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 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.

Access logs

Electronic access control eliminates the cumbersome use of keys to enter your office building (and other secure locations) and 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 tries to gain unauthorized entrance.

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 accessing 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 primary 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 highly rated time and attendance software. This streamlines payroll accounting while also encouraging prompt and consistent attendance at work.

Conditional recording

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.

FYIDid you know
The security features needed vary based on your business type. For example, restaurants or retail businesses might want a security system that integrates with their point-of-sale system. Check out our guide on restaurant security to learn more.

Types of security systems for businesses

Once you know which features you want in a commercial security system, the next decision is choosing the best type of business security system for your particular needs. Here are several common types of security systems for businesses.

Wired alarm systems

An alarm system comprises sensors at key points that, 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 or cell phone network. Wireless alarm systems do not work if the cell or Wi-Fi networks are down. [Read related: What is Business Broadband?]

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:

  1. Closed-circuit television: Closed-circuit TV systems continuously transmit a signal to one or multiple monitors. For high-risk areas, a security guard watches the monitors for suspicious or dangerous activity.
  2. 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.
  3. Wireless video monitoring systems: Wireless cameras are useful when you may need to move cameras around or don’t anticipate staying at a facility long enough to justify the cost of installing a wired system. In terms of 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, which need to be changed regularly. Further, if the system doesn’t offer free cloud storage, you can spend a lot annually to store and access video footage.

Intercom systems

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 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

A business security system allows you to monitor 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 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 DVDs, a computer hard drive or the cloud.

Provides remote access to video monitoring

Most wireless cameras use the same internet protocol 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.

Did You Know?Did you know
Installing a proper business security system can help foster customer trust, boosting overall foot traffic and helping your business grow.

Reduces theft

Having a video security system can significantly reduce 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, increasing productivity and safety. Recorded footage can also be used in performance reviews or as a training aid to point out unsafe work practices.

Skye Schooley contributed to this article.

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Sean Peek, Senior Analyst & Expert on Business Ownership
Sean Peek co-founded and self-funded a small business that's grown to include more than a dozen dedicated team members. Over the years, he's become adept at navigating the intricacies of bootstrapping a new business, overseeing day-to-day operations, utilizing process automation to increase efficiencies and cut costs, and leading a small workforce. This journey has afforded him a profound understanding of the B2B landscape and the critical challenges business owners face as they start and grow their enterprises today. In addition to running his own business, Peek shares his firsthand experiences and vast knowledge to support fellow entrepreneurs, offering guidance on everything from business software to marketing strategies to HR management. In fact, his expertise has been featured in Entrepreneur, Inc. and Forbes and with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
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