A security system for your business provides greater peace of mind, lower insurance rates, and a safer working environment for you and your employees.
For small- or medium-sized businesses with minimal security needs, an off-the-shelf home alarm system may be sufficient. In fact, many small offices can likely get away with using off-the-shelf home security systems.
However, for companies with more extensive operations, a larger physical location, more employees, or high-value assets a more sophisticated commercial security system may be needed. These systems usually require professional installation and continuous monitoring and management.
Commercial security systems encompass a range of standalone or integrated configurations that perform one or more of these functions:
- premises access control [See our best picks for business access control systems.]
- video surveillance
- fire, heat, water, and/or entry alarms
- energy management of HVAC systems (heating, ventilation and air conditioning), control lighting, and power-on and -off and designated equipment
- remote status alerts and management
The individual system or product package that performs these functions is sized according to the number of sensors required to control and monitor key points. If your sensor needs to exceed a given package's capacity, you must either move up to a higher-capacity, a higher-priced package, combine smaller packages, or reevaluate the number of sensors that are critical to protect your business assets.
There are a number of large, national alarm and security companies, as well as local and regional vendors that are either manufacturer reps or distributors carrying a single product line exclusively. Some offer systems from multiple manufacturers. Licensed vendors typically are thoroughly trained by the manufacturer(s) of the products they carry. This not only ensures the vendors are qualified to install and maintain the products, it also instills confidence that they can provide a professional level of service and are likely to remain in business for as long as their products are in use.
Leading manufacturers of commercial security system hardware and software include:
- 2GIG Technologies
- GE Security
- Vanderbilt Industries
- Johnson Controls
Trends & Tips in Commercial Security Systems
Some common trends in the past 12 months include:
Smartphones and other mobile devices today are standard business tools. Security systems companies typically offer the ability to control your system and receive status from a smartphone or tablet, as well as through a website portal that’s accessible through any secure Internet or cellular connection without the need of special software. Some companies even allow you to lock and unlock doors directly from your smartphone, as well as manage the permissions of the individual users.
High Definition (HD) Video
It wasn't so long ago that video wasn't considered admissible evidence in many courts because images were grainy and blurry. Today, high-megapixel cameras provide high-definition quality that not only provides fine details, but also allow for zoom and frame-by-frame playback for pinpoint precision.
Sophisticated monitoring systems can now send crystal-clear video clips via email to you and/or monitoring personnel so you can see for yourself if something warrants dispatching police, fire, or other emergency personnel. The frequency of false alarms is greatly reduced while you still sustain the highest levels of premise security.
Top Tips for Purchasing Commercial Security Systems
- Make sure all key personnel know how the security system works, are comfortable with its operation, and have updated access codes.
- Traditional alarm systems rely on standard telephone wiring to transmit alerts. Phone lines, however, can be down during an emergency. Consider using a cellular backup system to protect against phone line failure.
- If you are retrofitting an existing facility, wireless may eliminate the labor-intensive, and possibly expensive, routing of wiring through existing walls.
- Reduce the cost and stress of false alarms by maintaining your system regularly. In particular, check window contacts after window cleaning—a major source of false alarm signals.
Glossary of Terms
Arming: Turning on or activating the security system.
Central Station: Remote location that monitors alarm signals from customers in its geographic region.
CCTV: Closed Circuit Television, a common video surveillance system often used in access control systems and for theft reduction.
Contacts: Detectors that register the opening of doors and windows.
Control Panel: The communications hub of the security system. All the devices in the system report to the control panel. Further processing, whether it is storage of video images or transmitting alarms, takes place at the control panel.
Disarm: Turning off or deactivating the security system.
Dummy Camera: Not hooked into any surveillance system, the dummy camera acts as a deterrent by giving the impression that recording is taking place.
Duress Alarm: A button or other device activated by a person in trouble or who has observed a problem, as opposed to a sensor that detects a signal interruption.
Entry/Exit Delay: A short, designated time that allows you to enter a building and enter a code to prevent the system from issuing an alarm. Once you arm the system, you have the same designated period of time to leave the premises without triggering the alarm.
IP Cameras: Cameras that use Internet Protocol (IP) to transmit video in digital format across data networks, both private Local Area Networks (LANs) and more secure Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) as well as the public Internet.
Multiplexer: Accommodates a larger number of camera feeds and is capable of recording and displaying them simultaneously.
Partition: A zone that can be armed or disarmed separately from other zones.
Seismic Sensor: Detects vibrations caused by breaking glass, earth tremors, or other out-of-the-ordinary pulsations.
Ultrasonic Sensor: Sends a stream of high-frequency waves throughout an area. When a wave is "broken," it is an indication of motion taking place.
Wired or Hardwired: All devices in the security system are connected by wires to the control panel.
Wireless: Sensors transmit information, such as an alarm notification, over a wireless Internet network or cell phone network to a central station or contact person.