Shopping for the right security system can be daunting. The seemingly infinite variety of components and options can be overwhelming. Make the wrong choices and you could be stuck with buyer’s remorse for years to come. So what does it take to become a smart security system shopper? It all comes down to asking the right questions of the right people. If you approach the shopping challenge with thoughtful deliberation, the end result will yield benefits well beyond your initial expectations.

What’s the Problem?

Before you look for a solution, you need to know the problem you’re trying to address.

  • Is the goal loss prevention?
  • Is it access control?
  • Is it to gain insight into customer behavior?
  • Is it to confirm employees are following company policies and procedures correctly?
  • Is it to identify potential safety hazards?

By surveying the risks the company hopes to mitigate, you may discover overlaps – areas where the system can address multiple needs simultaneously. 

For instance, video cameras monitoring cashiers can also provide the merchandising department with data about the sale of impulse items placed at the checkout line. Or the access control system could be securing entrances while generating time and attendance data for department managers and the payroll department. Cameras in a fulfilment warehouse could be monitoring inventory levels and tracking merchandise deliveries while also verifying the accuracy of order pulls and watching for safety hazards.

Who Are the Stakeholders?

It’s important to understand who the potential stakeholders are for this investment. Will the users be strictly security personnel? Or do you want to open access to a broader community? Will the marketing and merchandising teams want access? How about the operations department, facilities management and human resources? The more departments that can benefit from the security system, the easier it will be to justify the investment. And the more budgets you can draw on to finance the project, the more comprehensive a solution you can afford.

This also leads to the question of ownership. Once the system is installed, who will maintain it? Who will be doing the system health checks? Manage any service calls? Update firmware and software? If the security solution runs on the company network, does responsibility automatically fall to the IT department? Ownership and financing of these critical post-installation tasks need to be decided upfront to avoid finger pointing down the road.

What Technology Could Best Meet Your Goals?

A security solution can be comprised of multiple moving parts: surveillance cameras, a video management system, access control systems, intercoms and loudspeakers, intrusion detection systems, customizable analytics, reporting software and more. To determine the best products for your installation, you need to drill down into the problems you’re trying to address.

For instance, a casino may be required by law to use high-megapixel cameras and high frame rates to capture details like dealer’s slight-of-hand, the denomination of money, or the cards being played. An unmanned power station may need thermal video cameras augmented with motion detectors to trigger flood lights and a warning broadcast from a loudspeaker to deter copper thieves. If the area under surveillance is subject to bright sunlight or deep shadows – such as a tunnel – then you need to install cameras equipped with wide dynamic range to reveal all the elements in the scene. A retail merchant may want analytics that trigger alerts when the checkout line exceeds a certain threshold or an analytic that tracks foot traffic through the store to help optimize the floor plan and product placement.

When choosing a product, don’t be swayed by price alone. You might save money on the initial purchase, but if the product has a high rate of failure, you’ll spend a lot more in the long run supporting it. Plus, whenever the component is out of commission, it raises the potential for security breaches and other risks.

Is the Solution Future-Proof?

While no solution will last forever, you need to make sure that the solution you choose has the potential to grow with you. To avoid premature obsolescence, it’s best to stick with products based on open standards. This gives you the flexibility to integrate new components and capabilities as needed. When assessing your requirements, think beyond the immediate. A good rule of thumb is to plan for at least 25% more capacity than you currently need. You’ll likely discover that demand for your security solution will grow as your organization becomes more familiar with the kinds of business insights it can deliver.

What Operating Model Should You Employ?

Depending on your security department’s core competency and budget, you may decide to outsource some or all of your surveillance solution as a service. Contracting with a central monitoring station may be more cost-effective than adding extra in-house staff to cover after-hours shifts. Opting for a hosted video services model would shift a portion of security from a capital expense to an operating expense, reducing the amount of funds you would need to outlay upfront. You could purchase or lease the cameras and the provider would maintain the servers, storage management system at their own secure cloud-based datacenter, handling any repairs and upgrades for you and providing you with remote access to the stored data.

Who Will Be Your Strategic Partners?

It’s important to choose your partner ecosystem wisely. Look at the track record of potential candidates. How is their financial health? What do their customers say about how they handle problems and expedite fixes? Are their products readily available through their distribution channels or are they notorious for long backorders? How liberal are their warranty policies? Do they cover repair and/or replacement of faulty equipment? And lastly, do your potential partners offer training classes to assist you with system design, installation and operation so you can extract the most value out of you investment?

Raising Your Security Shopping IQ

The best security system shoppers are the ones who dig deep with their questions, compare alternatives and take full advantage of their strategic partners’ expertise to maximize the benefits from their choices.  If you do all three, it’s unlikely you’ll ever experience buyer’s remorse from your investment.