It’s no secret that there has been an upheaval in how security products are sold. Home security systems, for example, were once strictly the domain of professional security installation companies. Now, however, security products are commonly available through online channels, both individually and as pre-packaged, do-it-yourself kits. While homeowners may feel like they have more control over what they purchase and may (or may not) save a little money, the drawback is losing access to all of the great expertise and services that a security company offers, such as systems integration and central station monitoring.

The same is true in the commercial market, where corporations, industrial facilities, institutions such as hospitals and schools, and government agencies rely heavily on security integrators for their expertise and wide array of services. Though it may be tempting to save money by purchasing products like security sensors or cameras directly from online sources and have your own team install them, this negates many of the benefits an organization would otherwise get through a professional security integrator.

Consider the breadth and depth of experience that an integrator brings to the table: years in business, across a range of market segments and applications, involving dozens if not hundreds of installed and serviced products. This contributes to a level of expertise that your internal team just may not have.

A security integrator can provide a fully interoperable system, allowing control and monitoring of many different subsystems from a single location. They usually have expertise in not only the basic security systems of intrusion detection, fire alarm, access control and video surveillance, but also in ancillary systems — solutions such as intercom, panic alarm, environmental temperature monitoring, leak detection, gas sensing, gunshot detection, perimeter and fence intrusion detection, and more.

An integrator can provide guidance on rapidly changing technologies, recommending those that are appropriate for your organization’s needs. They likely attend webinars, conferences and tradeshows regularly, in addition to maintaining professional certifications through continuing education classes. An integrator may have their finger on the pulse of crime trends in your region and can help you reduce risk. They can help identify sources of funding for your security purchase and perhaps even write a grant proposal on your behalf.

Before making the decision to take the entire security procurement, installation, service and monitoring process in house, consider the full value of using professional services for your security needs.


Design, Installation & Service

To start, an integrator can add value through their security assessment. Although you have the best understanding of your organization’s culture and mission, an integrator can help you determine security objectives and goals that align with that culture and mission. Further, they can help develop performance metrics that you can use to assess how well the security solution meets the objectives.

In preparation for the design, an integrator will examine your employee base and recommend technology that best suits their work patterns (particularly in regard to access control credentials). They will assess your IT capabilities, identify bandwidth requirements, and test your existing network to determine if it needs to be upgraded or whether a separate network needs to be installed for the video surveillance system. They will take stock of existing security components and determine if there are any requirements for integration. They will design a system that is scaled to your needs today, while creating a framework for expansion tomorrow.

One of the areas in which security integrators excel is testing technology before implementing it. Some larger integrators have extensive testing facilities for simulating their clients’ actual environments and running scenarios before installing the system. Even before such a setup, however, your integrator may be able to conduct a “technology shootout” for comparing two or more brands in performance outcomes such as color camera representation or low light. They may be able to set up a pilot program with a small number of users, gather their feedback, and modify the security system before implementing it full-scale.

While some may think security installation can be handled by an in-house team, in fact that doesn’t always produce satisfactory results. Professional security technicians are trained at pulling cable, setting up Wi-Fi, programming sensors for accurate reporting, mounting and focusing cameras, ensuring backup power is sufficient, and much more. At a higher level a security integrator can implement a dashboard that allows you to manage and display security alerts across multiple subsystems and show trends that can aid in business intelligence, if required. They can design and build an entire security operations center for on-site monitoring and response.

In addition to professional design and installation, security integrators can add value through myriad pre- and post-installation services. For example, an integrator can help you execute the steps needed to make sure your system consistently operates at optimum levels through maintenance and service agreements, software updates, and network health monitoring. Some integrators offer IT services as well, such as cybersecurity both for the resilience of the physical security system and for protection of your organization’s data. Another offering that many end users have found valuable is managed services and cloud-based services. Security integrators can manage or host your video surveillance and access control systems in one of several different platforms — even as a hybrid model — thus, saving you money by not having to purchase a full array of hardware and software to host it yourself.


Monitoring Services

If your organization wishes to have 24/7 off-site monitoring, then a professionally installed system may be your only option. Most central station monitoring companies will only contract with security integrators — not directly with end users.

Central stations monitor residential security alarm signals, commercial security, and fire alarm. When an alarm is triggered at the protected site, the signal is transmitted to the central station where a trained operator records the signal and responds, typically by reporting the alarm to a designated keyholder and to a law enforcement agency or a fire department. UL-listed central stations must adhere to the requirements set forth in UL 827, the Standard for Central Station Alarm Services. Depending on the type of listing, your security integrator may issue an Alarm System Certificate that is often required by insurance companies.

Central station services have expanded greatly in the past few years. Many now offer services such as video guard tours and live video monitoring and intervention for detecting and deterring crime. Based on analytics-triggered alarms, an operator accesses the protected site through a surveillance camera, assesses the situation and, if appropriate, initiates real-time audio talk-down to the wrongdoer. These types of video monitoring services can help your organization save costs by replacing some or all of your security guards.

Compared with home security, the realm of non-residential security is much more complex and becomes more advanced each passing year, with technologies such as artificial intelligence-powered analytics, drone-based surveillance and security robots playing an increasingly greater role. The expertise that a security integrator may bring to a project is more valuable than the money an organization might save by doing the job themselves. Poor security has the potential to negatively affect your company’s finances and reputation, so why not leave security to the professionals.

This article originally ran in Security, a twice-monthly security-focused eNewsletter for security end users, brought to you by Security Magazine. Subscribe here.