5 questions to ask before choosing a security systems integrator
- By Sean Foley
- Jun 01, 2021
The COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent economic
downturn have prompted an increase in physical
security threats across the country. A survey of
security, legal, and compliance executives conducted
by the Ontic Center for Protective Intelligence
showed that 71 percent of the respondents had seen a dramatic increase
in threat levels at their companies since 2020. Eighty percent
of them expect to spend more on physical security in 2021.
All of these point toward the fact that having a robust physical
security system with the right combination of surveillance cameras,
NVRs, video management systems, advanced monitoring, and
video analytics is more important than ever before. But increasing
your budget to purchase the best security solutions is not enough.
Finding a suitable systems integrator who can understand the nature
of your business and its unique requirements is just as critical.
There are several factors to consider when evaluating a systems
integrator. These include a combination of technical expertise,
experience, and the ability to serve your business whenever
and wherever you need them.
DOES THE INTEGRATOR OFFER
AN ADVANCED VIDEO ANALYTICS SOLUTION?
Gone are the days when cameras were just video recording devices.
Yesterday’s security camera is today’s intelligent sensor, detecting
objects, actions, and environmental conditions.
For instance, with video analytics, you can get instant alerts if
there is human motion (as opposed to animals, lighting changes
or wind) in your parking lot after hours. It can help you find out
how many people are in your operation for staffing purposes or
health-related reasons. You can even find out how many people
are waiting to be served, how many are looking at a particular
display, and for how long.
All of these features can positively impact the bottom line
and add value across multiple departments, from marketing to
operations and supply chain. The possibilities are growing with
each new video solution release and can often be tailored to your
unique business requirements.
But to take advantage of all this, your systems integrator must
be able to offer, install and support a video analytics solution that
can cater to both security and business intelligence purposes. Ideally,
it should be an open-architecture solution that doesn’t wed
the end-user to one manufacturer, be resilient enough to work
even when there is occasional network downtime, and provide
customer privacy filter options.
DOES THE INTEGRATOR OFFER
VIDEO VERIFIED ALARM MONITORING?
Often, integrators with central stations offer a simple intrusion
alarm monitoring service, which provides alerts when a burglar
alarm sensor or a panic device is triggered. This alert prompts a
law enforcement dispatch, but they arrive with no clue of what is
happening at the location. This is a standard, commodity burglar
alarm service, and does not provide much value.
At a bare minimum, businesses should demand an integrator
who can verify an incident as soon as it occurs using live video. In
this day and age, where a business invests in both a video system
and an alarm system, there should be some integration between
the two for the delivery of video verified alarms.
Thankfully, video verified alarm service is replacing legacy
burglar alarm service as end-users demand it and integrators accept
it as a foundational security offering. Better still, some security
solutions add sophisticated two-way audio to the equation so
remote operators can function as “virtual guards” to address any
emergency issue at the location.
Studies show that 99.5 percent of commercial burglar alarm
signals turn out to be false, and the police often take about 40
minutes to respond to them. By integrating video with intrusion
detection devices such as motion detectors, glass-break detectors,
and environmental sensors the speed and precision with which an
emergency or burglary can be addressed is improved exponentially.
There is simply no comparison to law enforcement receiving
yet another “blind” burglar alarm and a video verified alarm
giving 911 a real-time account of a crime in progress. Choose an
integrator that can truly protect your business and give police a
fair shot at catching the bad guys.
DO THEY HAVE NETWORK EXPERTISE?
A security solution is only as good as the network upon which
it rides. You can buy the best high-megapixel IP camera in the
market, but if your network is not robust enough, it’s like buying
a Ferrari and putting it on a dirt road.
Your systems integrator should not only have the expertise to
deliver a solution that seamlessly integrates cameras, alarm systems,
and any other sensors, but the network expertise to ensure
the critical video and data associated with those solutions is remotely
accessible. Smooth remote access is essential, particularly
for multi-location businesses. As a business owner or security operator,
you simply cannot be everywhere at once.
But to make all this happen, the integrator must have a thorough
knowledge of network management and cybersecurity.
Items to be factored range from broadband upload speeds, to remote
cloud storage, to non-security applications (like store point
of sale transactions) competing for bandwidth. Similarly, an integrator
should know the best cybersecurity practices to ensure that
your data is not vulnerable to hackers and malware.
DO THEY HAVE EXPERIENCE
IN YOUR INDUSTRY VERTICAL?
Every industry has its own set of security and business challenges. For
instance, the needs of a quick-service restaurant chain are different from those of a jewelry store. The former may be more interested in
using their video system to ensure that their drive-through is moving
along expeditiously throughout the day, that their food prep is being
handled in a healthy and safe manner, and that people aren’t waiting
too long in line to be served. For the latter, it may be more about protecting
high-value merchandise from sophisticated burglary attempts.
Hence, one of the first questions to ask an integrator is whether
they serve businesses similar to yours. You don’t want your
business to be the guinea pig for an inexperienced systems integrator.
Only with adequate prior experience in your industry vertical
will they understand your unique requirements.
This is especially true if you are in an industry that needs to
meet stringent regulatory standards. Take cannabis retailers, for
example. Every state and even some municipalities have their own
unique requirements for video surveillance, as part of their “seed
to sale” regulations. Cannabis businesses have to follow extremely
specific and varied requirements set by the authorities regarding
how much video needs to be retained, where cameras should be
placed, and even access control standards.
The security integrator must know those requirements or
they’re going to put you in potential jeopardy from a regulatory
standpoint. We see businesses getting fined all the time in various
spaces for failure to comply with state and local regulations.
DO THEY OFFER NATIONWIDE COVERAGE?
If you have a nationwide, multi-location business and want a uni-
fied solution for comprehensive security, you need a nationwide
integrator. It’s not uncommon for a small but growing business to
initially associate with a local or regional integrator. But as they
grow, they are forced to move on to integrators who can serve
them throughout their footprint.
It can be very frustrating to have a business that has grown
to hundreds of locations throughout the country and have, for
instance, multiple different alarm monitoring companies. Each
company will have different processes, procedures, invoices, and
contract terms that you will have to deal with separately, resulting
in a material waste of time and resources.
At the same time, local and regional integrators can bring tremendous
value to the equation when it comes to installing and
servicing certain key facilities, like a corporate headquarters or
college campus. A local integrator can give these types of projects
the special attention they need. Importantly, a local integrator
and their technicians can develop intimate knowledge about a
particular mission-critical facility allowing them too quickly and
expertly service the system when problems arise.
THE FINAL WORD
Choosing a systems integrator who understands your needs and can
provide the best solutions and service is integral to ensuring peace of
mind regarding security. However, rapid advancements in technology,
changes in regulatory requirements, and increased sophistication of
security attacks make it difficult for end-users to navigate the long list
of systems integrator options.
The five questions listed above provide the
best starting point to choose a partner who can
protect your employees, customers, and assets,
and also deliver actionable business insights.
This article originally appeared in the May June 2021 issue of Security Today.
Sean Foley is the senior vice president of Interface Security Systems.