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5 questions to ask before choosing a security systems integrator

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.

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