How to choose the right security system for your business

Better risk management starts with the right system.

Last week we got a call from a business owner: “We’ve had a lot of inventory missing in the past few months, and I’m pretty sure that it’s due to employee theft. I installed some motion-sensitive cameras in the warehouse, but they haven't helped. And half the time I don't think the cameras are even working. I don't know what to do next."

Unfortunately, this is a common problem for mid-sized businesses: The more their business thrives, the more employees they have and the more inventory and equipment they need to invest in and manage. At the same time, they can't afford a full-time risk management department or in-house security tech guy. So what do they do?

Security is a smart investment.

Most small- and mid-sized businesses struggle to keep up with the demands of their core competencies, let alone finding time for 'extras' like security systems. But - like so many things - spending some time to plan and deploy the right security system is a smart investment, because the time and money lost to theft or damage can put a significant dent in the bottom line of even the most successful companies.

5 steps to choosing the right security system

  1. Find the right partner. If you're not a security expert yourself, the key to ensuring your organization gets the right system, at the right price, with reliable updates and maintenance really depends on finding a partner you can trust. You want a partner who can point to experience in the type of facilities you have, which can sell, install and maintain a wide variety of products, and which has a long track record. Don't hesitate to ask for client references, and don't hesitate to interview for more than one provider.

  2. Determine your biggest challenges. Not all businesses experience the same security challenges. Some companies, like the one in the example above, have issues with employee/internal theft; others may need to protect against robberies; others may need to closely monitor building access; others may need to guard against fire or other natural disasters. Organizations with multiple facilities may have different priorities in different places. The more specific you can be about your security challenges and their relative importance, the easier it will be to plan the right system.

  3. Set a budget. Security systems are almost always a balancing act between "How do we best address our security issues?" and "How much can we actually afford?" That's why we think that choosing the right security partner and articulating your security issues is so important: The right partner can help ensure you get the most effective systems within your budget. With all that said, however, it's probably a good idea to give some thought to a ballpark budget before you start interviewing potential security system providers.

  4. Understand the SLA (service level agreement) for the long term. No matter what kind of security system you install, it will involve 'technology'. And technology requires things like updates, bug fixes, upgrades, hardware and software repairs - even the best-made, best-run and best-managed security systems are sometimes going to need service. So make sure you're choosing reliable hardware and software, that you know exactly what updates and upgrades can be expected and what they will cost, and what service levels you can expect from your security system provider. The best security system is one that's still working seamlessly 2 years later - and that doesn't require service calls every week.

  5. Don't get distracted by cutting-edge high tech. Technology is playing an increasingly crucial role in security systems, from the basics like digital video to the more sophisticated tools like hand scanners. And it's easy to get seduced by the promise of retinal eye scanners mounted on the wall by the door to the lab. However, the best security tech is what works for your business - and you may get more value out of reliable video cameras in your warehouse space than from that retinal scanner.

The bottom line

While no two businesses' security needs are exactly the same, all businesses need some kind of security system to address their particular challenges. Knowing how to think about designing, implementing and managing yours can make a huge difference to your bottom line - and peace of mind.