The steady growth of home automation has created new security expectations among small business owners, who want the same exciting, innovative and efficient solutions for their businesses as they do for their homes.
We’ve talked to customers who have become accustomed to using mobile apps for their home solutions, and yet when they’re ready to secure their small business, they’re still using a keypad to arm/disarm or viewing video surveillance footage locally.
With an increase in demand for innovative solutions, many providers have migrated their products to support this market. In addition, many security systems integrators — both large and small — are available to support small businesses.
However, since many of the new products demanded or required by the small business owner are based on residential solutions, how do you treat the network infrastructure in these facilities? Should you plan for the infrastructure to be more like a residential home or a commercial building?
To answer these questions, let’s break down and explore the types of solutions small business owners may need.
We’ve seen continued excellence from product manufacturers in their wireless intrusion solutions. Installations that used to require wireless sensors can now be done with wireless technology, thanks to new protocols allowing for longer range and better penetration through obstacles.
In these cases, the most sophisticated infrastructure is located at the panel, which can be connected via cellular, Ethernet, WiFi or dual-path technology.
The decision to choose one over the other boils down to your customer’s unique needs, so it’s important to first discuss the benefits and potential challenges of each solution.
Cellular only: This solution could potentially be the simplest to install, assuming there’s a strong wireless signal in the building. It does not require any network infrastructure in the building for normal daily operations.
Ethernet only: Depending on the solution, this can save the customer money by eliminating the monthly cellular charge. It is as reliable as the building’s Internet service provider.
WiFi: Some panels allow a WiFi-only option. This is as reliable as the building’s WiFi network and Internet service provider. If one goes down, then the system cannot send signals, making the building vulnerable to security events.
Dual-path technology (cellular + Ethernet): This is the preferred option. If the Internet goes down, the device can switch to cellular, allowing for a constant connection for intrusion signals and system status.
With a variety of network architectures available, it’s the integrator’s job to understand the network requirements and panel options, and work with the customer to explain the available options that will align with their business’ network infrastructure.
The requirements of a small business video system should center around 24/7 surveillance coverage. This offers the business owner the best insights into their business, location and assets, and yields the best protection and results when video evidence is required. When we look at video surveillance solutions, the following network infrastructures are available:
WiFi: Cameras need a local power source but can transmit video signal over WiFi. This removes the need for long cable runs, but still requires a local power source and a strong wireless network. If the WiFi network goes down, there is potential for losing a significant amount of video. In addition, this can impact the overall WiFi experience for others who are using this network.
Ethernet with local power: Cameras need a local power source but transmit video over Ethernet cables. This solves the potential WiFi network issue, but requires a data run from the camera to a network switch. For small businesses, this means running the Ethernet cable back to the network room.
PoE (Power over Ethernet): This is the preferred option. It allows the data to be transmitted over Ethernet cables, while not requiring a local power source for the cameras. This option offers customers efficient installation as well as consistent high-quality video.
Ultimately, to recommend the appropriate network infrastructure for video surveillance and intrusion systems, integrators must first understand the layout and network options of their customers’ small businesses.
Having discussions around open ports, network router locations and potential impacts of each solution is key to ensuring a smooth installation and a satisfied customer.
They’ll likely need some level of education about the behind-the-scenes work involved with their security requests. Although it’s not always clear whether small business infrastructure should be treated like that of a residential home or commercial building, understanding the pros and cons of the equipment and network infrastructure can help integrators answer that question.