This post was originally published on July 21, 2016, and has since been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

Up-to-date security is a critical, yet sometimes overlooked, aspect of a business. Poor security planning can be costly, as security systems protect against threats like robberies, environmental hazards and employee theft, and can even lower energy costs.

Whether purchasing a security system for the first time, or upgrading your system to accommodate growth or new technologies, you should always start with an informed discussion with your security vendor.

Don’t walk into that conversation unprepared. While a high-quality security vendor will guide you in the right direction, it’s still important to know which questions to ask before you sign on the dotted line.

Purchasing a Security System

Each business is different and requires a customized approach to security. Therefore, when selecting a security system, consider factors such as:

  • What kind of security you need (surveillance, motion sensors, access control, etc.).
  • The type of work your business does.
  • Your business’s geographic location.
  • Whether there are multiple locations.
  • The building layout.
  • The number of vulnerable entry points.
  • If people regularly come and go from your business (like in a retail store).
  • If there are areas that should remain private (such as a locker room).

During the selection process, work with a vendor who meets your budget and needs. When considering potential providers, ask lots of questions to determine:

  • Are there opportunities to upgrade services at a later date?
  • Is the security equipment under warranty?
  • Is the vendor licensed to install equipment? (You can verify on your state’s Department of Public Safety webpage.)
  • What are customers saying about the vendor? Can the vendor provide testimonials or references?
  • What ongoing maintenance does the vendor offer?
  • What products are, or should be, included in your package (e.g., video surveillance, EAS or access control systems)?
  • Does the vendor have experience working with businesses in your industry?
  • How does the vendor set itself apart from competing security providers?
  • How does the vendor stay on top of the latest security risks?

Asking the right questions will ensure your vendor is able to deliver the necessary services to properly secure your business.

Updating a Security System  

A security system audit is an important maintenance item to ensure your system is up to date. With an audit, you’ll identify vulnerabilities in your current system caused by outdated or defective equipment, and discover areas for improvement.

Technology is rapidly changing—and so are threats. Regular system audits should be conducted to verify that all software is up to date, and all equipment is functioning properly. Any problems serve as signs that your security system is in need of an update.

Discuss with your vendor if software updates are available to enhance your business’s safety. Questions to consider include:

  • How do you use the new software updates?
  • Are there service fees for updating software?
  • Would a security system update require employee training?
  • Will I be informed of future software updates as they become available?

Upgrading a Security System

Business owners faced with issues such as break-ins, employee theft or loitering may look for ways to enhance business security.

Alternatively, changing business needs—such as opening a new location or expanding your services—may require different security measures.

Reliable providers will work to understand your specific business needs and offer optimal ways to upgrade your system. Consider these questions when considering additions to your security system:

  • Are there additional installation or service fees?
  • How will this upgrade add value to my current system?
  • What are the latest trends in business security?
  • What maintenance is required for new equipment?
  • What training is required with the new additions?

Whether you are purchasing, updating or upgrading your business security system, discuss all options with your security vendor to ensure proper protection.