Like most small business owners, you are undoubtedly familiar with the nagging desire to be everywhere all at once where your business is concerned. Even if you are secure with the trust you have in the crackerjack team you employ, there is nothing quite like increasing that sense of safety with a security system in place.
Historically, traditional security systems have required investments that can often be a deal breaker for a small business owner, and as a result, the business is forced to go without. Hiring and paying for a monthly service to set up their cameras and monitor suspicious activity is simply beyond the reach of many small companies.
Luckily, all of that is changing! With the advent of smartphone technology and enhanced network integration, small business owners have a world of security right at their fingertips for a fraction of the cost. Do-it-yourself options are now available that remove the middleman from traditional building security packages, allowing a business owner to keep tabs on their office, warehouse, or property from their own mobile device.
Work with your surroundings. The first step in your journey is to assess your individual situation. This is especially true if you lease the property, rather than own the building. There are rules, which should all be spelled out in your lease agreement, regarding permanently attaching a fixture to the structure itself. Even if you are allowed to install something, like mounting a wall-camera or running alarm wires through the walls, chances are you will not be permitted to remove it. And what good is investing in a system only to have it remain in the landlord’s hands once you move out?
You will want to keep transportability in mind and hone in on systems that can be easily attached/detached and moved from place to place. A great DIY option is the Q-See Alarm, which includes an entire system that includes infrared detectors and magnetic motion sensors that can be placed on windows and doors It can be just as easily removed and the system can be accessed using the internet or your smartphone – no matter where you are, 24/7!
Know your target market. The type of small business you have is a huge factor in figuring out what security system will work best for you. For service-related industries (like retail stores, food service establishments and repair shops), you will want the security to focus more on the protection of the customer and will do well by displaying whatever security system you choose. Make sure your cameras and sensors are clearly visible to anyone looking around – for example, pointing a camera right at the front door and at least one camera in the direction of the cash register and credit card machines.
Offices and other businesses not receiving heavy foot traffic will want to go with a system designed to monitor employees and may choose a closed-circuit or hidden surveillance system. For either target market, there is now a WiFi accessible webcam available from Belkin that includes night-vision! For under $150, you can monitor live video feeds using your smartphone whenever you are away from the office.
Take charge. The best part about the available DIY small business surveillance options is that certain ones can be synced up to your smartphone and you can set up the method of notification (email, text, call) when a possible trigger occurs. Since YOU are the one monitoring your system, as opposed to an outside “call center” or direct link to the police station, you can avoid the hassle and embarrassment of dealing with authorities in the case of a false alarm.
Perception is reality. There are ways to enhance the appearance of security without actually expanding your system. For example, dummy cameras and motion detectors strategically placed throughout your property provide a powerful deterrent to committing a crime. This technique works best when you have one or two functioning pieces of equipment mixed in with the fakes. If you regularly rotate the working ones, you can cover different sections at any given time, but you always have at least something keeping an eye out.
An old school sign (“Warning: You are being videotaped, etc.”) is still quite effective at making any potential threats think twice about messing with your establishment. Even if you don’t actually have any equipment to back it up, criminals don’t know that. Given the fact that you can create this sign for free on a sheet of paper, there’s no excuse NOT to have one displayed.
Finally, as small business owners, we know we cannot be present within our business all the time. When the entire office must close for an extended period of time such as during the holiday season, keep up appearances via online security apps on your smartphone. These apps allow you to monitor your business no matter where you are. Some also allow you to control supported equipment and remotely perform functions ranging anywhere from turning lights off and on to opening and closing blinds.
No matter what you’re looking for in small business security today, there’s a pretty good chance that there’s an app available for it to ensure the safety of you, your team, your customers, and your business!
Jay Harris is a Home Depot sales associate and contributes regularly to Home Depot’s blog. His electrical interests in the home include solar panels and home automation.