3 No-Fee Alarm Systems For Small BusinessesBy - 08/28/2018
Keeping a business running, even a small one, is a tall task. There are a lot of pieces you need to take care of to ensure that your business can continue to run smoothly. One such example is security.
Unfortunately, most alarm systems designed for commercial use are too costly for the budget of some small businesses, especially if you factor in the long-term usage cost. Alarm systems are typically tied to a monitoring service which requires a hefty monthly fee. But don’t fret; if your current budget doesn’t allow for the cost of a professionally monitored alarm system, there are no-fee alternatives out there. And today, we’ll help you pick out the right one for you. But first, what are no-fee alarm systems?
What Are No-Fee Alarm Systems?
As mentioned earlier, the monthly fee tied to most alarm systems pays for the professional monitoring service. With professional monitoring, a team of trained individuals from the company’s central monitoring station will keep an eye on your system 24/7. In the event of an emergency (e.g., break-in or fire), they will first call you and then call the local authorities on your behalf.
No-fee alarm systems don’t offer this same kind of service. They simply provide the equipment and a way for you to monitor your alarm system on your own. In other words, they are self-monitored. Most no-fee alarm systems are monitored using nothing but a smartphone.
Still, self-monitoring an alarm system is no easy task. It requires that you’re available all the time to respond to alerts. It’s also your job to call the local authorities if an emergency occurs. With that said, if you have the budget, I strongly recommend getting a professionally monitored system instead. But if you want to start out with a self-monitored system for now, the good news is that some no-fee systems let you add professional monitoring when you’re ready, assuming you are willing to pay a monthly service fee.
No-Fee Alarm Systems For Your Small Business
abode is one of the best self-monitored home security systems out there, and it’s also a strong option for commercial security. To get started, you must first purchase a security system from goabode.com or from Amazon. The basic kit includes a Gateway (hub), motion sensor, contact sensor, and key fob for $249. Add-on security devices are also available upon check-out. Aside from motion sensors and contact sensors, abode offers vibration sensors, glass break sensors, security cameras, camera-equipped motion sensors, smoke alarms, temperature and humidity sensors, sirens, and a few other devices.
The entire abode system can be self-installed in minutes. But take note that the Gateway requires an internet connection via Ethernet to work. If you don’t have access to internet, you can’t use abode as a no-fee alarm system. However, if you’re willing to pay $10 per month or $96 per year, you can activate abode Connect and take advantage of cellular backup. This feature allows abode to function and send alerts even when it’s offline.
abode is number one on this list because of what it offers for free.
First, you’ll gain access to the abode mobile app (iOS or Android) and web app. The app is abode’s primary control center. Using it, you can arm and disarm the system remotely, monitor the status of your security system, and receive push notifications for emergency events.
Second, if you purchase an abode Streaming Camera (traditional security camera) or Motion Camera (motion sensor with camera that captures still photos), you will gain access to 3 days of cloud storage. All motion-based photos and videos captured by your cameras will be saved in the cloud for 3 days, and you can view them using the abode app.
Finally, you can add an unlimited number of user accounts which allows trusted employees, security personnel, or even your family access to help monitor the system.
Although abode functions great as a no-fee self-monitored security system, adding professional monitoring for a price is an available option.
Adding professional monitoring will set you back $30 per month, which is a competitive rate when compared to more traditional security companies. By paying for service, you’ll also get access to premium phone support, cellular backup, and 90 days of video and photo history for your cameras. And finally, if it turns out you’re not yet ready to upgrade to professional monitoring, you can go back to self-monitoring anytime because there are no contracts.
Besides the month-to-month professional monitoring option, you can choose to have your system monitored for just a few days or a week. It’s a great option if, let’s say, you’re going on vacation for a few days and want to have a little extra peace of mind. The charge for on-demand professional monitoring is $8 for 3 days or $15 for 7 days.
The catch with abode’s professional monitoring offer for small businesses is that they only monitor for intrusion. Even if you have abode smoke alarms installed, abode won’t monitor them.
- Multi-User Access
- Short Term and Long Term Monitoring
- Lacks Fire Monitoring
- Lacks a Quality Camera Option
SimpliSafe is another strong option. Like abode, getting started with SimpliSafe requires that you buy a starter kit. It’s always best to buy brand new equipment, but refurbished units are also available via SimpliSafe’s online shop. But be forewarned, SimpliSafe has an older system (SimpliSafe 1 & 2) and a new system (SimplySafe 3). Most of the refurbished hardware they sell is older equipment and will not offer all of the same advantages as the new equipment.
Simplisafe is offered in five different equipment packages. The most similar to abode’s starter kit is The Foundation package, which only costs $229. For a small business, however, I recommend The Knox package, which includes a Base Station (hub), a control keypad, 6 contact sensors, 2 motion sensors, a siren, and a smoke sensor. Six contact sensors may sound like way too much, but they’re not only for monitoring doors and windows. You can also use contact sensors to protect drawers, filing cabinets, vaults, and anything that opens and closes, perhaps even your cash register. The Knox sells for $449.87 on Simplisafe’s website or $350 on Amazon.
Like abode, SimpliSafe is self-installed. The system ships with the sensors pre-programmed to work with the base station so you can plug it in and set it up in just a few minutes. An internet connection is also required. However, unlike abode, they don’t offer cellular backup as an optional standalone feature. If you want to add cellular backup, you must upgrade to professional monitoring.
One thing I don’t like about SimpliSafe is how limited their free features are. In fact, without a subscription, SimpliSafe doesn’t function as a self-monitored system, but rather, a local alarm. If your sensors are triggered, the base station’s siren and all connected sirens will go off. That’s all. No notifications, no email or text alerts, and no smartphone access. I don’t recommend using SimpliSafe as a no-fee alarm system.
You’re probably wondering why SimpliSafe is on this list despite lacking a self-monitored option, and that’s because paying a small amount every month to get professional monitoring is arguably better than self-monitoring for free. And SimpliSafe offers inexpensive professional monitoring starting at $14.99 per month.
The $14.99 per month plan is called the Standard plan. It’s contract-free, it enables cellular backup, and it allows you to stream security camera videos to your smartphone. The catch? You won’t be able to customize your sensors nor arm and disarm your system remotely.
If you want access to those missing features, SimpliSafe offers a more complete monitoring option for $24.99 per month (Interactive plan), which is still cheaper than abode’s monitoring fee. For that price, you get everything included in the Standard plan plus smartphone access, SMS/Email alerts, and integration with third-party devices (Nest, August, Alexa, Google Assistant).
As with abode, Simplisafe only monitors small businesses for intrusion. They don’t monitor smoke alarms.
- Inexpensive Monitoring Options
- Lacks a Self-Monitoring Option
- Lacks Fire Monitoring
- No Option for Standalone Cellular Backup
The third and final option is Scout Alarms. Regarding equipment, it’s similar to both SimpliSafe and abode. It’s self-installed and requires an internet connection.
To get started, you also need to purchase a starter kit. The least expensive is the Scout Small Pack ($299 on Scout’s website or $320 on Amazon), which includes a hub, a door panel (RFID-enabled control panel), a motion sensor, 2 contact sensors, and 2 key fobs.
Unfortunately, Scout is more like SimpliSafe regarding what it offers for free. It’s a local alarm, so no smartphone alerts and no remote access unless you pay. However, Scout offers an option that SimpliSafe doesn’t. For $9.99 per month, Scout offers cellular backup which unlocks a ton of self-monitoring features. If you pay the monthly fee, you’ll be able to access the smartphone app, remotely arm and disarm your system, and even receive SMS and email alerts. Now, remember abode offers all of those features except cellular backup without a fee, which puts Scout behind abode.
Interestingly, Scout also offers the cheapest professional monitoring option at only $19.99. For that price, you get features similar to abode’s $30 per month and SimpliSafe’s $24.99 per month offer. The $19.99 per month plan gives you 24/7 professional monitoring (intrusion only), cellular backup, SMS and email alerts, smartphone access, and automation features.
- Option to Pay for Cellular backup and Smart Features
- Lacks Fire Monitoring
- Lacks a Free Self-Monitored Option
No-Fee Alarm Systems Ranked
|Glass Break Sensor||$59.00||$39.00||$34.99|
|System Status Indicator||$36.00|
|Temperature, Humidity, & Light Sensor||$49.00|
|Extra Keychain Remote||$27.00||$4.99||$24.99|
|Extra Siren||$59.00 (95dB)||$59.99 (105dB)|
|Extra Keypad||$79.00||$69.00 (Door Panel)||$69.99|
|Extra Entry Magnet||$4.99|
|Home Automation Power Outlet & ZigBee Extender||$49.00|
|Home Automation Features Included|
|Amazon Echo Integration|
|Google Home Integration|
|Works with Nest|
|Security Camera Integration||3 Days of Timeline and Media Access||Live Streaming Only|
|Where to Buy||Amazon||Visit Site||Best Buy|
- Scout & SimpliSafe
Professional Monitoring Pricing
|Plans||CONNECT||CONNECT + SECURE
||Always On||Always On +||Standard||Interactive|
|24/7 Alarm Monitoring|
|UL Certified monitoring|
|Plans||CONNECT||CONNECT + SECURE
||Always On||Always On +||Standard||Interactive|
|Cellular Connection / 3G|
|Contract||Not Required||Not Required||Not Required|
|Android and iPhone App|
|Home Automation||Nest Thermostat and August Smart Lock|
|Amazon Echo, Google Assistant, & IFTTT Access||Alexa and Google Assistant (SimpliSafe 3 Only)|
|Indoor Security Camera||Abode Camera & Limited Integration With Nest Cam||Scout HD Indoor Camera & Limited Integration With Nest Cam|
|Outdoor Security Camera||Limited Integration With Nest Cam||Limited Integration With Nest Cam||Video Doorbell Pro|
|Recorded Video History||Included||$3.00/month/camera or $10.00/month/unlimited cameras||Included for 1 Camera||$4.99/month/camera or $9.99/month/unlimited cameras|
|Return Policy||14 Day Return Policy||60 Day||60 Day|
|Product Warranty||1 Year Limited||3 Year||3 Year|
|Where to Buy||Amazon||Scout||Best Buy|
Adding Security Cameras With No (Or Low) Monthly Fees
An alarm system is more than likely enough to protect your business from unwanted intruders, but for good measure, I recommend adding a couple of security cameras as well. Security cameras add vital security features, such as live viewing and event recording that can help you manage and protect your business. For example, with live viewing, you can check in on things and monitor your employees at any time and from anywhere.
But more importantly, there’s one feature you’re going to want your security camera to have: continuous recording. With continuous recording, not only will you be able to monitor your business in real-time, but you’ll also be able to look back on previous events. Below are three security cameras that offer continuous recording with no or low monthly fees.
1. WyzeCam v2 & WyzeCam Pan
WyzeCam is a fairly young company that makes aggressively-low-priced security cameras. Currently, they sell the Wyze Cam 2 ($19.99, indoor cube camera) and WyzeCam Pan ($29.99, an indoor camera with panning features). Both cameras are capable of recording continuously with no added monthly fee. However, they both require a microSD card to be plugged in as continuously recorded videos are stored locally. You can access and watch videos using the Wyze App, assuming your smartphone is on Wi-Fi, 3G, or 4G/LTE.
2. Nest Aware
Nest Aware, Nest’s cloud recording service, is also an interesting option. It doesn’t offer continuous recording for free, but for as low as $5 per month for the first camera and $2.50 per month for subsequent cameras, you can access continuous recording and activate smart features such as human detection. The $5 per month plan lets you save 5 days of continuous videos in the cloud. For $10 per month, you can bump that up to 10 days of continuous recording. And for $30 per month, you get 30 days of continuous video recording.
Nest Aware is compatible with Nest Cam, Nest Cam Outdoor, Nest Cam IQ, Nest Cam IQ Outdoor, and Nest Hello video doorbell.
For a small business, we recommend Nest Cam over Nest Cam IQ. You can purchase Nest Cam for under $200 from Amazon
3. Arlo CVR
Another option is Arlo CVR; a continuous cloud recording service offered to some Arlo cameras including Arlo Q and Q Plus indoor cameras as well as Arlo Pro 2 if the camera is plugged-in. Like Nest Aware, Arlo CVR isn’t free. They charge $9.99 per month per camera for 14 days of continuous video recording ($99.00 per year) or $19.99 per month for 30 days of video recording ($199.00 per year). Like with Nest, subsequent cameras will be discounted by 50% per month.