Fortress Security ReviewBy - 01/30/2017
No monthly monitoring fees equals lower long-term cost. Equipment is mostly wireless. There are available options for landline, VOIP, and cellular alarm systems. Three-year warranty on all equipment.
No professional monitoring. Smartphone control was added recently to their service so expect some hiccups.
The Bottom Line
Fortress Security is an option if you’re looking for a home alarm system without monthly fees. However, its lack of professional monitoring service is a risk. Professionally monitored systems are more secure as they offer you a direct link to the authorities when needed.
Compare to SimpliSafe Here
Fortress Security Review of Protection & Equipment
Most home alarm companies we’ve reviewed offer equipment plus professional monitoring. Fortress Security is different. They offer security equipment, but they don’t provide professional monitoring; although there are rumors that they might add professional monitoring in the future.
As of now, Fortress Security offers diverse sets of equipment consisting of both hardwired and wireless devices. They offer systems that communicate through landline, cellular, broadband, or all three. To help you pick the right system for you, let’s see how these three modes of communication compare.
Landline vs. Cellular vs. VoIP
Landline monitoring is considered the traditional mode of communication in the security system industry. It is used by old school alarm companies like ADT. To use a landline-connected security system, you need to run a phone line to your control panel. The downside of landline monitoring is the possibility of burglars cutting the line. Without the line, your system can’t communicate, thus rendering it useless.
Cellular monitoring uses a GSM (cellular) signal, the same signal your phone uses to make calls or send texts. Because it’s wireless, burglars have nothing to cut. However, there are still places with weak cellular signals, and if you live in such a place, cellular monitoring might not be for you.
The final mode of communication is broadband. This mode requires an internet connection. Like with landline monitoring, internet-connected systems run the risk of being cut. Also, if you’re using internet from an unreliable provider, you might want to reconsider. When internet disruptions occur, the security system becomes useless.
If you’re having trouble selecting from the three options, cellular is the most secure because of its wireless properties. Fortress Security also offers options that include backup communication technology. If your main communication form fails, your system will switch to its backup communication method. For example, if your landline is cut, it can revert to cellular.
Fortress Security Equipment Packages
Fortress Security offers four security systems and several standalone systems. Three of the security systems are built around a control panel, while the other is built around a hub. What’s the difference? Control panels and hubs are both used to tie all your security devices into one system. However, a control panel includes an interface, so you can control your system using the panel itself. A hub doesn’t have an interface. Instead you use a companion smartphone app to control your security system.
SO2 Security System
The first package from Fortress is called SO2 Security System. This system is built around a control panel. The SO2 panel connects using a landline, although it can also connect with VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) systems.
The SO2 panel has added security features. For one, it offers 72-hour backup battery. It also detects landline disruptions, and if your phone line is cut, the panel will beep.
You can arm/disarm your system using the control panel itself. But there are two other options. One, you can purchase remote key fobs, each with a unique pairing code. Two, you can do it over the phone simply by calling the landline number connected to the panel. Note, however, that this won’t work if there is a device that picks up the call first, such as an answering machine or fax machine. To access your control panel over the phone, simply dial your phone number and wait for a beep. Once you hear the beep, enter your PIN. When done, press the key on your phone that corresponds to the action you want to take.  arms your system,  disarms your system, [*] lets you listen in via the panel’s microphone, and [#] hangs up the call.
The SO2 control panel can hold up to 99 sensors and supports up to 32 wireless zones and 7 wired zones. You can group your devices based on their location (e.g. Zone 1: Living Room, Zone 2: Kitchen, etc.). Creating such zones can help you quickly find where the problem lies. For example, if a motion sensor is tripped, the control panel’s LED display will show you the zone number the sensor belongs to. This way, you can skip the guessing part and go right into investigating the alarm. Another advantage of zoning is that you can arm/disarm each zone individually. When you’re going to bed, for instance, you can disarm all the security devices in your bedroom so you don’t trigger a false alarm.
During an alarm event, the panel dials up to six emergency contact numbers. If someone picks up the call, the panel will play a 10-second recorded message, which you can customize during the initial setup process. Additionally, you can press [*] on your phone to listen in through the panel’s microphone.
SO2 systems are sold in packages. Their pre-built packages start at $129.99. The package, S02-A, includes a control panel, 5 contact sensors for doors or windows, 2 motion sensors, a wired indoor siren, a panic button, and 2 remote key fobs. The most expensive package sells for $219.99 and includes a main panel, 10 contact sensors for windows or doors, 3 passive motion detectors, 1 siren, 1 outdoor siren, 1 glass break sensor, 3 keyfobs, and 4 alarm stickers. You can browse all S02 packages here.
VEA 3G/4G Security System
The second package is called VEA 3G/4G Security System. Unlike SO2, its panel can use landline, GSM (cellular), or both. When connected to both landline and GSM, the panel uses your landline as the primary form of communication and GSM as a backup. There is also a backup battery that can power the panel for 3 to 8 hours.
The panel can support up to 100 sensors, and as with SO2, you can divide your sensors into zones. You can have up to 4 wired zones and 10 wireless zones.
In the event of an alarm, the panel dials 6 emergency contacts to inform them of the emergency using a pre-recorded message, same as SO2. For this to happen, the panel must either be connected to a landline or have a SIM card inserted. It will also send text messages to 3 phone numbers, but this will only work if it has a SIM card.
The VEA 3G/4G panel also features the ability to let you listen in. Simply call the landline or GSM number using a mobile phone or telephone, enter your 4-digit PIN, and press  after hearing “Please enter instruction”. The panel can also function as an intercom, but only if connected to GSM.
Unfortunately, a SIM card is not included. You will have to purchase one from Fortress for $23.97. The new version of the SIM card, which only covers a limited area, incurs a $9.99 activation fee and $7.99 monthly fee plus overcharges. The older SIM cards are offered to those who live in areas not covered by the new card. The activation fee is also $9.99, but it is billed on a 90-day cycle. The recurring fee is $23.97. Both cards include 200 minutes of call time. Emergency calls, listening in, text messages, and using the panel as an intercom are all considered calls.
The basic VEA package sells for $199.99. It includes a GSM control panel, 5 door/window contacts, 2 motion detectors, 2 keyfobs, 1 strobe siren, and 1 panic button. Or you can choose other kits. More expensive = More equipment. The most expensive package is $249.99, which includes 8 contact sensors, 3 pet-immune motion sensors, strobe sirens, and more. You browse all VEA packages here
Total Security System
The third option is called the Total Security System. It is the latest and most advanced panel-based system from Fortress. There are two types of control panels under the Total Security umbrella. The first one uses a cellular signal and requires a SIM card. The second panel works with SIM cards as well, but with added Wi-Fi connectivity, allowing you to use broadband as your main communication mode.
Both panels can manage up to 150 devices and are pre-programmed with up to 99 zones. Besides security, the system panel can also supports basic home automation. More on that later.
Both Total Security System panels automatically call up to 8 emergency contact numbers in sequence when an alarm is triggered. They also feature two-way talk, enabling you to hear and speak with someone near your control panel.
What’s special about this system is smartphone app access. With the app, you can control your system anytime, anywhere. The two-way talk feature is also built into the app, so you don’t need to call a number when you want to listen it.
Total Security is sold using six different packages. The most basic package sells for $259.99 and includes contact sensors, motion sensors, RFID tags, panic buttons, and key fobs. If needed, you can add more accessories to your system. But take note that Total Security accessories exclusively connect to the Total Security panel and the panel only connects with Total Security accessories.
Ani Security System
Finally, Fortress’ hub-based system is called Ani Security System. It is a Wi-Fi connected hub, just like SmartThings. It supports not only security devices, but also smart home devices. As the hub doesn’t use an interface to control the system, you will need to use the iOS or Android Ani app. The app controls all the system’s features, including setup, arming, disarming, remote control, remote access, and self-monitoring.
There are four Ani packages, starting at $129.99. This price includes the hub, a motion sensor, a contact sensor, and two key fobs.
Fortress Add-On Equipment Costs
Fortress offers add-on equipment so that you can expand your system as you wish. Most of the devices they offer work with all of their systems. However, there are some that only work with Total Security, such as the Total Security Contact Sensor and Total Security Motion Sensor.
|Standard Motion Sensor||$22.99|
|Pet-Immune Motion Sensor||$25.99|
|Glass Break Sensor||$34.99|
|Gas Leak Detector||$34.99|
|Indoor/Outdoor Strobe Siren||$59.99|
|Indoor Plug Siren||$39.99|
|Remote Key Fob||$14.99|
|RFID Keypad w/ Tags||$59.99|
|Wireless Signal Repeater||$54.99|
|Total Security Contact Sensor||$14.99|
|Total Security Motion Detector||$24.99|
|Total Security Solar Siren||$99.99|
|Total Security Remote Fob||$14.99|
|Total Security Panic Button||$15.99|
|Total Security Outlet||$29.99|
Fortress security offers limited home automation. They have a smart plug, for one. These plugs allow you to turn your appliances on or off even remotely using only your smartphone. They are, however, only compatible with Total Security and Ani systems.
Fortress also offers a security camera for $79.99. The camera is called the Fortress Eye Sight Camera, and surprisingly, you can use it with all of the Fortress systems. As the camera is standalone, it doesn’t need a hub or control panel to connect. It features a 720p resolution, pan-and-tilt, and local storage to an SD card. The camera directly connects to your network via Wi-Fi or an Ethernet cable. It can stream live videos to your smartphone using the Total Security app and it can notify if it detects motion. In addition, it can connect with all Fortress sensors, acting as a hub itself. If you hook it up with your sensors you will be able to set commands such as automatic recording when one of the sensors is tripped.
Customer Service and Support
Fortress Security holds a BBB rating that recently improved from an A to an A+. In addition, I’ve been reading customer reviews and for the most part, they seem happy. Why? For one, Fortress covers all their products with a 3-year warranty. One customer claims Fortress even sent out a replacement for a system they ordered that was stolen from their porch. A lot of customers are also happy that Fortress is ready to resolve system issues, and that they are willing to send out a team to repair or even replace broken equipment.