SimpliSafe vs. Fortress SecurityBy - 02/03/2017
If you’ve been searching for a reliable self-monitored solution, then you might be familiar with SimpliSafe and Fortress. Both companies offer self-monitoring options without monthly fees and contracts. SimpliSafe also offers low-cost professional monitoring, while Fortress is planning to offer professional monitoring soon.
SimpliSafe vs. Fortress: Real Cost of Monitoring
|Home Automation||Interactive Plans + Work with Nest||YES|
|Monitoring Method||Cellular||Landline, VOIP, or Cellular|
|Text and Email Alerts||Paid Monitoring Plans Only||Requires Paid SMS Card|
|Review||SimpliSafe Review||Fortress Review|
|Buy Now||Buy Now|
SimpliSafe has two professional monitoring plans. The first plan is called the Standard Plan, which costs $14.99/month and offers basic monitoring. Your system will be linked to SimpliSafe’s monitoring center where it is monitored 24/7. When one of your sensors is triggered, the monitoring center is notified. An operator will then call your phone number to ask if you’re okay. The alarm will only be dismissed if you provide the “safe word”. With Standard, you will also have access to live video streaming online or through the mobile app. However, if you want mobile alerts, including text alerts, be prepared to pay an extra $4.99/month. And if you want access to your recorded video history, that will also cost you an extra $4.99/month.
The second option is called the Interactive Plan, which costs $25.00 per month. Aside from basic monitoring, it extends service by adding email and text alerts, a Nest Thermostat integration, and app access. Via SimpliSafe’s companion app you can arm and disarm your system and monitor activities.
Why am I telling you about paid plans if you’re only interested in self-monitoring? Because one day you might realize that you need professional monitoring, whether temporarily or permanently. If you have a SimpliSafe system, there are no contracts. You can subscribe or unsubscribe to professional monitoring on a month-to-month basis.
While you can self-monitor SimpliSafe, there is one BIG downside. If you choose to self-monitor, the system will function as a local alarm. It will be your responsibility to call the authorities and take action when a break-in happens. Self-monitoring does not include mobile app access or alerts, so you must be home in order to hear the alarm and take action.
Despite offering a self-monitoring option, Fortress isn’t entirely free from monthly fees.
Fortress’ SO2 panel uses landline and VOIP for communication, meaning you need to have a landline or VOIP connection to use it. This adds to the monthly cost. With a landline or VOIP connection, your SO2 system will be able to dial 6 emergency contacts and play a 10-second, pre-recorded message when an alarm is triggered. This service does not include text alerts or app support.
The Ves 3G/4G Security (GSM) systems are similar to SO2, but support landline and GSM SIM cards for communication. The SIM card isn’t provided with the system, so you’ll have to buy one directly from Fortress. The card sells for $24, plus $7.99/month (for 200 call minutes). You will also be responsible for overcharges if you incur any. If a SIM card is installed to a GSM panel, it calls 6 contacts in sequence and sends a text alert to 3 additional contacts. If you are using a landline, text alerts are not available.
The third self-monitoring option is Total Security systems. Total Security panels require a cellular connection. When an alarm is triggered, it calls 8 contact numbers in sequence using your SIM card. Since it uses your SIM card, all fees for the call minutes are charged to you. This setup supports the Total Security app which you can use to control your system (remote arm/disarm) and monitor activities (event log).
The final option is the Ani Security System, a system built around a hub. Unlike the other systems from Fortress, this one only uses Wi-Fi. In my opinion, this is the most practical and least expensive option available from Fortress.
WINNER: It depends. SimpliSafe offers professional monitoring service. However, self-monitoring with SimpliSafe isn’t recommended because it lacks text, email, and app notifications. With Fortress, you’ll be able to receive call alerts and even text alerts if you choose to self-monitor. Total Security offers app access, while Ani Security appears to be the most practical and least expensive option.
SimpliSafe vs. Fortress: Home Alarm Systems
Home alarm systems are usually built around a control panel. The control panel controls all connected devices. SimpliSafe has one option for a control panel which consists of a base station and a keypad. Regarding equipment, you can build your own system or choose a pre-arranged package. Either way, you get exactly what you need and can always grow your system at a later date.
Fortress takes a different approach. It has three control panels and one hub to choose from:
- The SO2 panel for landline or VOIP users.
- The GSM panel for landline users who want backup cellular communication.
- Total Security panel for wireless, cellular monitoring, support for home automation, and optional Wi-Fi capability.
- The Ani hub for those who want to stick with Wi-Fi.
After you select a panel, you can choose from pre-arranged packages. Packages do not just expand in regards to equipment included; they also expand in capability.
WINNER: Fortress wins because they offer an option for landline monitoring, an optional touch screen panel, and home automation. However, SimpliSafe’s packages are simpler and 100% wireless. Plus, they offer a return period of 60 days compared to Fortress’ 30-day return policy. In general, I would rate SimpliSafe’s equipment as more reliable.
SimpliSafe vs. Fortress: Equipment Compared
Home alarm systems are specifically designed to protect you from intrusion using multiple sensors. Having the right equipment will help emergency responders get to you as quickly as possible.
|SimpliSafe||Fortress SO2 and GSM||Fortress Total Security|
|Motion Sensor (Standard)||NA||$22.99||$24.99|
|Motion Sensor (Pet-Immune)||$29.99||$25.99||$25.99|
|Glass Break Sensor||$34.99||$34.99||$34.99|
|Panic Button (Wall-Mounted)||$19.99||$14.99||$15.99|
|Remote Panic Button (Multi-Function)||$24.99||$14.99||$14.99|
|Indoor Plug-in Siren||NA||$39.99||$39.99|
|Solar-Powered Outdoor Siren||NA||$99.99||$99.99|
|Outdoor Strobe Siren||NA||$59.99||$59.99|
|Professional Monitoring||As low as $14.99/month||NA||NA|
|Shop Now||Here||Fortress Store||Fortress Store|
As described above, the control panel ties all your equipment into one system. It is the center of control and communication between the equipment, you, and the monitoring center.
SimpliSafe’s control panel, called the Base Station, is unique. It doesn’t have a keypad built into it like other panels. Instead, the base station is a cylindrical device that stands 11 inches in height.
- It is embedded with cellular technology, but you can connect it to a phone line or Ethernet cable if you want backup communication.
- It supports up to 41 sensors.
- It runs on AC but it has a backup battery that can power it for 8 hours.
- An 85dB siren is built into the base to sound in an emergency.
- A voice prompt will guide you through installation.
Fortress has three different panels, each one with its own strengths.
SO2 Control Panel
- It communicates via landline or VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol).
- In case of alarm, it dials up to 6 preset emergency contacts.
- It supports up to 99 sensors, divided into 32 wireless zones.
- The panel’s battery backup runs for up to 72 hours.
GSM Control panel
- GSM SIM card can be used as main or backup communication. It also supports landline connections.
- When alarms are triggered, it dials up to 6 contacts using your landline connection. When also used with a SIM card, it sends text alerts to 3 emergency contacts.
- It can support up to 100 sensors divided into 10 zones.
- Its backup battery keeps it running for 3-8 hours during power outages.
- SIM Card is not included, which means you’ll have to pay for call minutes.
Total Security Panel
- It needs cellular service connection using a GSM SIM card to deliver alerts.
- You can remotely access and control the panel using an Android or iOS app.
- It can hold up to 150 sensors.
- It calls 8 preset contacts when an alarm is triggered.
- It has up to 2 days of battery backup.
- Optional Wi-Fi control panel
Ani Security Hub
- It doesn’t require a landline or GSM SIM card.
- You can control your system using the Ani Android or iOS app.
- Supports home automation and security devices.
- Notifies you through smartphone push notifications.
Entry sensors a.k.a door/window sensors are placed on doors and windows to alert you if a door or window is opened. Entry sensors come in two pieces—the magnet and the sensor. If the sensor loses contact with the magnet, it will send you an alert.
SimpliSafe’s Entry Sensor
- It is pre-installed with a battery and adhesive for easy installation.
- It triggers if the distance between the grooves of the sensor and the magnet is separated by more than 2″.
- When the system is unarmed and a window or door is opened, the base station sounds a door-chime.
Fortress’s Entry Sensor
Fortress uses two entry sensors, one for Ani, SO2 and GSM systems and another for Total Security systems.
Ani, SO2 and GSM Entry Sensor
- 100% Wireless
- Connects only with Ani, SO2 and GSM panels.
- Can be installed easily with the help of adhesive tape.
Total Security Entry Sensor
- Completely wireless and easy to install.
- Connects with Total Security systems only.
- Sleek, low-profile design allows it to blend nicely on any door or window.
SimpliSafe vs. Fortress Motion Sensor
Motion sensors pick up motion from a room to determine when there is activity. If an activity is detected while your alarm system is armed, it triggers an alert. Motion sensors are usually placed in rooms, hallways, and accessible places where a burglar might pass through.
- It can be placed 400ft. away from the base station.
- It detects motion within 30 ft.
- It is designed to stand on a flat surface, stick on a wall, or fit in a corner for optimal coverage.
- Pets under 50lbs. won’t trigger alarms. (Pet immune)
Fortress Security Motion
Standard Motion Sensor for Ani, SO2, and GSM Panels
- It uses PIR motion detecting technology.
- It detects all kinds of motion up to 20 feet away within the 120 degree viewing angle.
- It is 100% wireless for easy installation.
- It comes with an adjustable mounting stand that easily sits on a flat surface or sticks on a wall.
Standard Motion Sensor for Total Security Panels
- It can pick up motion up to 25 feet away.
- It has a 110 degree horizontal viewing angle and 90 degree vertical viewing angle for wider coverage.
- It communicates with the panel from 150 feet away.
- It conserves huge amounts of battery by setting intervals between triggering events.
- It has an LED indicator for when motion is detected.
Pet-Immune Motion Sensor
- Compatible with all Fortress panels.
- Completely wireless.
- Ignores motion coming from pets less than 50lbs.
Glass Break Sensors Compared
Glass Break Sensors are particularly sensitive to the unique sound of breaking glass. Breaking glass is a common sign of danger (burglary, medical emergency, etc.you’re), and detecting it early could mean saving a life.
SimpliSafe Glass Break
- Connects wirelessly with the base station.
- Partners well with a motion sensor and entry sensors to monitor first-floor rooms.
Fortress Security Glass Break
- Compatible with all Fortress systems.
- Linked directly to the control panel using wires.
- Covers a radius of 50 ft.
- Needs direct power from a wall outlet. 110VAC power adapter is included.
Emergency Panic Button
There are times when only a panic button will do – medical emergency, home invasion, etc. Some panic buttons are wall-mounted while others come in the form of a key chain.
SimpliSafe Panic Button
- It is a wall-mounted panic button that connects wirelessly with the base station.
- It triggers an alarm and alerts the monitoring center (if your system is professionally monitored) or emergency contacts (if you choose to self-monitor) so they can give you a call. If professionally monitored, you’ll be asked for the “safe word” before disarming the alarm. If you don’t respond, the police will be called.
- It can be set to “silent panic” mode. This allows you to press the panic button without alerting an intruder.
Fortress Security Panic Button
Fortress has a number of emergency panic buttons. Some are wall-mounted while others are remote. Some have the single-function of triggering an alarm while others can also be used to remotely arm/disarm the panel. All of the remote emergency buttons, when pressed, will override a disarmed control panel to sound an alarm.
Here are the available panic button models:
- Ani, SO2 and GSM Panic Button (Wall-Mounted; Single Function)
- Ani, SO2 and GSM Remote Fob (Keychain; Multi-function to arm/disarm, set to home mode, and panic button)
- Total Security Panic Button (Wall-Mounted; Single Function with the option to trigger silent alarms)
- Total Security Remote Fob (Keychain, Multi-function to arm/disarm, set to home/away mode, and trigger the alarm)
Security systems usually come with additional control options like fobs and keypads that allow you to control your system even without approaching the control panel or main keypad.
SimpliSafe Control Options
Wireless Keypad (Wall-Mounted)
- Controls the whole system. Can securely arm/disarm the system, or set it to home or away mode.
- Is separate from the ‘brains’ of the system or the base station. That way, even when the keypad is smashed, a notification is still sent.
- Beeps when there is an alarm to distract intruders, while the base station silently sends an alert. Once it is done sending the alarm signal, the base station blares its 85dB siren.
- Arms/disarms your system, can set the system to home or away mode, and triggers an alarm with a press of a button.
- Can be customized from your computer.
Fortress Security Control Options
Remote Keypad with RFID
Fortress has a remote keypad with RFID for the Ani, SO2, GSM, and Total Security panel. It can be used to arm or disarm your system, set it to different modes, and trigger an alert. Also, by using the RFID tag, you can disarm your system by simply swiping it in front of the keypad.
WINNER: Both systems offer the right equipment and plenty of options. However, SimpliSafe wins as their equipment is 100% wireless.
SimpliSafe vs. Fortress Security: Security Cameras
Security cameras are indispensable. You can use them to detect intrusion, you can use them to check on your home wherever you are, and if your home is burglarized, you can use your camera’s footage as evidence.
Fortress’s security camera works no matter what your system is as the camera stands alone. It connects to your home Wi-Fi, not to your panel or hub.
- Mobile App Live Viewing
- Motion Detector
- Automatic Recording to SD Card
- Pairs with all Fortress sensors to automatically record all alerts.
- 720p Resolution
- Night Vision
- No Cloud Recording
SimpliSafe’s camera is different. You can only fully use it if you’re subscribed to one of their monitoring plans. If you are, you can use the app to monitor your camera’s footage live. You can also pay an additional $4.99/month for 30-day cloud recording. Your videos are stored in the cloud for future viewing.
- Mobile App Live Viewing (requires Standard or Interactive Plan)
- Cloud Recording (Additional $4.99/month)
- Automatically Records Alerts from Sensors
- 720p Resolution
- Night Vision
- Fixed Indoor Camera
SimpliSafe vs. Fortress Security — Protecting You From Home Hazards
Floods, fire, and CO2 can cause damage or worse. In fact, they can be more damaging than a burglary, which is why many home security systems offer sensors that help monitor for these disasters.
SimpliSafe Smoke Detector
- Has a built-in siren which will sound and trigger a full-blown alarm when smoke is detected.
- Professionally monitored systems can send a text or call alert directly to you.
- It is compatible with all Fortress systems.
- It sounds an internal siren when smoke is detected.
- It triggers an alarm even when the system is disarmed.
- It has the option to send text alerts directly to you if used with GSM or Total Security panels with SIM card.
Carbon Monoxide Detector
Carbon Monoxide is a silent killer. It is colorless, tasteless, and odorless, which makes it impossible to detect without CO detectors. Most CO deaths occur while people are asleep. Because of that, every room should be equipped with a CO detector.
- It detects dangerous levels of CO within a room.
- It warns you with an audible voice when CO is detected.
- It prompts a voice call to alert you and call for responders. (With professional monitoring only.)
- SMS and email notifications are also available. (With professional monitoring only.)
- It detects all kinds of gas leaks including LPG, Propane, LNG, and Carbon Monoxide.
- It has a built-in 75dB siren and flashing LED light to warn you when danger is detected.
- It can be mounted on walls using nails or screws.
- It needs to be plugged into an AC 110v outlet.
Water sensors detect the presence of water where water shouldn’t be. Water sensors are best placed near pipes and drains that are not monitored regularly and places where flooding is prone, like the basement.
- Quick detection.
- Offers optional text and email alerts. (With professional monitoring only.)
- Completely wireless so you can easily install it where needed.
- Is compatible with all Fortress systems.
- Detects water as soon as it reaches the level of the sensor.
- Can notify you through text or call depending on your preference.
Freeze Sensor: It detects the indoor room temperature and warns you through text or email if your room is too cold.
Vibration Sensor: It works hand in hand with a door/window sensor. It can detect a forced entry by picking up vibrations even before the intruder breaks in. When vibrations are detected, it sounds an alarm and notifies you.
SimpliSafe offers an extra 105dB siren that lets out an ear-piercing alarm sound that has the potential to startle and deter an intruder. The siren is wireless and weather resistant. Besides the extra siren, SimpliSafe’s base station also has a built-in siren which will sound after it sends an alert to the monitoring center or you.
Fortress apparently loves a good siren. They have a variety of sirens, from wireless, wired, with or without strobe lights, and directly plugged into an AC outlet.
- Outdoor/Indoor siren 130dB (Compatible with all systems)
- Outdoor/Indoor siren 140dB with strobe lights (Compatible with all systems)
- Indoor Plug-In Siren 85dB (Compatible with all systems)
- Internal Siren 130dB (Compatible with all systems)
- Solar-Powered Outdoor Siren 130dB (SO2 and GSM Panels only)
Have you decided which alarm company is best for you? If you have further questions, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below. Meanwhile, you can check out our hands-on review of SimpliSafe and our review of Fortress Security to learn more. I’d also suggest looking at Frontpoint and LiveWatch, two of our top recommended professionally monitored home security systems.