The Differences Between Self-Monitoring and Back to Base Monitoring

When it comes to keeping your home and loved ones safe and secure, installing a security system is only part of the equation. Once all your cameras, alarms, and sensors are in place, there’s also the matter of how you’re going to monitor the events unfolding on your home security system.

On one hand, you could opt for self-monitoring, where you keep an eye on your security system yourself. Alternatively, you could go down the back to base monitoring route, where you enlist the services of a professional security team to watch over your premise for you.

To help you decide which of these options is best for you, in this post, we explore the differences between self-monitoring and back to base monitoring.

What Are the Pros and Cons of a Self-Monitoring Alarm System?

First, let’s explore the advantages and disadvantages of installing and self-monitoring your alarm system.

What Is a Self-Monitoring Alarm System?

A self-monitoring alarm system is one that you’re responsible for keeping an eye on and responding to during an alarm event. When one of the alarms on a self-monitored security system is triggered, it will send you an alert through the mobile app it’s connected to. These alerts could come from motion detection sensors, medical pendants, smoke detectors and sometimes other devices that comprise your security system such as CCTV.

Upon receiving an alert, the next step is up to you. Some cameras systems allow for two-way talk for you to communicate your intentions to the perpetrator. Security Alarm systems will ward off the perpetrator with a very loud siren, almost deafening to the ear. This siren will assist in clearing them from the site due to the high pitch sound. From here you can attend site yourself, contact a neighbour and ask them to investigate, or call the police. Police will very unlikely attend the site unless it is a confirmed break and enter taking place. Even then, it is up to you to attend site and actively assess the situation.

Security Cameras Brisbane.

What Are the Advantages of a Self-Monitoring Alarm System?

Cost

Though there may be some costs associated with the initial purchase & set up of the hardware, some self-monitoring alarm systems come with a free app so no ongoing fees. Some higher end alarm systems have a paid version of the app. The paid apps respond a lot faster and have more functionality than the free versions. This is because the annual fee is going towards ongoing development and support of the app.

Direct control

In the event of an alarm being triggered, a self-monitored system allows you to assess the situation yourself. So, if your kids or your dog happen to trigger an alarm by accident, you can deal with it without any additional stress or consequences by a 3rd party.

Combine Alarm with CCTV

The most ideal set up is to have remote access to both your Alarm and CCTV systems. Some cameras can now notify you of movement in the field of view of your camera. This can be very handy, to pick up on the perpetrator before they attempt to break and enter. Some cameras can set off a siren and flashing lights to deter the event from occurring, these are called Active Deterrent cameras. These signals can send a notification to your smart phone app. If they continue to break and enter, the alarm inside the premise will trigger a very loud siren and alert you as a second back up. The sirens of an alarm system are much louder than the deterrent siren of a camera. The alarm siren is very high pitched for the purpose of clearing the person out of the vicinity of the house.

What Are the Disadvantages of a Self-Monitoring Alarm System?

A Lack of Backup

The flip side of being responsible for monitoring your alarm system, is that you’re responsible for monitoring your alarm & CCTV system & actioning all events at all times. Now, you might be in luck if one of your neighbours are willing to keep an eye out for you, other than that – you’re on your own.

This means that you have to be available to receive alerts on your phone when an alarm or sensor is triggered. More importantly still, if there is an intruder on your property, you often only have a small window in which to respond. The responsibility to act on this event and attend site is all up to you.

If you are at the cinemas, enjoying a dinner with friends or family, away on holidays, you will need to have your phone close by and audible at all times. This can leave some people feeling anxious for missing an alert or over time become complacent in keeping an eye on all signals.

Dependent On Your Phone

The effectiveness of your self-monitoring system is dependent on you having complete access to your phone at the time any device is triggered. Not only does this mean that your phone needs to have battery life and a good internet connection at that time, also being mindful when you are talking on your phone when an alert comes through, you might not notice it.

If any of these three common scenarios happen to play out when your security system is triggered, you might not find out about an incident occurring at your home until it’s too late.

Self-Monitoring Security Alarm.

Dependent on your Internet & Power

Self-monitored systems rely on sending their signal via your internet at the site and the Wi-Fi signal of your smart phone. If your internet drops out or the main power is down at the home, this will cut the communication off to your smart phone app. You can install an uninterrupted power supply to your modem for intermittent power losses however you cannot control any intermittent internet dropouts by your ISP.

Self-Installation

Some self-monitored alarm systems can be bought off the shelf and installed yourself. We strongly recommend against this. A security Alarm and CCTV system should be installed by a well-trained, certified, and registered professional with well-known experience in the brand regardless of whether you are self-monitoring or having it monitored by a professional. When purchased by a registered security provider all parts and labour will come with full warranties and you will have ongoing support if the is an issue or the system requires a service. Installing a system, yourself opens the door for system malfunctions – that you might not be aware of until it’s too late. You may also choose a product that has no back up support if a problem occurs.

Is a Self-Monitoring System Better Than Back to Base Monitoring?

Answering the question of whether self-monitoring is better than back to base monitoring really depends on your personal situation. The first factor that could make self-monitoring a better option is if you’re on a tight budget. If that’s the case, a simple self-monitoring system is a great way to initially secure your home and you can then add to or upgrade your system when you’re able to. Most self-monitored alarm systems can also accommodate back to base monitoring with the addition of a new module to the main panel.

A second scenario in which a self-monitored system could be better than back to base monitoring is if you live in an apartment that is high level, no easy access, low risk for break & enter but you want peace of mind no one is in your home when you get home at night or if you wish to partially arm the system whilst you sleep at night. You may find a self-monitored system is adequate for your needs.

It can also be of benefit if you are at home 90% of the time and want to secure your perimeters whilst in the home alone. The alarm can trigger a siren to ward off any attempts to break in whilst you are home. You then have knowledge of this attempt and check your external cameras around the home.

What Are the Pros and Cons of a Back to Base Monitoring Alarm System?

Now we’ve looked at the pros and cons of self-monitored alarm systems, let’s turn our attention to the advantages and disadvantages of a back to base monitoring alarm system.

What Is Back to Base Monitoring?

Back to base monitoring, also referred to as professional monitoring, is when a security company is responsible for monitoring your home or business security system. When an alarm event is triggered, this signal can go back to the 24/7 control room (and your app if you choose). A team of professional security personnel are looking after your alarm events 24 hours a day, 7 days a week when your system is in ‘armed’ state.

Smoke detectors can be programmed to be ‘on’ 24hrs a day whether the system is armed or disarmed making this a viable option to be notified in the event of a fire anytime day or night.

Back to Base Monitoring Services.

The security company will contact your nominated key holder call list first to determine whether there’s a genuine threat to your home’s security or if the system was accidentally triggered. Then, if necessary, they’ll act on your behalf: sending a patrol guard to check on your property, as well as alerting the authorities if necessary. Alternatively, if they’re unable to reach you for whatever reason, they’ll send someone to check on your property for you.

This situation can come in handy if you have a loved one with a medical pendant. If the key holders cannot be contacted, you can have your account set up to send an ambulance with instructions on gaining entry. Some clients hold a spare key in a lockbox of a secret location to allow this support to take place. It can all be documented on your monitoring account.

What Are the Advantages of Back to Base Monitoring?

24/7/365 Coverage

The main advantage of back to base monitoring is that you have security professionals ready to respond to alerts at all times. Unlike a self-monitoring system, your home’s security isn’t dependent on your phone working properly or having a solid internet connection. Alerts are sent to the security company (via the mobile network) who’ll attempt to contact you and will still take steps to protect your home in the event they can’t reach you. As a result, back to base monitoring is a far more robust security solution with more fail-safes in place. No phone lines can be cut and no internet drop outs will effect the communication.

Greater Peace of Mind

Back to base monitoring offers you greater peace of mind in two ways. First, as described above, you can be secure in the knowledge that someone is available to respond to a potential break-in at any time. You don’t even have to be available at the time of the incident.
Secondly, in the event of an actual emergency, your mind will be at ease knowing you have the support of a security professional. Needless to say, having an intruder in your home is a particularly unsettling experience and it’s comforting to know that someone will be there to back you up and advise you on exactly what to do, should it occur. Our team can send a patrol officer to check on your site and call police if a confirmed break and enter.

Professional Installation

To ensure everything works to their exact standards and specifications, the company that’s responsible for monitoring your property will install your security system as well. This will result in your devices being positioned in places that offer the best vantage points. They will also adjust the configuration of the devices to suit your needs. Some systems can be programmed to allow you to arm certain areas of your home whilst you are still inside. This comes in handy if you wish to arm the alarm downstairs whilst sleeping upstairs at night time.

More importantly, your alarm system will be installed in such a way that if there’s a problem, the fault will be reported to the monitoring station. This makes the security company aware of the fault with your system and allows them to rectify it. If, on the other hand, you installed the alarm system yourself, there’s every chance you won’t be made aware of it in time or you are unsure how to fix the problem.

Support for Various Alarm Events

Most back to base monitored systems come equipped with a fail-safe code that allows you to switch off the alarm’s siren but still sends a distress signal to the security company. The distress signal is invaluable in the event an armed intruder forces you to disarm your security system under duress– or if you’re in any other kind of danger. A fail-safe code lets you call for help without the intruder being any the wiser.

Fire events allow you to have your 12v smoke detectors monitored 24/7 regardless if the alarm system is armed or disarmed. Action can be taken in the event of a fire alarm day or night, whether you are home or not.

Medical pendants can be introduced and monitored 24/7 for your loved ones. They can carry the pendant on their person inside the home and press a button for medical assistance.

Reduced Home Insurance Premiums

As homes with back to base security monitoring are less likely to be broken into, they’re looked upon favourably by insurance companies. Because you’re less likely to make a claim, many insurance providers are willing to give you a discount on your home insurance.

What Are the Disadvantages of Back to Base Monitoring?

Cost

All the advantages that back to base monitoring offers, understandably, come with a monthly fee. The security system and the installation have to be of a certain standard. In addition to that, you’ll be required to pay a monthly subscription fee for the security company’s ongoing monitoring services. This can be seen as a con but in comparison to what you get for this service, the benefits far outweigh the cost. With the savings you make on your insurance premiums, you can put this saving towards the cost of the monitoring.

False Alarm Penalties

In the event you or a family member triggers an alarm and the security company cannot reach you, your account may be set up to send a patrol to assess the situation. In this case, the cost of the patrol attendance is payable. If a fire brigade is sent to site for a false fire alarm, the cost of this fire brigade may be on charged to the home owner depending on your state/territory. Your monitoring account can be set up to advise not to send patrol or fire brigade unless an authorised key person is advised to do so, this can eliminate this concern.

Is a Back to Base Monitoring Better Than a Self-Monitoring Alarm System?

Again, whether back to base monitoring or self-motoring is better depends on your particular circumstances. Objectively speaking, however, there aren’t many situations where back to base monitoring isn’t a better option than self-monitoring overall.

That being said, there are a few factors that make back to base monitoring a better choice for your home security.

  • If you live in a large enough property. The larger your home is, the better an option to back to base monitoring becomes. Similarly, the more valuable the possessions within your home, the more it makes sense to opt for professional monitoring services.
  • If budget is less of a consideration and your main concern is having the most thorough monitoring for your family and home.
  • If you’re away from home a lot: e.g., you’re someone who frequently travels for work.
  • If you don’t consider yourself tech-savvy, don’t want to risk installing your security system incorrectly, and would prefer to have it installed by a professional.

Conclusion

Both self-monitored and back to base alarm systems are valid ways to secure your home, and each has its benefits and drawbacks. While self-monitored alarms systems cost less with ongoing fees and give you direct control, back to base monitoring systems can still give you remote access and for a minimal fee per month give you greater peace of mind with having a full team backing you up during an event.

If you’d like a free on-site inspection to address your home’s specific security needs, contact us today.

Kylie Butchard.

Article by:

Kylie Butchard

Managing Director of Pacific Security Group.

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