The Pitfalls of "Cheap" Alarm MonitoringPosted By Joshua Unseth
Our alarm monitoring is not expensive in the slightest. Alarm Grid offers a number of simple plans for your system, that we have done our best to keep very reasonable. We are happy to say that nearly everyone we talk to is amazed to find no-contract monitoring service at the rates we offer, and that our current customers are very happy with their service. That said, we are often asked by more price-conscious consumers why they are better off becoming customers of Alarm Grid than one of those super-cheap central stations. Since we spend so much time explaining anyway, I figured it was about time to do a little write-up on the subject.
Who Does the Monitoring... because Not All Central Stations are Created Equal
One of the dirty little secrets of the home security industry is that the company that actually does the alarm monitoring and alarm dispatching is usually an un-named central station that answers as the company you're paying. Most alarm companies don't even admit that they use a third party for the central station service. Central station monitoring is a commoditized service that companies like Alarm Grid purchase on behalf of their clients. Just like those concerned about price will often try to find the best deal for monitoring, alarm companies do the same. They shop their accounts around so that they can get the cheapest deal on alarm monitoring. Unfortunately, that can result in a under-staffed, under-technologized UL listed central station providing you your monitoring service.
The central station we work with is a company called Criticom. We picked them because they are well-regarded as a central station. For our customers, the average response time over the last 6 months is just over 11 seconds. This kind of response time is incredible, even a little unprecedented. Your accounts are not cheap for us to have monitored. We didn't pick Criticom because of incredible cut-rate pricing. We picked them, over less expensive central stations, because we think they are the best. They have three central stations (something that is not required for a UL listed central station). They have incredible response times, a 30+ year history and they are armed with the best, most modern technology available today. They are always modernizing so that any new technology in the industry is adopted quickly.
Simply choosing a central station because it's UL listed doesn't cut it anymore. It's important for you to ask your alarm company the detailed questions about who they use for central station service and then to research how that central station may differ from others. Before we selected Criticom to be the official Alarm Grid monitoring partner, we spoke to countless other UL listed centrals. Criticom had the best feature set we could find.
Additionally, Alarm Grid is in control of the phone number that your system uses to communicate with the central station. This is a pretty important fact that most consumers wouldn't even know to ask about. Very simply, it means that if Criticom begins performing poorly (if our customers do not continue to get the same great level of service they've received up to this point) we can simply change which central station we work with.
You Don't Get to Test Your Monitoring Until You Need It
This is a pretty critical point. With cheap alarm monitoring, oftentimes what you're getting is monitoring from a central station that is nothing more than a couple of guys sitting in a cement room, fulfilling the minimal requirements to be a UL listed central station. These alarm companies may say that they can charge less because there is no middleman - they are the ones providing the monitoring. This is often true. However, it's important to realize that there are typically two businesses in the industry: alarm service companies and central station companies. Running a central station competently is not something an alarm service company is necessarily well suited to do.
Alarm companies are generally staffed to the hilt, with installers, technicians and sales people. For companies whose primary business is selling security system service and attempting to get customers to sign up for long, unreadable contracts, running a central station is an afterthought. How can you know that your company will be there when you need them, the one time that you actually get robbed? Well, again, we work with a company that does nothing but central station monitoring. Their job is to be there. We encourage you to test their track record, read as much as you can about them. Criticom's years and years of service are unparalleled. And that level of certainty is what you pay for in an alarm monitoring company.
An Explanation of Alarm Grid's Costs
So given all that, how does Alarm Grid keep our prices so low? The traditional alarm company acquires customers through a number of channels, including offering them free systems in exchange for signing a long-term contract. This free-system scam is one of the most insidious in the industry. Often a company's cost will be around $300, but the monitoring that they sell will end up locking consumers into contracts where they pay for the monitoring, and then pay enough on top of it that they could have purchased a brand new system every single year. We believe in transparency. So, at Alarm Grid, we offer the equipment at as low of a price as we can and only offer alarm monitoring packages that are month-to-month.
Alarm companies often resort to these tactics because they have to pay for the overhead of a bloated installation, sales and tech support team. As a DIY company, we employ only tech support and customer service agents. We are lean, green, and uninhibited by the need to pay a bloated staff. If you've ever had the pleasure of meeting our beautiful live chatters, you'll know that Alarm Grid strives to give you as many communication channels as possible. That said, the content we produce - the FAQs, the videos, our posting of the user manuals, and everything else, is done to make sure that you can do much of what needs to be accomplished on your own. For simple problems, the kind that you might have called an installer to come and fix in the past at a cost of $50 to $100 (like installing a 5811 sensor or changing the master code on a wired Honeywell system), you can now do yourself in a matter of minutes.
As a result of our cost saving measures, we do not need to sacrifice the quality of monitoring by using a cheap central station. So, while we may not have the absolute lowest priced monitoring plans, our rates are anything but cheap and we know that you will be hard pressed to find a company that offers the service on a month-to-month basis at these rates. That said, we will do everything in our power to make sure that we can keep it low cost as possible. Because, while we believe it is important to continue to offer alarm monitoring at a low price, you have our word that we will never sacrifice your safety for our bottom line. If the price of monitoring has to go up someday, we can assure you that the hike will have been very carefully considered and only done if necessary. Such a move would only be done if we had no other choice. And while that may happen some day, we promise that if it does, we will be as transparent about it as we have been with everything.