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10 years ago Yelp was founded. One of the earliest players on the Web 2.0 scene, Yelp was a bit of a revolutionary concept. Users would get online and tell other users what they thought of a company. Ten years later, the idea doesn't sound very absurd - it's just sort of something that happens everyday.

Why mention it in a post about Alarm Grid's birthday?

Well, 10 years after Yelp's launch, I think it's hard to disconnect Alarm Grid's business model from the incredible online revolution that Yelp began. Yelp is not our favorite review site. They make it hard for our users to write reviews that show up. If you see our Yelp page, you'll notice that 33 users have had reviews filtered. We have two reviews that have stuck. Not to mention Yelp is regularly criticized for their practice of what appears to be a pay-to-play model. They regularly call businesses asking them to advertise on the site, promising that the advertising will lead to more reviews (which are going to be filtered). The practice has led to lawsuits that Yelp basically always wins. After all, filtering your reviews, then calling you to tell you that paying them money to get more reviews is a good way to get reviews to stick sounds an awful lot like infamous mafia extortion attempts, "I'd hate to see your store burn to the ground. The evidence is on their side.

As the marketer on Alarm Grid's team, I can say with quite a bit of confidence, that while Yelp's reviews are filtered, and Yelp's pitch for advertisers to get on-board sounds extortion-y, their reviews are generally pretty trustworthy. And despite appearances, the accusations about their pay-to-play model are pretty unfounded. I've worked with companies that bought ads and companies that didn't. In both cases, reviews are hard to get to stick.

Yelp's review filter is a mean and ruthless God, albeit a fair one.

But that's not really why I'm writing this. Yelp's business model is their business. The reason I wanted to write about Yelp has more to do with the philosophy of Alarm Grid, and why we owe a lot of who we are these days to what Yelp did 10 years ago. The reason Yelp makes it hard for reviews to be included on pages is because the recognized how important those reviews were as a signal. For years, businesses were putting up fake reviews - a problem that persists to this day for almost every review site. While lots of businesses do their best to cheat the system. We are proud to say that we are able to trace back every single review we have been given to one or another customer of Alarm Grid's. Some of them were people who we helped set up a system, and others were random people who needed help with their system because their current company refused to do it, and who left us a review because they were so blown away with our service and attitude (and even a little impressed with the humble knowledge exhibited by the Alarm Grid staff).

Yelp started long before there were really any credible review sites online. I suppose you had Zagat back in the day. But they were independent. The idea that we could trust people to leave honest feedback, and more than that, that companies could trust in the intellect of their shoppers to sift through both lies and truth and make good purchasing decisions was novel. Nowadays, we take it for granted. A lot of companies still don't quite get it. Just last week the New York Post wrote an article about a New York hotel that charges their wedding guests $500 if someone in their party leaves a bad review. When the internet got wind of the practice, they stormed the bastille and left hundreds and hundreds of 1-star reviews on their Yelp page. It's not entirely fair. Many of these reviewers have never stayed at the hotel or experienced the service, but it speaks to the how sacred the right to review freely is taken by what we might go so far as to call the Yelp generation.

This is something we recognized at Alarm Grid early on. We believe very strongly in allowing the free voice of those whom have experienced our service to be heard loud and clear. Why? Because the entire goal of Alarm Grid was to be helpful and courteous and to help you do what you need to do to get your security system up and running. It's a model that can only exist in a world full of reviewers. First and foremost, we do our best to be and pass on competence. Occasionally, (as I'm sure some of you know) we make a mistake. When we do, we do our best to rectify the mistake and move past it. If you look at our reviews, I think you'll see that they reflect our service-centric corporate attitude. We believe that most of the people who come into contact with us will be so blown away with the level of service they receive, that over the long-term, it will be very difficult to find many people with a bad thing to say about us. We don't promise it won't ever happen - you can't please everybody - but we do try our darndest.

There are a lot of amazing milestones we've reached in the last two years. For one, we have built one of the fastest growing, most watched security system channels on YouTube. While the cynical may look at Justin Bieber's more than 2 million subscribers and laugh at our piddly numbers, we will proudly stand by our 1,000 subscribers. The channel itself has amassed more than 200,000 views since it's inception. More than 12,000 hours of footage have been watched by all of you during that time - that's more than 500 full days worth of time have been spent watching Alarm Grid. What does that mean? If you divide that into 8 hour workdays, more than 1500 days of work have been spent watching Alarm Grid's youtube videos. We count that as a huge success. Those views represent hundreds and thousands of people whose lives we have made better since we started this company. I can't even tell you how amazing that feels for us as a team.

Earlier this year, our Facebook page crossed the 2,000 likes threshold. Again, those aren't Justin Bieber numbers, but that's pretty incredible for something as boring as a security company. We're small, and our users are passionate, and we believe that our user base is the key to our success. As long as all of you are satisfied, we can continue to bring in new customers. More customers means we can grow our staff, more staff here means very simply, you get better service.

We have gone from being completely obscure to one of the most exciting brands in the DIY security industry. We are mentioned all over forums, blogs, and the occasional, surprising internet crevice. Every day, we as a team marvel in awe at this business that you have helped us build. Alarm Grid has become much bigger than any of us that work here, and any of you whom we monitor. In a lot of ways, other home security companies have followed suit - copying us move for move. We have been trendsetters, and we hope that all of you that took the risky plunge by allowing a security company that had been opened for less than 2 years understand how important you are to us.

We're really really proud to be celebrating our second year. Yelp has been building their company for 10 years, we have been building ours for 2. We're incredibly honored by the amazing customers that have given us the chance to serve them. And we're happy to say that we're ready to take on even more in the coming year. So tell your families and friends. Get them on board, let them know who we are. Don't keep us a secret. We believe that being treated well by your alarm company is a human right as important as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And besides, we want to make sure we make it through our terrible twos and right into our third anniversary.

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Honeywell's much anticipated L5200 has finally been released. The L5200 is the sister panel to this year's ISC "Best in Intrusion" winner, the Honeywell L7000, which is expected to be released in the latter half of 2014. Like the predecessors of these two panels, Honeywell has designed the L5200 to be an integrated system that combines state-of-the art wireless security features such as Advanced Protection Logic (APL) and Interactive services that allow an user to control the system from any smart device, with the incredible convenience afforded by modern home automation products

With this release, Honeywell has gone far to address many of their consumers' demands, and it's clear that with this panel the company is furthering its commitment to improved user experience. They have removed many of the disparaging limitations of the old L5100 panels: the Honeywell L5200 comes with more zones of protection, the ability to display a camera on screen, and one of the most exciting developments in Honeywell's technology comes with the announcement that the L5200 is flash upgradeable.

This feature, which allows the panel to download the latest software updates that have been released for the unit, addresses one of the chief complaints consumers have had about the old panels - no updates means no access to new features.

The release of this panel is met with another incredible development in the security industry: the rise of DIY. Since vaulting to prominence in mid-2012, Alarm Grid has set the standard for DIY home security by providing resources to DIYers that they never had access to previously. The Honeywell L5200 is the first panel to have been released since this DIY culture has become widespread. As such, the Alarm Grid team believes that it will be a great test of this new, up-and-coming model: "Do-it-yourselfers have really taken up the reigns in this industry. These panels are easy to understand, they are simple to program, and they are simple to install," said Joshua Unseth, Alarm Grid's director of marketing. "We believe that the L5200 is a great addition to Honeywell's already stellar line of products. It's a great step forward, and we think that DIYers will be quick to embrace it."

While the release of a security system like the L5200 would generally mean big money for installers who bank on consumers knowing very little about how these systems work, Alarm Grid has already released the L5200 manuals, they have begun writing L5200 frequently asked questions, and they have even released a L5200 DIY installation video, which they say shows just how simple installing this system yourself can be.

"We don't think you have to be an experienced DIYer to install a security system," said Sterling Donnelly, President of Alarm Grid. "I'm always amazed by the range of people who call us and decide to try DIY security. A lot of consumers don't even know that a self-installation is an option when they start looking at security equipment. Our goal is to make it easy. For those who want to give it a try, our tech team patiently guides them through every step of the way."

When asked how non-professionals can purchase the equipment, Unseth replied, "Alarm Grid has made it easy to get your hands on this equipment. We are committed to making sure that end users have the same access to this equipment as installers have, and we want to make sure that they have access to as much information as any professional installer would have. Not only that, but we are committed to making sure that this high-quality Honeywell equipment is affordable enough for anyone who wants a security system in their home. All an user has to do is visit our site, and purchase an L5200. We send it on, it gets delivered, the end-user can watch a few videos to figure out how to install and configure it, and should they run into trouble, they can always call us at no cost."

Alarm Grid has released 9 pre-configured kits that include the brand new wireless security system, each coming with a bevy of sensors and communicators. Regarding the quality of their hardware, Unseth points out that lots of other DIY companies have built their business on consumer hatred of this industry. "It's a well known fact that big players in home security are not well loved. But those DIY companies generally make sub-standard equipment." Alarm Grid's equipment is the same product a consumer would get if the system had been installed by ADT or another big-company installer. "With us that's what you get, great hardware at a great price, and alarm monitoring with a company you can trust and that will treat you well. We treat our customers the same on day one as we do after they have installed the system and are monitored. After all," Unseth smiled a little before adding, "since Alarm Grid doesn't believe in contracts, we have to work to win the business of our customers every single month."

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Alarm Grid is committed to giving our customers the best experience anywhere on the web. That means, we want you to love coming to our site, but we also want to make sure that you love your experience off of our site as well. We are doing everything we can on-site (perhaps you've noticed the beautiful new product pictures we've been displaying, such as the beautiful L7000, shown below)

Honeywell L7000

So for the artists among you, we have launched a contest to design our Facebook page! Jump in, participate! We will be selecting a winner within the week, and will likely have a revamped Facebook page soon thereafter.

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We're proud to announce a brand new alarm monitoring checkout here at Alarm Grid. Before we go into the details of our fancy new system, let's go over a quick little history of the old checkout.

We love our e-commerce software, Spree - perhaps more than people should love any software. It let us launch and grow incredibly quickly, all while be very flexible. Maybe a little too flexible to the point of letting us building build original monitoring checkout in it.

Spree was designed for purchasing and shipping physical products. It's amazing for people looking to buy security systems from us. It's helped us tackle complex e-commerce problems like taxation zones, fulfillment, shipping, handling of RMAs and many other things that don't apply to a service like monitoring.

But for our users looking to sign up for alarm monitoring? It was a little silly to have them adding a "Monitoring Plus" product to their shopping cart and going through a whole multi-step checkout process.

Plus it meant you had to pay for your first month of monitoring before we even had you activated. That always bothered us and was one of the primary driving factors behind the new system.

Now? We're proud to announce a single-page checkout for Alarm Monitoring. But beyond that, it has plenty of tricks and features up its sleeve!

For instance, now if you have an account with us and previously purchased equipment we'll automatically fill in your address for you.

And if you're a security enthusiast like us? We're porud to announce our credit card system is powered by Stripe.js. That means your credit card information never even gets sent to us or stored by us.

Perhaps the biggest change? Our new activation setup page. After you complete your checkout you'll be taken to an activation page you can always return until activation under "My Account."

This amazing page is loaded with information for you and let's you send information to your alarm technician before your activation, saving both of us a ton of time.

So please, direct any and all comments and suggestions about the new monitoring checkout in the comments below. We'd love to hear your thoughts.

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Alarm Grid has begun selling the Honeywell 5800C2W, a new wired system to wireless system conversion kit. “This marks a real sea change in the alarm industry,” said Joshua Unseth, spokesperson for the company, “it shows a shift in focus from the old wired panels to an industry dominated by wireless technologies.” Years ago, the industry was reticent to accept new RF wireless sensors, since they were regarded as notoriously unreliable. Nowadays, however, wireless installations dominate the market. “It is hard to convince hardwired installers that the new wireless systems are just as good,” Unseth said. “The technology was as of yet unproven just 5 or 10 years ago. But now, these systems have now shown that they can do just as good a job at protecting the lives and the property of everyone who installs them in their home. Anyone who isn't convinced yet is going to be left in the dust by these emerging technologies.”

Honeywell's most popular security system is the LYNX 5100, a touchscreen system that is capable of home automation and home security. While marked down at an affordable price, compared with what a security system used to cost, perhaps the biggest story when it comes to the Honeywell LYNX is the ease of installation. While customers have traditionally relied on professional, licensed installers to put wire panels into a home, these new systems allow access to state-of-the-art home security equipment that runs using simple A/C power, which means that individual homeowners can install a unit on their own, without the help of a professional. That said, until the introduction of the 5800C2W, customers have not had a reliable way to use their already installed wired contacts, which would prompt users who would have been good candidates for a wireless security system to purchase and install one of the wired systems since changing out sensors can be extremely expensive.

“We want to make sure that wireless security is available to anyone that wants it.” Unseth believes very strongly in the implications of wireless technologies to Alarm Grid's future. “Wireless systems are cheaper, at least as reliable, and much more simple to install and use than any wired system on the market.” If that is in fact the case, then there is little doubt that Alarm Grid's future looks very bright.

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Wonder what one of our security yard signs look like after an incredibly harsh winter?

This year has been one of the worst in history. But we're proud to say that our signs have faired very well. We were excited to see the following tweet from one of Alarm Grid's many clients:

@alarmgrid signs hold up well in new england winters! pic.twitter.com/7dUvEKlPvJ
— Dave (@flarms) February 9, 2014

Alarm Grid Sign in the New England Snow

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After hearing a story on NPR about a mysterious thief in Key West (which isn't so far from us), I thought it would be appropriate to do a little story for our blog. Like many communities around the United States, Key West's residence who live around the island's graveyard have been getting robbed by a mysterious Apple-product loving thief. The problem has become big enough that the police are even offering a $5,000 reward in exchange for "information that leads to the arrest of the individual or individuals responsible for the recent burglaries in the neighborhood surrounding the Key West Cemetery."

When I heard the story, I felt a little bit like the world's most famous man in tights, Superman, "this sounds like a job for Alarm Grid." If you are a resident in Key West that wants to make sure you are protected against this sort of intrusion, why not think about getting a security system? They are affordable, and with our no-contract monitoring, if you no longer want to be monitored after the thief is caught, you don't have to be.

For something basic, you'll want to make sure your doors and windows are protected. The Honeywell 5816 or 5811 sensors (depending on how much you care about the size) are perfect for that and you'll want the main security panel. If you want to save a little bit of money, you can buy some of these things in kits, like the L5100PK. If you want to step up the security a bit, you might want to consider getting some glassbreak detectors, some motion detectors, and a wireless Honeywell camera or two never hurt anybody.

If you're a Key West resident in need of monitoring and assistance trying to figure out what you might need, give us a call. We'd love to help you protect your property!

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