Small business owners have one of the most demanding jobs in business. Not only are they solely responsible for ensuring their business succeeds, but they also need to consider a host of factors that have nothing to do with actually making money, one of the most important being security.

man installing security camera

When it comes down to purchasing and installing a commercial security system, owners must consider several factors, including their budget. And while it can be tempting to opt for the cheapest security system available, this decision may cost more in the long run. Evaluating a security system's total cost is essential as it allows owners to decide which approach to invest in. By considering the upfront costs, ongoing expenses, and potential hidden costs associated with a security system, small business owners can ensure that they choose a system that fits their budget and meets their security needs. This article will dive deeper into this concept and shed light on the various costs that they are likely to incur over the system's lifetime. 

Upfront Costs

Upfront costs typically include the cost of the equipment and the installation fees. The cost of the equipment will depend on the type of security system a small business owner chooses. For example, a basic security system that includes a few cameras and a control panel could cost several hundred dollars, while a more advanced system that includes features such as motion sensors and access control could cost several thousand dollars. Some real-world examples of security system providers that offer equipment for purchase include ADT, SimpliSafe, and Frontpoint.

In addition to the cost of the equipment, small business owners will also need to factor in the installation cost. Depending on the complexity of the security system and the amount of equipment involved, installation fees can range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars. Some providers may offer free installation as part of a promotional offer, while others may charge a flat rate or charge based on the number of devices being installed. Small business owners need to understand these upfront costs and budget accordingly. While some providers may offer financing options or the ability to pay for equipment and installation fees over time, it's still essential to have a clear understanding of the total upfront cost of the security system before making a purchase.

Ongoing Costs

A security system for a small business is not a one-time expense; it requires ongoing maintenance and monitoring. Small business owners should be aware of these ongoing costs to ensure they can budget for them and avoid any surprises down the line. The following are some examples of the ongoing expenses associated with operating and maintaining a security system:

  1. Monitoring Fees: Most security systems require some form of monitoring to alert the authorities in an emergency. This service comes with a monthly or annual fee, and the cost varies depending on the type of monitoring, such as self-monitoring or professional monitoring.

  2. Maintenance Expenses: Like any other piece of equipment, a security system requires regular maintenance to ensure it's functioning correctly. Small business owners should factor in the cost of regular maintenance, such as software updates, hardware upgrades, and system checks.

  3. False Alarm Fees: False alarms can be costly for small businesses, as they can result in fines and fees from local law enforcement agencies. Small business owners should consider the possibility of false alarms and factor in the cost of any associated fees.

  4. Energy Costs: Depending on the type of security system, energy costs may be associated with its operation. For example, a system that requires a lot of power to run can increase energy bills, which can be an ongoing expense.

Hidden Costs

When evaluating the total cost of a small business security system, business owners need to be aware of potential hidden costs that may not be immediately obvious. These can include:

  • False alarms: False alarms can result in fines from local authorities and wasted time and resources for the business. Some security systems offer features such as video verification to help reduce the number of false alarms.

  • System upgrades: Over time, a security system may become outdated and require upgrades to keep up with evolving technology and security threats. These upgrades can come with additional equipment, installation, and training costs.

  • Service fees: Some security companies may charge additional fees for services such as technical support or remote access to the system.

  • Insurance premiums: While a security system can help lower insurance premiums for a small business, there may still be costs associated with insuring the system.

It's essential for small business owners to carefully review any contracts or agreements with security companies to understand the potential hidden costs associated with their security system. They should also consider the long-term costs of maintaining and upgrading the system to ensure adequate security for their business.

Cost-Benefit Analysis

Small business owners need to make informed decisions about their investments; a security system is no exception. One way to assess the value of a security system is by conducting a cost-benefit analysis. This process involves weighing the costs of the security system against its potential benefits to determine whether the investment is worth it. To conduct a cost-benefit analysis, small business owners should start by identifying the costs associated with the security system, including upfront costs, such as equipment and installation fees, and ongoing expenses, such as monitoring and maintenance fees. They should then estimate the potential benefits of the security system, which could include reduced theft or vandalism, improved employee safety, and potentially lower insurance premiums.

Once the costs and benefits have been identified, small business owners can compare them to determine whether the investment is worth it. The security system may be a wise investment if the potential benefits outweigh the costs. However, if the costs outweigh the benefits, reconsidering the investment or exploring other options may be necessary. It's important to note that the value of a security system may not always be easy to quantify. For example, estimating the potential savings from reduced theft or vandalism may be difficult. In these cases, small business owners may need to make some assumptions or rely on industry averages to estimate the potential benefits.

Tips for Reducing Costs

Small business owners often look for ways to reduce expenses and save money wherever possible. Here are some tips to help them reduce the overall cost of a security system for their business:

Consider Working with Local Security Companies:

Working with a local security company can also result in cost savings, as they offer more competitive pricing than big national chains. Additionally, local companies can provide a more customized security solution that fits the business's specific needs. They may also offer better customer service and support since they are more invested in their local community and rely on word-of-mouth referrals for their business. Small business owners should contact local security companies to see what options are available to them.


Choose a System with Self-Monitoring Capabilities: 

Some security systems offer self-monitoring capabilities, allowing small business owners to monitor their premises and alerts. Such a setup can reduce monitoring fees and provide peace of mind for business owners who prefer to be more hands-on.


Prioritize Essential Features:

When evaluating security systems, owners must prioritize essential features necessary for the business's protection, such as motion detectors, door and window sensors, and cameras. Avoid adding unnecessary features that will only increase the cost of the system without adding significant value.


Consider Equipment Financing Options:

Instead of paying for a security system upfront, small business owners may consider financing options to spread the cost over time. An EMI system can make the system more affordable and provide flexibility for businesses with limited budgets.


Research Available Discounts and Promotions:

Security companies may offer discounts or promotions occasionally, and business owners should research deals and promotions to take advantage of potential cost savings.


Bundle Services: 

Some security companies may offer additional services like access control or fire protection. Bundling these services together with a security system may provide extra cost savings.


Compare Prices and Services from Different Providers:

Before deciding, small business owners should compare prices and services from different security providers, as it will ensure they are getting the best value for their money. 


In conclusion, evaluating the total cost of a small business security system is an essential step for any business owner considering investing in this type of technology. By taking the time to consider the upfront, ongoing, and hidden costs of a security system, small business owners can make an informed decision about whether this type of investment makes sense for their business.