Yes, professional monitoring can keep you safe. And for many people, it’s one of their preferred security measures. But whether or not it works for you, your property, or your family is entirely up to you—and many home security companies offer self-monitoring as an alternative. But even if you do decide to go with professional monitoring, there are still a few things you should do to keep your household as safe as possible.
What does professional monitoring include?
Say your alarm system goes off—if you have professional monitoring, the team covering your home will receive an immediate alert. They’ll contact whoever is the primary contact on your account, and if no one picks up, they’ll reach out to emergency services on your behalf. And for systems with cameras, they can actually send the event footage to authorities so responders know exactly what they’re dealing with.
But professional monitoring doesn’t only monitor for security alarms. Depending on what your security system covers, the monitoring center can also help with fire or carbon monoxide alerts, catering specifically to what your household needs at that moment. The main benefit of professional service is that you can go out or on vacation and know you’re covered if anything happens.
How is professional monitoring different from self-monitoring?
There are a couple of big differences between the two. One, if your home security system is equipped for self-monitoring, any alerts will go to you as opposed to a monitoring center. This does demand a certain level of vigilance on your part, but—bringing us to the second difference—it can also save you a good bit of cash if you’re willing to put in a little time.
If you have a smart system with an app, you can set your mobile alert settings and set up security automation to make things easier on yourself. DIY security is absolutely doable, especially if you work from home or have watchful neighbors. But no matter your work or personal schedule, self-monitoring can still be an excellent and affordable option if you’re willing to invest some upfront work and setup.
Some security companies, like SimpliSafe, offer month-to-month or no-contract monitoring. So if you decide you like self-monitoring most of the time but would like extra coverage while you’re on vacation, you can switch between the two as needed.
What are the cons of professional monitoring?
While professional monitoring can be a great solution for some, it does have its downsides. As you weigh your options, carefully consider these common cons.
As we mentioned, professional monitoring is pricier than self-monitoring. On the lower end, you could be paying about $20 to $30 per month for a month-to-month option, such as Ring or SimpliSafe. On the higher end, for security companies like ADT or Vivint, you could be facing $60 to $70 per month and a longer contract.
Looking from an annual perspective, that’s anywhere from $240 to $840—quite the range. And if you have a more sizable property or need a more complex system, expect to be further up on that scale.
Access to sensitive data
Security companies do require some of your private data to provide thorough services, such as home and family details, audio and video recordings, and internet service info. Of course, the company will have some strict policies on when and how it handles sensitive data, but it does still mean sharing personal information.
If you decide to go ahead with professional security service, review paperwork and contracts carefully to fully understand what the security company intends to do with your data and information. It is still your data, so if sharing it makes you uncomfortable, then take another look at self-monitoring solutions.
Racial and identity profiling has been a rising discussion point in recent years, and steps have been taken to address and tackle both unconscious and conscious biases across organizations and companies. But it’s a slow and steady process, and marginalized groups are sometimes still wrongfully targeted or labeled “suspicious.” For example, in 2020, California’s Racial & Identity Profiling Advisory Board found that certain marginalized groups were most often reported for suspicious traffic activity. (1)
Unfortunately, home security surveillance can sometimes play into these struggles. Since professional monitoring centers are more likely to share camera footage with authorities, which may then be shared with members of the public as part of an investigation, unaddressed biases could be unintentionally introduced and affect marginalized locals. So if this is a strong concern in your area, self-monitoring can give you more control over what is and is not shared.
What should I still do alongside professional monitoring?
Professional monitoring keeps some extra eyes on your home’s incoming alerts, but it doesn’t hurt to do a little extra on your end too. So even if you choose professional service, take a few steps to keep you safe from burglary, fires, floods, and other emergencies.
Make the call in an emergency
If your alarm system is working swimmingly, the monitoring center will take care of contacting emergency services. But should something go wrong in your home, still make an emergency call yourself for the fastest response. Plus it’ll ensure responders are on their way should your system unknowingly malfunction.
Keep a list of emergency numbers close by
Certainly, you can still call 911 in the event of an emergency, but it also helps to have useful numbers on hand for less urgent or niche issues. Put together a contact list of emergency services and safety resources in your area, and place it somewhere your household can easily get to it.
Take note of suspicious activity
You don’t need to be on a constant lookout for any sinister goings-on in your area. But if you notice something off, file it away in case anything happens and you need to tell the authorities.
Security camera footage can also be really valuable here, so if you have access to stored footage, take note of the date and time of odd incidents.
Do regular system maintenance
Regularly check your home security system to ensure it’s working. Most likely, you’ll be notified if something looks off on the security company’s end, but they can’t see everything. Every now and then, ensure your devices are properly placed and functional. And if any devices run on batteries, give those a quick check and replace batteries if needed.
Stay ahead of home upkeep
The best way to protect your home is to take preventative steps. Attend to any cracked or outdated windows if you can, and ensure you have sturdy exterior doors with locks.
To avoid accidental fires, be sure to change your furnace filter, and if your HVAC, electrical, or other systems are acting funny, call a professional to take a look and eliminate any hazards. For harsh winters, make sure you don’t set your thermostat too low—otherwise, you could risk a burst pipe. Even inspecting your water heater on an annual basis can keep those nasty surprises at a minimum.
Professional monitoring is a perfectly viable option
All in all, professional monitoring can and does keep you safe, but it’s not the only route. Home security is more flexible than ever, and there’s a lot to consider. Factor in your budget and your own monitoring bandwidth while you’re researching home security systems. Maybe DIY monitoring is a better fit, or maybe you need a system that offers both options in case you change your mind.
If you are considering DIY monitoring, take a minute to read up on our tips for self-monitoring.
Laura West is an editorial expert with a specialty in simplifying concepts, software, and tech for the everyday person. She’s worked in a variety of topics, including solar, home security, and B2B finance software, and she’s passionate about providing clear, concise answers in the most useful ways. In her free time, Laura writes creatively and rants about her current TV obsessions—usually with a steady stream of coffee.
Eric Paulsen is a writer, editor, and strategist who has been creating content in the B2B, healthcare, FinTech, home security, and government sectors for more than five years. He holds an MFA in creative writing and lets everyone in his life hang that over his head. When he doesn’t have his hands deep in some piece of content, he’s either watching baseball or praying for the offseason to end quickly.