Professional Monitoring Is One of the Smartest Additions to Your Home Security System—Here’s Why

A home security system provides an extra set of eyes when you’re away from home or sleeping. Adding a professional monitoring service can give you even more peace of mind.
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What You Need to Know

  • A home security system can help protect your home from criminals, but without professional monitoring you could be left unprotected.
  • Professional monitoring can contact emergency services immediately if there’s a security threat, environmental hazard, or medical emergency.
  • Professional monitoring does come at an additional cost, but many find the peace of mind they get well worth it—and it can also lower your home or renters insurance premiums.

Q: I have just installed a security system in our home, and I noticed that there’s an optional feature for professional monitoring. But what exactly does this entail? More importantly, should I get professional monitoring, or will my house be protected without it?

A: Installing a security system is a great first step to keeping your home safe. Gadgets like security cameras, motion detectors, and entry sensors can always be self-monitored, allowing you to get alerts and notifications pushed to your smartphone. However, the best way to safeguard a property is with professional monitoring.

“Professional monitoring is useful for all types of homes, especially if you find yourself traveling frequently,” explains Kim Wright, director of corporate security at ADT and former FBI special agent. “The perception that our small, rural communities are inherently safer is not necessarily true. These areas have fewer police officers covering much larger territory. Although urban areas typically report higher rates of violent crimes, rural areas have a higher rate of property crimes, particularly burglary and theft.”

Professional monitoring services typically come with a monthly subscription fee, but they allow a dispatch service to respond to any alerts sent by your system. The professional can then intervene by sounding a local siren, engaging with the intruder via two-way audio, or informing the local authorities. But should you get professional monitoring for your home, or is it excessive for your needs? Here’s a closer look at the service to help you decide.

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A professionally monitored home security system offers 24/7 protection to send an alert when there’s a security threat, environmental hazard, or medical emergency.

A self-monitored system relies solely on the system owner for emergency responses. That means if motion is detected outside a home, authorities won’t be alerted unless the system owner catches the alert on their smartphone and actively calls the police.

Professionally monitored systems are much more robust. While these systems can still be monitored by the owner, once a system is armed it’ll also be monitored by a professional dispatch service. These trained professionals can react to alerts faster than the average user, serving as a second pair of eyes and on duty 24/7 to help. Whether the concern is intruders, potential burst pipes, or medical emergencies, security systems with professional monitoring can help put users’ minds at ease. In other words, these services offer alarm monitoring and wireless home security to ensure any serious threats are immediately reported to the local authorities.

“Emergency services will arrive eight times faster [with professional monitoring] compared to when homeowners are conducting self-monitoring,” says Wright. “Additionally, professional monitoring can offer crucial information to responding officers. This type of monitoring provides strengthened peace of mind as it always guarantees vigilant surveillance over your property.”

Not all professional monitoring services offer the same level of protection, so shoppers interested in this feature will want to look at different house alarm companies before choosing which hardware to install. The monitoring services available will also vary depending on the type of equipment that’s installed. For example, homes without security cameras won’t need surveillance camera monitoring, while properties without environmental sensors won’t benefit from burst pipe monitoring.

That means shoppers will need to pay close attention to both the service they sign up for and also what type of gear is placed throughout their home. A good home security system includes enough equipment to cover all entrances and exits and also gives the user an easy way to arm or disarm the system. When coupled with professional monitoring, a home security system becomes incredibly powerful. There are a lot of aspects to consider when looking for a home security camera system, but the availability of professional monitoring will likely weigh heavily in many shoppers’ decisions.

Professional monitoring typically results in a faster response time in emergency situations.

Homeowners who install a security system have an excellent way to keep tabs on their home—but an alarm system won’t automatically alert authorities when motion is detected or if an alarm is tripped. Instead, the system typically sends a notification to the owner via a smartphone notification. Unless the owner is constantly glued to their phone, there’s a strong possibility alerts will be missed.

That’s not the case with professional monitoring. When homes are equipped with monitored home security systems, a dispatch service will be notified along with the homeowner. Professional monitoring services are designed to operate around the clock, ensuring someone is there to respond to an alarm no matter when it goes off. This means homeowners are free to go about their business without worrying about their home security systems, as they know there is a second set of eyes keeping tabs on their home.

“Choosing professional monitoring … ensures a faster police response and can help reduce loss significantly, especially when individuals are unable to monitor their homes due to being at work, in a meeting, or otherwise occupied,” says Wright.

The Arlo Professional Monitoring Service, for example, offers live security experts 24/7 to help with any emergencies. The experts use video and image verification to prevent false alarms from triggering and will reach out to the appropriate emergency service as needed. Along with experts, professional monitoring with Arlo includes a “One Tap Direct Dispatch” service that lets users quickly alert the appropriate authorities to an emergency.

Alarm monitoring services are an important part of any home security system, giving the residents of a home the benefit of rapid response times without the need to constantly monitor the system by themselves.

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Professional monitoring is usually more expensive than self-monitoring.

Professional monitoring clearly offers significant benefits to users and enhances the security of any home. However, that peace of mind comes at a cost. Unlike self-monitoring (which is cheap, and often free), professional monitoring comes with a monthly subscription fee.

“When comparing professional monitoring services, shoppers should take into account contracts, fees, packages/features, and installation reviews,” explains Wright. “These factors will give them a greater understanding on what best suits their needs and which choice to go for.”

The price of professional monitoring varies by brand. Some companies may change the pricing by location or the size of the home being protected, while others might price their plans based on the type of equipment installed. Many companies can also tailor the plan to specific households, allowing users to get exactly what they need out of their professional monitoring subscription.

Other companies use a flat price for all systems. For example, SimpliSafe charges $0.99 per day for the Fast Protect professional monitoring system, which includes round-the-clock monitoring from its dispatch team, instant alarms on the mobile app, and several other features. The Self Monitoring with Camera Recordings plan is much cheaper at $0.33 per day, though it lacks a professional monitoring team and instead relies on the user to contact the authorities. 

When comparing popular companies like ADT and Ring or SimpliSafe and Ring, shoppers will want to consider factors such as pricing, available equipment, monthly subscription fees, the reliability of the company’s professional monitoring services, and the longevity of its hardware.

In general, self-monitoring plans are much cheaper than their professional monitoring counterparts. The best security systems for homes (such as those from Vivint or ADT) often give shoppers multiple options for self-monitoring or professional monitoring, making it easy to find a plan that fits their needs. The same goes for the best apartment security systems (such as those from SimpliSafe). Even though renters typically have more restrictions on what can be installed, it’s possible to find a great system for all types of rentals, whether it’s an apartment, condo, or single-family home.

However, professional monitoring offers additional peace of mind that self-monitoring may not provide.

Though it usually costs more than self-monitoring, professional monitoring gives a home’s residents the added peace of mind that someone else is keeping tabs on their property. This is especially useful for those who frequently travel for vacation or work, as they won’t have to constantly check their phone for alerts.

That’s the big downfall of self-monitored systems—reliance on a single party. Unless the system owner is watching their alerts, they’re likely going to miss some of the events happening around the home. By comparison, a professionally monitored system ensures that someone from dispatch responds to every alert that pops up in the system without delay. It’s a perk that can’t be found on any self-monitored systems and is usually more than worth the price.

While professional monitoring is great for homeowners to have while they’re away on vacation, it’s also ideal for nighttime. If an alert happens while the household is sleeping, there’s a good chance residents’ response time will be slow. Waking up to an alarm is frightening enough, but then having the wherewithal to rapidly open the app, figure out what’s happening, and promptly call the authorities is highly improbable. Professional monitoring handles all this automatically, improving the overall safety of the home.

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Professional monitoring could also result in lowered homeowners or renters insurance premiums.

Along with the peace of mind provided by a second set of eyes, professional monitoring might help some people lower their homeowners or renters insurance premiums. This is more of a secondary perk, as not all providers will give discounts for professionally monitored security systems. If a home qualifies, though, it’s a great bonus.

Because insurance prices are largely driven by risk, many insurers offer a home insurance discount for security systems with professional monitoring, as they’ve reduced the risk of falling victim to a crime. Unfortunately, these types of discounts are not applied universally. Instead, most homeowners or renters will need to reach out to their insurance agent for more details. Benefits vary by location and by the type of system installed, but if professional monitoring is used with a security system, there’s a real possibility of an insurance discount.

At the very least, professionally monitored systems can help prevent theft and save users money on having to replace their lost goods. Some DIY security systems can even be equipped with professional monitoring, helping shoppers cut down costs and get a reliable system installed on a budget.

Ultimately, the choice between self-monitoring and professional monitoring comes down to preference, but many home security customers find the additional cost to be worth it.

Ultimately, choosing between a professionally monitored system and a self-monitored system comes down to personal preferences. There’s truly no wrong choice between the two— home security systems are always a worthwhile investment— but shoppers looking for the best protection possible will find professional monitoring to be much more effective.

Regardless of the size of the home or the location of the property, professional monitoring always offers added peace of mind. The option for an expert to intervene and assist can be the difference between stopping an intruder in their tracks or falling victim to a break-in. This makes a professionally monitored system the better option for shoppers truly concerned about safety. Whether it’s for a second home, a large home in the suburbs, or a remote cabin in the woods, professional monitoring is always a step up from self-monitored systems.

On the other hand, self-monitored systems are useful for shoppers on a budget who want to bring additional protection to their homes. It’s not foolproof, but vigilant users who stay close to their smartphones and properly arm their systems will find self-monitoring to be a viable alternative. “For individuals who opt to have direct control over their security system, are looking for more cost-effective solutions, who work from home, and/or don’t often leave their immediate area for trips, self-monitoring systems may be the best option to choose,” says Wright.

At the very least, it’s better than having no home security camera system at all. But if the budget permits, there’s nothing quite as reassuring as a professional from a reliable company keeping tabs in your home.