Competing Against Surveillance Self-Install / DIY

Author: John Honovich, Published on May 26, 2015

End users sometimes look at integrator proposals, see ~$100 per hour pricing and think "Hey, we can do that ourselves for a lot less."

In this note, we examine 6 key issues that end users must consider when evaluating the total cost of doing it themselves.

  • Learning Curve
  • Mistakes in Design and Configuration
  • Ongoing Support
  • Training
  • Insurance and Licenses
  • Risk protection
  • Plus we cover scheduling, tools, manufacturer constraints and more

We break down each inside, including the potential costs and impact of each one. Finally, we look at the opposite side and alternative approaches.

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Learning *****

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Mistakes ** ****** *** *************

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Ongoing *******

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Risk **********

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Other *******

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Alternative / ************ ********

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Comments (6)

How about licensing, insurance requirements and in MA, a permit and a Public Safety License

Hey Robert:

Great feedback! We added them to the 'Risk Protection' section above. Thank you.

The MA state security system licensing requirement doesn't appear to apply to persons or businesses conducting a self-install. Rather, it appears to apply to those in the business of installing and maintaining such systems. From MGL Chapter 147 Section 57, "No person, firm or corporation shall engage in, advertise, or hold himself or itself out as being engaged in the business of installing, repairing, or offering maintenance for security systems..."

MA permitting and notification requirements appear vary widely by locality. About 70 of the 290 townships require some formal action for a security system installation, with the requirement often triggered by the alarm functions.

Just this superficial level of detail supports the point that it can be time consuming to hunt down such details, and for DIYers, there is no assurance when done that all relevant requirements have been discovered.

In my experience, procurement can be a major DIY obstacle. Often, things are not as they seem. In one case, on a tight timeline, I procured over $4,000 "worth" of gear based in part upon a vendor advertisement for their "Arecont AV5155DN-1HK Network Camera Pan / Tilt / Zoom." In another case, a Hikvision arrived with non-standard software that was completely missing some capabilities and could not change some settings such as shutter speed and power frequency. Thankfully we had the luxury of time and had only purchased a single test product in that instance.

I like to contrast video surveillance to IT. Both are complex technical fields that share some common elements. IT seems relatively mature and transparent. Even before conducting detailed research, buyers have a reasonable idea of what they'll be getting when they order a switch, or a NAS, for example. In contrast, these experiences in video surveillance suggests that the segment is still something of a wild west (eg, what does PTZ mean? What software should one expect on an IP camera purchased in the U.S. market?). Whenever it appears that deep experience is required to navigate these sorts of pitfalls, that can be a boon to industry veterans. And, those distributors got a sale from someone they'd likely never hear from again anyway: that's a win for them, right? However, what about the industry as a whole? Does the market segment win or lose when gateway experiences are discouraging?

Throw in a project "oh yeah we need off-grid power too" and all sorts of solution provisioning expertise muddies the decision process further.

Well, as both an end user and now more recently a consultant, I for one would support the "smarts and parts" approach to this issue.

Having spent probably 3 or 4 times what I would have had I let a professional take care of the whole project, I would never advise anyone in business to do a DIY install. I learnt the hard way.

In the past, part of me grudged paying top dollars watching someone spend hours and sometimes days running cables and doing things that I or my staff could have done quicker (with our knowledge of the premises). Whilst I realise that there's still a margin for installers in doing the grunt work, I think it's a short sighted view to expect this revenue stream to be around for ever.

I'm sure John and the IPVM team have made comments in the past suggesting that integrators start specialising and work to improve their knowledge base and skill set. I could not agree more. Give me an true expert for a day, not someone who can 'get the job done' in a week.

And I've mentioned this before - there's a quid to be made in an online professional tech help service. I'm sure of it.

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