Free Surveillance Quote Reviews

Author: John Honovich, Published on Jan 16, 2014

Are you buying a surveillance system and need help determining which quote to choose? Do you want an independent outside expert to review them, pointing out potential flaws or ways to reduce the price without sacrificing quality?

IPVM is happy to announce a new service where we offer, for free, to review your quotes and provide you immediate feedback. We actually already do this routinely when users contact us but wanted to publicize it so you know it is available.

First, here's some fundamental recommendations / steps we generally take and advise.

Do This

Here are 3 key things to do, especially when you get a quote from someone you have never done business with:

  • Ask for a line item breakdown that includes the actual make and model number of the product being specified. Be careful that many integrators make up their own model numbers that cannot be traced back to the manufacturer website. You should be able to google the make and model number and immediately see the manufacturer's web page for it.
  • Ask for an itemized price break down for each camera, part and service. Do not accept lump some quotes like "$19,247" or "$12,247 for equipment and $7,000 for labor."
  • Ask for a simple diagram that shows were they are going to put each camera in your facility, including labels that note the model number in each location.

Be prepared for some pushback as many integrators do not like breakdowns, but you cannot make an informed decision without it. You are simply operating on blind faith. You need to know what specifically they are including, at what price and what location so you can determine if they are appropriate for your needs and if you should consider something less expensive or more powerful.

Watch for This

Two common patterns occur that can lead to problems:

  • All premium: Some integrators will give you end to end of one product line (Axis, Avigilon, Panasonic, Sony, etc.) regardless of what you need or whether or not is is overkill. Often, there is an opportunity to save significantly by switching to lower tier models within those brands or to other brands.
  • No name: Some integrators will give you the cheapest, no name, cameras they can find. The price will be very attractive but features are often very limited and performance issues are common.

We have seen this repeatedly, often in the same process. For example, one respondent will be at $60,000 and the other will be at $15,000. Understandably, the buyer is confused because of the huge spread but it is a result of both ends of this spectrum being presented simultaneously by two rivals.

Don't Do This

On the other hand, there are two common practices that justifiably infuriate bidders:

  • Don't ask them to match the pricing you found on eBay, craigslist, amazon, etc. The cheapest prices found are often not available or are from refurbished stock or used, etc. Even if it is new, the integrator is not simply getting you a product, the price generally includes shipping it, setting it up, dealing with any out of box problems, upgrading firmware / software and 1 year service warranty. So if the price is moderately above online prices, it tends to be a good deal.
  • Don't 'shop' for a lower price integrator: If you feel you can trust an integrator who has helped design and educate you on a system, by all means check pricing with competitors, but give them the final opportunity to close the gap on price or explain the difference in rival's offerings. There are a lot of things that can go wrong during the implementation so favor the one who you trust if they can provide a close price.

Getting a Free Quote Review

If you are an end user buying a surveillance system, contact us and we will do the review. We will limit it to 3 per month and prioritize member requests, but it is open to any end user.

Comments (48)

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Not to be facetious (but on cue with your pushback expectation), when you buy a car do you ask the reseller/dealer to itemize the cost for tires, transmission, catalytic converter, flux capacitor, etc.?? Don't most people feel like they're making an informed purchase when buying a vehicle??

When an integrator provides an itemized list of REAL part numbers with cutsheets and a site...

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We've debated this extensively here: Should Quotes Include Line Item Price Breakdowns? and I am happy to continue that debate there.

As for the car analogy, a surveillance system is more like building a custom home than a car off the lot. There's...

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I'm in agreement with John on the inclusion of itemized pricing/parts/labor in quotes. The analogy to building a house is a suitable one, although if you want to keep to a car analogy then yes, I would want to know the difference between the $24K Chevy and the $20K Toyota. What features/options are included? How much did that option add to the cost of the vehicle? Do I really need that...

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To reinforce what John says, you could probably test-drive a car and/or read reviews in websites/magazines you trust to get a fairly good idea of what to expect, the dealer has very little to do with the product you finally get, something which is not applicable to a surveillance system tailor made for your premises to fit your specific needs.

However, the real challenge with...

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John,

What will be the guiding IPVM policies on 'non-disclosure' be for information sent to you?

thank you,

We will not disclose anything shared without express written permission from the user. We benefit more from seeing general patterns / problems than any sharing of specific data.

So will IPVM collecting a database of dealers quotes and invoices?

We already have lots of quotes. It's not particularly a database. It's just something we use for internal reference.

Sounds like your changing business model. Going after end users while compiling a large database of quotes/invoices.

We provide an informational service that many segments of the industry use. We've had lots of end user members from the start and as more and more find out about IPVM, they find it a great resource so they do not get screwed by unscrupulous vendors who push only a single line.

they find it a great resource so they do not get screwed by unscrupulous vendors who push only a single line

John you make it seem that dealers who choose to use only one manufacturers product are a detriment to their customers and potential customer, would you elaborate on...

*******?

If an integrator only ever proposes one line to a variety of customers, there's quite a high likelihood that there are inefficiencies/opportunities for better fit/lower cost from someone who offers multiple lines, seleced for the individual customer need.

cost can be kept low by offering a smaller lineup of products and solutions rather than a vast line... technicians are more effective in installing and servicing equipment they are familiar with and certified in... companies don't have to spend time and resources in training technicians across multiple manufacturers products and platforms...this benefits the customer by lowering costs of...

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Keefe, "dealers who choose to use only one manufacturers product" are aligning themselves with the manufacturer over the user. Period. What is so horrible about an integrator offering more than one manufacturer's products? The costs are not going to spiral out of control for a real integrator who offers a few different lines. Indeed, reality proves it, almost all integrators carry

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For highly detailed or technical tasks, I prefer specialists to generalists.

I wouldn't be surprised to learn that members running a household, and certainly those with businesses, have had a seemingly straightforward effort devolve into untold hours ending in failure or compromise, because their vendor did not sufficiently understand the particulars of the hardware or software...

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Horace, in surveillance, what frequently happens is that an end user is simultaneously picking an integrator, a design and products. To your example above, I think it would be better overall to not have these munged together but this is an unfortunate outcome of how deals are done...

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Thanks!

"dealers who choose to use only one manufacturers product" are aligning themselves with the manufacturer over the user. Period.

John that is a blanket statement and while it may be true for some dealers it isn't true for all of them. Thoughts?

Nothing is horrible about an integrator...

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Having been both an integrator and a manufacturers sales representative, both direct & independent, I can sympathize with integrators trying to avoid doing a great deal of engineering & design work (typically not something they charge for) only to see a lower price bid win the deal or, the encombent wins the deal because they were allowed to adjust thier quotes based on all the other...

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Out of curiosity, is this a service you're only offering to end users? I would think many integrators would appreciate a review of thier quotes by IPVM before they submit them. Will you be offering this free service equally to all IPVM members and not just the select few who are users? If not offering it to integrator members, maybe you should consider a new membership dues model giving...

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Meghan, we answer numerous integrator questions in our discussion group every day, from designing systems, to picking products, to troubleshooting field problems. Anyone can ask there and they can use the

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As a top tier integrator I was very happy to find IPVM as I found the unbiased testing of video surveillance equipment very beneficial. I think it is important to provide this testing data to my end users in order to provide them with the highest quality system that their budget affords. This testing is something that I try to do myself so this site allowed me to free up cycles and focus...

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I agree with Duane that you are probably opening yourself up for accusations like that AND, alienating some of your current members - integrators & security consultants - who may now see your model developing into a competitor to them and one that's providing the service for free. Hard to compete with Free. Could hurt the reputation you've created for being a neutral and reliable source...

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Meghan,

Our goal is to provide the best, most accurate information to the public. Sometimes that helps integrators, sometimes it hurts.

IPVM 'steers' quite a number of deals but certainly not because we offer direct advice to a few end users a month. We steer deals because lots of large end users read our reports and that influences what they consider and do...

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You can provide accurate information without becoming knee deep in specific deals and muddying the water. I too have referred several clients to your site because I feel you provide the same quality information I provide. That likely will not be the case moving forward because I feel that you are now starting to have a conflict of interest. If I was an actual security consulting group I...

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Duane, we have always had a conflict of interest with people who sell equipment. Period. That's why manufacturers largely hate us.

Our goal is to help people make the right decisions buying equipment. To the extent that integrators or manufacturer benefit from the testing, analysis, and discussions we provide, so be it. Our focus always has and always will be doing...

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You keep skirting the main thing I am saying which is that you are already providing that infortmation without getting into specific deals. Once you get start getting into the specifics of the deal including pricing, then you have become a consultant. There is nothing wrong with that but please dont mask it as an information service.

Are you sure you are not working for a...

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No, we do not work for any manufacturer or distributor.

Care to break out, roughly, the IPVM demographics broadly by the standard undisclosed types:

Manufacturer, Distributor, End User, Other?

A quick survey of undisclosed posts of course is one method but might be skewed by some groups needed to be undisclosed more than others.

It could go a long way in showing 'who is paying the bills at IPVM' and thereby alleviating...

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I too feel a disturbance in the Force. Collecting proposals for general study in trends and statistics is one thing. Collecting them for consultation review with a user is another. I would love IPVM if they reviewed one of my proposals and told the customer it was the best thing since sliced bread, and I would hate IPVM if they said it was the worst idea since the Edsel. Then what if you...

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We are not 'approving' anything. The type of things we say is "consider model x instead of model y, same manufacturer, lower price, might be good enough for your application" or "watch out for this quote because it seems to be junk product re-labelled for the vendor" or "compare to manufacturer z, similar feature sets, lower price" or "we tested this and it performed...

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Glad to see I am not the only one that sees issues with this.

IPVM = the NSA of CCTV :)

Most end users will see that IPVM is trying to do the right thing for them, despite some integrators who want to keep them in the dark.

As an end user, IPVM has been a great tool for helping me learn to be a better CCTV system administrator, have intelligent conversations with our integrator partners, and better ensure that what those integrators are providing - parts and service - is what we need. In some cases it has even helped us open an integrators eyes to a new or different product than what they primarily...

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An uninformed end user does nobody any good. It means the integrator has not clearly laid out reasonable expectation for the system and will cost him/her in the end. I don’t think anyone is implying (at least no integrator worth their weight) that it’s their objective to keep anyone in the dark. What I was saying earlier in the discussion, is that I don’t believe that itemized prices inform...

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From my perspective as an end user, having a good relationship with my integrators is very important. Knowing what they (and I) are talking about is important. Building trust relationships is important. As I mentioned above, I likely would not take IPVM up on their service simply because I trust my integrators, have a strong relationship with them, and I have used tools such as IPVM to...

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Kevin, thorough answer, well said.

I assume IPVM review of end user quotes / proposals will be limited to the end users based in certain areas of USA only.

Also, how would an end user believe what you are suggesting is better than the integrator quote, which would be based on actual site survey?

John,

You are 100% correct that an itemized list of REAL part numbers and a map detailing what is going where should be standard and I believe is with any integrator worth the paper they print their business cards on. There is an obvious benefit to reviewing a bid for technical soundness.

My point is in reference to your second “Do This” item, that a price of an item does in...

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John, while I greatly value the information and help that IPVM delivers to me and my company on a regular basis, I too see some issues with your decision. Offering general information on hardware and design principles is a good idea that obviously works well. Doing case studies on a particular proposal also has its place. Picking apart individual proposals without having any involvement in...

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"IPVM staff members would have no knowledge of the client or the location to consider."

By definition, the 'client' has contacted us so they are they willing to share information about themselves.

"I know you know your stuff John but how can we be sure the staff member assigned is capable of advising the client...

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Let me see if I can understand this…

I bust my tail to find an opportunity. I spend hours / days walking the facility looking at each potential camera location cataloging information about the scene (lighting, environmental, scene complexity etc…) considering things like future vegetation growth of the new trees that were planted last week… considering all sorts of things that go...

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Mike, if IPVM offers a few pointers to an end user and you cannot address them, then you are not as good an integrator as you imply you are. That said, I am sure you can.

If I say to an end user, "The camera specified in this quote tested very poorly in low light in IPVM tests" and that hurts your reputation, it means you either did not do your homework or are trying to screw them...

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Good Luck!

My thought is that if a customer is going to request line item breakdown then his plan is to shop us and get the lowest bidder. I have seen this over and over again. In order to alleviate that, I will offer the primary hardware & software components but not every item necessary to install at their location. But if requested, we can provide professional security design services at a fixed...

*/**** **** **** **** **** * ******** *** ***** ** send *** ** *** *******. ** *** *** ******** ****** Engineers *** ***** ** ******* *** **** ******** **** *** to ***, *** ***** ******** ****** *** *********** *** *********** at *** ********** *****...**** ** *** **** **** ******** ** baked **** *** ******* *****.

That isn't always the case, Undisclosed 1223311. I'm sure there are organizations and individuals who might do this, but that is not always the driving factor behind wanting to see the line items. We require itemization so that we can ensure the integrator is providing the equipment we requested and/or that the equipment will meet our needs. This protects us and it protects the...

* **** *** **** *******'* ***** *** "**** ** ******." If *** ******* ** ***** ****** **** ** **** ** need ** ******* ****, ** **** *** *** * ***. If ** **** ** **** * ****** ****** ****** ******* bids, ** **** *** *** **** ****** ** ** ** in *****.

**** ********* ****** ** **** ** ******* **** **** *** paying ***. ** *** ** ****** *** *********'* ******* ****, I'm *** ******* ** *** **** ***** ****** ** *** try ** **** **** ****. * **** ** **** **** the ******** ******** **** ****, *** ***'* ****** ****. ** your **** *** * ***** ** ********* ** $*.** *** you **** ** ** ** *** $*,***, ** **** ** your ***** ** *********** **** **** ***** ** ***. **** end *****/********* **********, ** ******* ******* *** ********* *****, **** while ** *** **** * ***** ***** ** *** ******** for * ***** ** *********, **** ***** *****'* ******* ************, setup, ************ ********, ***.

** *** ***, ** ***** **** ** ****** **** *** get **** *** *** ***. ** ***'* ** **** ******* itemized ****** . . . *** **** ********* **** *** installer. * ***** ** ****-****** ***** ** - *** ******** expects ********* *** *******.

How do you reckon finding out if the *price is competitive* if you don't *shop it around*? Esp with labor...

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