Ensure your investment in condo security cameras is protected, optimized, and the best fit for your needs. We interviewed top Illinois HOA security vendors to help us navigate the variety of options for condo security cameras. In addition, we explain how HOA boards can best evaluate security vendors.
Condo security camera types and brands
There are many nuances you should know before choosing a brand for your HOA security cameras.
Quality and durability
In order to maximize the value of your HOA security investment, you will want to have HOA security cameras both outside and inside your building(s). In Illinois, we have harsh weather conditions. Rick Bolda of IT Risk Managers points out that quality and durability matters when it comes to surviving blizzards, high winds, torrential rain, and temperatures below zero and above 100 degrees.
The other important quality and durability feature for condominium security cameras is resistance to vandalism.
While quality HOA security cameras may not be the least expensive, cameras are useless if destroyed by weather or vandalism. Likewise, durable, quality cameras can have a long life, which also maximizes your investment. These are all reasons why Rick’s company uses Axis cameras.
Gus Calderone of Illinois Alarm in Forest Park helped us understand the value of reputation, especially when it comes to condo security cameras. In modern times, hackers are HOA security’s worst nightmare. Cameras are the most vulnerable access point. Hackers gain access to unsecured HOA security cameras and hijack the system for ransom. In some cases, they are able to retrieve the personal information contained on any computer connected to the same network.
Gus chooses Bosch cameras for his clients. He explained that annually at an industry conference, Bosch offers $250,000 to anyone who can hack into a Bosch Video Management System. The prize is yet to be awarded. Our government has chosen Bosch for all federal prisons, the Department of Defense, the Pentagon, the White House, and all of our international federal locations.
Chinese surveillance camera ban
In recent years, the U.S. discovered that security cameras from Chinese companies have a “back door”. Gus explains that the video footage on these cameras is not only stored on the device, but is also sent to China. China seems to do this for all their cameras, as they monitor their own citizens. This was a major concern since Chinese cameras were all over our federal government buildings. In the U.S., such cameras were federally banned as of January 2019.
A condo community may not be concerned that the Chinese government knows their daily routine, but that’s not the only concern with Chinese cameras. Gus tells us these cameras can be tampered with, and do not present a clear enough image to prosecute a person in question.
Choosing townhome and condo security vendors
There are four major points you should evaluate when choosing a vendor for your condo security cameras.
Ensure your vendor is licensed. Gus Calderone explains that since 1984, Illinois has required that
any company installing, servicing, and/or monitoring security and camera systems must be licensed by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulations and hold a PERC card.
The process to obtain these credentials requires a full background check and fingerprints on file for every employee. Employees must carry their company ID and PERC card. Other states have similar licensing. The state license must be on all printed material and on their website. You may also look up a license here.
A very important part of your vendor evaluation is their maintenance plan. You will need regular checkups and maintenance to ensure your investment continues to work for you. Some companies offer different tiers of maintenance for different budgets. You may want to consider getting parts and labor included in your plan. We go into detail on what to look for in your maintenance plan options in our article on choosing security systems for condominiums.
Some vendors are committed to one preferred security camera brand. Security is crucial when it comes to the effectiveness of the footage in capturing and prosecuting criminals. Other providers like a bit more flexibility to match the brand to the to budget and objectives of a given situation. When you are ready to choose a vendor, be sure to compare the following.
Joshua Mailey, President at Signal 88 of Arlington Heights, is open to a variety of manufacturers when considering an HOA’s budget and goals. However, because of their quality, Josh does have two favorite brands: Digital Watchdog and Axis.
Rick Bolda’s company chooses Axis cameras. While they are not the least expensive brand, he too feels they have great quality. He says Axis cameras last and
are vandal-resistant and especially resilient when it comes to extreme weather conditions, and have survived blizzards, hurricanes, and extreme temperatures.
Gus Calderone takes a different route. Illinois Alarm is the first and lifelong Bosch Authorized Security Dealer in Illinois. He stands by this brand 100% due to Bosch’s reputation for security described above. Bosch also has proprietary encryption of video footage with a watermark. This way, in court a defending attorney cannot argue that the footage was tampered with.
Use the vendor selection process to get educated
In your condo security buying process, talking to two to three vendors can serve to educate you, as well as set you up to make an informed decision you feel confident in. It is most effective for the board to have a meeting with each vendor to review the proposal and answer questions. Unless your bylaws dictate that you must award the bid to the lowest bidder, do your homework to be absolutely sure if the lowest bid truly is in your best interest in the long term. In addition, watch for options that may allow you to get a program that best fits your needs without causing any cash flow concerns. Flexible options may include equipment rental or third-party financing. As always, your property management company is well-versed in the complexities of evaluating such contracts, and can lead your search as needed.