HOAs: At Home and in the Clouds

Offsite video storage and simple remote access add value to security

When it comes to premises security, businesses have one set of challenges and homeowners another. But for a homeowners association (HOA) or a property management company, there is a separate bunch of hurdles to jump through before the group is able to feel its assets are safe and secure.

For one thing, a business or private residence usually has a single person or point of contact with a vested interest in the security of the property. A HOA has board members whose attention often is distracted by personal concerns. In addition, HOAs have a broad range of scattered assets to protect-a swimming pool here, a maintenance garage there, a clubhouse-and they may not even be on the same security system. In fact, members might not even be aware that their system is not functioning properly. Sometimes, it can be a storm knocked the system off line. Other times, it is something more malicious. But a security camera that does not alert is worthless.

Off site and on the job

"HOA's often don't realize they have a security problem until it is too late," said Ryan Strange, president of ControlByNet, Norcross, Ga. "A majority of our HOA clients didn't know their DVR wasn't working, was stolen or damaged until after an incident when they wanted to review events," he added. Off-site video monitoring and storage offer a good solution.

Remote monitoring and storage of information has worked well for the Town Creek HOA in Greensboro, Ga. "The board was looking for better solutions and this was one we came across," says Dagmar Betts, who is a board member with Town Creek, an upscale community east of Atlanta. "We liked the fact that nothing was being stored on our site," she added.

"Having the video offsite is very appealing," said Simon Ismail, who with brother Paul co-own Villa Sentry in Atlanta. They were the integrators on the project.

Several HOAs, including Town Creek, had experience with a wired solution connected to a DVR and a TV. "The interface was not easy to use," Ismail said. The DVR and tape were subject to theft. "With the ControlByNet solution, the video is available even if the place is burned down," he noted.

Villa Sentry hosts the video on its own Windows-based servers in Atlanta. Villa Sentry got started in the business working on upper-end individual homes. With the downturn in the economy they found HOAs were concerned about vandalism, loss and unauthorized people wandering around in gated communities. They have worked with Town Creek for two years.

"The ControlByNet solution has made a very positive impact on our community," said Jacqui Miller, vice-president of the Longmont at Sugarloaf HOA, an affluent development north of Atlanta. "Prior to the installation, we had terrible problems with people treating our swimming pool as a public facility, as well as vandalism of other amenities. Since the installation of the cameras there has been a significant decrease in trespassing, loitering, and destruction of property."
"The system is easy to use," added Miller. "Each board member has their own login ID and if a complaint is received we can look up specific dates and times in the video archives. Also, we hired a police officer to do random tours of our community during his off-work hours, and he is also able to login and check the video archives from his patrol vehicle."
Training HOA members is simple. Betts said the members of her board found the solution easy to use. While there is not the revenue for a full-scale training seminar, Ismail said they generally show a couple of board members how to navigate around the system and those members show the others. "It is so simple to use that it takes only 15 or 20 minutes to show them the ropes, describe the contents and how to navigate. That 15-minute session answers 95 percent of their questions," Ismail said.

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