HOAs: At Home and in the Clouds

Offsite video storage and simple remote access add value to security

"We work closely with HOAs to provide a solution they can access anytime and on any Internet-connected device," Strange said. "The volunteer board members are very grateful for us to take it off their plate and let them know quickly if there is a problem. We have a 100 percent retention rate with our hosted HOA clients and see this as area of continued growth as more HOAs discover there is a more reliable and cost-effective solution available."

ControlByNet's hosted service monitors cameras at HOAs both for being "up" and, in many cases, for the video captured. And once video is captured, it is secure. "You always see a shocked look on a kid's face when they break into a clubhouse and realize there is no videotape to steal," Strange laughed.

New monthly revenue

Integrators and dealers like the fact that there is a low up-front cost of the system. HOA board members cringe when faced with a $5,000 or $7,500 quote for a traditional system.

"That's a big deal to some HOAs," Ismail said. "As a reseller, I might start at $25 per camera per month. Depending on the support required, I can increase that by five or $10 a month. That's not a big deal-it is under the threshold that boards are concerned about."

Support of multiple vendors is important. According to Strange, their goal as a vendor is to support as many platforms as possible and as many cameras as possible. "We tell integrators to stick to six or eight models of cameras at most," Strange said. "That way, you know them inside and out and you can support them."

Ismail said their experience is that HOA customers can use any Web browser-Linux, Windows, Android. "ControlByNet works a bit better on Windows," Ismail said, "but it is good on any browser." Another reason the HOA clients like the managed service is that they get access to the latest technology enhancements as they become available. There is no additional cost to the association.

There is no need to have video storage onsite. At the HOA, only the network's IP cameras and a switch are required. Since everything is remotely accessible, there are no management issues for the HOA members. As a bonus, this leaves nothing for vandals to steal or destroy and deprives the bad guys of the opportunity to take away the proof after they have done their mischief.

Of course, the system will send email alerts or similar notifications when problems arise. These can be routed to multiple members on the board or on the security committee.

ControlByNet charges the customer by the number of cameras monitored and the resolution or frame rate. While they are a hosted software company, they do offer direct service in the Atlanta area. They will also provide the basic setup to integrators anywhere in the country, working with them on the initial sale and then turning the system over to the local security dealer to build and maintain the customer relationship, pricing and service.

Strange said it is best to arrange for data storage by the number of gigs stored, not based on the number of days worth of video kept on backup.

The ControlByNet solution is Windows-based software. "The software has its own database and web server built in," Strange explained. Since every HOA officer and every property management firm seems to have a different platform, the ControlByNet software can be viewed on flash video and played back on most of the popular platforms, including Android, Windows Mobile, Apple, and Motorola Zoom.

Curt Harler is a Cleveland-based freelance writer and regular contributor to SD&I magazine who can be reached at curt@curtharler.com.