The Hidden Costs of Service
Integrators who truly understand the installation requirements and how to marry the right resources to the given task will have a competitive edge in the bidding process. Those who do not have a firm grasp on the best way to marshal resources can lose their shirts.
In the installation phase of IP surveillance projects, four separate tasks need to occur: physical cabling, mounting the cameras, configuring the network, and, finally, configuring the cameras and recording software. Each task requires a certain level of expertise that, in many cases, comes with a significant difference in hourly rates.
For example, the difference in average salary between someone who has attained their Registered Communication Distribution Designer (RCDD) for structured cabling practices and a Certified Service Technician (CST from the Electronic Security Association) can be as much as $50,000 annually. So it is important to assign those resources to the right tasks to keep your hourly rates competitive.
Skimping on the initial groundwork can also greatly increase the overall lifecycle cost of the project, especially for post-installation support. For instance, suppose you decide not to bother employing structured cabling practices that call for certifying each cable drop. Chances are you might run into crosstalk, a situation where noise is introduced into the line impacting transmission. This could cause anomalies in the video such as dropped frames or, worst, entirely preventing video from streaming. So you would end up going back to troubleshoot a problem that could have been prevented by doing it right the first time.
Proper network configuration is another essential task that increases in importance as projects scale to the enterprise level. For perspective, 802.1x is an authentication protocol that validates and then provides network access to edge devices. If you are installing cameras outside of the building, 802.1x would provide port-level security for those network drops, which would prevent unauthorized devices from connecting to the network. Enabling 802.1x on a network camera is as simple as checking a tick box in the HTML interface. But that is only part of the total solution — you still need to configure network switches and a Radius server, which are entirely different activities that require a high level of expertise and knowledge of networking. I wouldn’t necessarily assign a Cisco Certified Network Administrator (CCNA) to configure the cameras themselves, but a CCNA would be appropriate for configuring the network. Matching resources properly from the onset ensures that the task is done right the first time and at a cost commensurate with the skills needed to perform it.
The Hidden Costs of Maintenance and Support
Maintenance and support is another hidden cost that can rear its ugly head for years to come. This is nothing new to integrators, but a lack of knowledge and proper partnerships with new IP technologies can really exacerbate the situation.
Maintenance and support is more costly than people think. When all factors are taken into consideration, it can average between 30-50 percent of the original investment. The cost of a truck roll to deliver onsite support post-sale is a figure that most integrators understand all too well. Preventing truck rolls requires the right combination of quality support and quality products with a low failure rate and high mean time between failures (MTBF).
Let’s face it: Products fail. If the product is defective, working with a manufacturer who can expedite delivery of a replacement — overnight if needed — is a great metric for judging their value as a partner. Product reliability and a manufacturer’s ability to support that product through warranty replacement are essential.
Troubleshooting is another area were hidden costs can skyrocket. The good news is that you can do diagnostics remotely in IP surveillance installations, provided the customer grants you network access. So it behooves you to develop a trusted relationship with your client. It will keep excessive truck rolls from eating into your profits.