Founded in 1994, Monitronics is a bona fide heavyweight in the electronic security industry – they are the 2nd largest security firm in the country, serving over 1,000,000 commercial and residential clients in all 50 states, plus Puerto Rico and parts of Canada.
Based in Dallas, Texas, Monitronics combines a powerhouse management and marketing team with a dizzying inventory of equipment choices to position themselves near the top of every market they play in.
Basic price: $34.95
Installation/setup: $0 – 99.00
Monitronics has the pocketspace to buy top-of-the-line hardware from the best manufacturers in the world at deep discounts, and there may be no other security firm that offers more equipment choices. Whatever you feel you need to make your home as safe as you want it to be, Monitronics has one on the shelf – literally, almost any type of consumer-grade security hardware in the world.
Honeywell and GE make up most of their equipment line, but they round out the inventory with optical and wireless gear from other select manufacturers too. Equipment for the basic package is very limited, and includes:
- Touchscreen panel
- Door and window sensors
- One pet-sensitive motion detector
- Keychain remote
As you spend your way up to the more robust service packages, noteworthy options include:
- Image sensors (combination motion detector and night-vision camera)
- Indoor and outdoor night vision or infrared wireless cameras, pan and tilt, remote controlled
- Temperature sensors
With that extensive a list of equipment choices, Monitronics needed a powerful app to tie it all together seamlessly, and they got one – from Alarm.com, one of the best software innovators in the security industry.
The Monitronics app is not available at the basic level, but clients who inhabit the higher-altitude service levels can manage every imaginable aspect of their security systems and household environment. There may be apps out there that do some things better, but there may not be any that do more things, and if it comes from Alarm.com it’s easy to drive and user-friendly. Remote features include:
- Real-time monitoring of all video feeds
- Instant email or text alert of image sensor trip, and immediate image capture
- Lock/unlock all doors, including garage
- Program heating and air conditioning systems
- Instant email or text alerts of all incidents, and on-demand event log review
In the spring of 1988, Jim Hull – the president of Network Family Security – was flying home from a meeting in Boston. In addition to his experience in the security industry, Hull had an extensive history in the investment banking business, and from this unique background, an idea for a new business model began to crystalize in Hull’s mind. He pulled an empty envelope out of his pocket and began to take notes, and by the time the plane touched down in Dallas, Hull knew where his career was going next.
Hull’s concept was modest, but ingenious. It consisted of three parts – identify the best independent security firms in the country, buy them up (along with their customer base), and provide the best possible customer service to keep those clients happy. The newly acquired small firms would continue installing and servicing the systems as Monitronics franchises, and the parent company would provide all administrative support functions. Just that simple.
Within ten years, Monitronics International Inc. was servicing over a half million customers nationwide, and today they boast over a million and counting. That’s enough to make them one of the largest electronic security firms in the world, and with their low-front-end business model, expansion is simple – instead of opening a franchise in a new market, they simply buy an existing one. Monitronics is here to stay, and will only become a larger presence in the security industry going forward.
- Very wide assortment of equipment packages
- Extensive video monitoring options
- Easy to move and keep service
- Low prices on the front end
- Pet-sensitive motion sensor
- Five Diamond certified
Monitronics has perhaps the most extensive inventory of equipment choices in the industry, and with that many equipment choices comes a corresponding abundance of monitoring options. Almost any significant piece of security equipment you could want is available through Monitronics. Their wide assortment of camera and image sensor options allow you to design a custom system that monitors every square inch of your property, and with the remote app, pan and tilt the cameras in real time.
Signing up with a continental heavyweight like Monitronics also gives you a deep set of choices if you should move during your contract, because Monitronics has service in every single state in the Union – plus Puerto Rico. They can’t guarantee that there’ll be a Monitronics franchise in every town, but your chances are much better than with most companies.
While their monthly fees are in the average range, the installation/startup costs with Monitronics are quite low – often free, if you catch the right promotional offer.
And finally, Monitronics is certified by as a Five Diamond security provider by the Central Security Alarm Association, the industry’s international trade association.
- Long contracts
- They reserve the right to raise your rates
- No service for renters
- Business model is focused on older, financially secure demographic
It’s so easy and cheap to climb onboard at the front end of the Monitronics train, customers can get lulled into a false sense of complacency. It’s important to keep in mind that once you’ve bought your ticket, you’re on that train until it reaches the end of the contract – anywhere from 3 to 5 years, which is an extremely long time in the security industry. If you decide to get off early, you still pay full fare – Monitronics has a very unforgiving cancellation policy, even for military clients.
That’s bad enough in its own right, but what’s even more of a red flag is the company’s right to raise your rates any time after the first year of the contract. That’s almost unprecedented in the security business, and should be a matter of considerable concern for any potential client.
And as good as Monitronics is, it’s not for everyone – their pricing and promotional packages specifically target older clients with credit scores above 625, and will not service renters.
The Bottom Line
In terms of their business model and operational philosophy, Monitronics is unlike almost any other security company in America. The things they do right, they do as well as anyone in the business, and better than most, and they deserve a lot of credit for that.
Now – whether they deserve your business is not necessarily the same thing. They have a lot of happy customers, and try very hard to stay ahead of the competition, but the lengthy contract and option to raise your rates are big red flags. Read your contract carefully, and make sure you know what you’re getting into.