Opinion: Cheap security imports can cost you dearly

Multivid asks whether companies are being ‘penny wise and pound foolish’ with their security strategies?

July 29, 2011

By Multivid, a specialist electronic security systems integrator who is part of the Jasco Group.

In South Africa, security is an everyday fact of life – no business and few homeowners can afford to be without some form of defence. While security remains a top priority for businesses, times are tight, and organisations need to do more with less. This is impacting security purchase decisions. As more and cheaper security products with seemingly high-end features arrive on South Africa’s doorstep from the East, the temptation is to go the ‘cheap and nasty’ route. It’s a short sighted approach, suggests Multivid, a specialist electronic security systems integrator.

Says Marius Maré, CEO of Multivid, a Jasco Group company: “Economic pressures today are forcing companies to look for the best possible prices.

While there are some good high end solutions coming from China, there are a number of risks associated with the products. These need to be factored in as they could ultimately cost the organisation more a few years down the line, increasing total cost of ownership significantly.”

If they want to establish the long-term impact of their security purchase decisions, organisations need to think further than ‘this year’s budget’, he notes. “Maintaining a solution can, over time, be far costlier than the initial purchase price of the solution. Having a reliable, stable solution – usually the key characteristics of a proven local solution or well establish international brand that is backed by local support and expertise — will extend a company’s security investment, ultimately delivering greater cost efficiencies and peace of mind than cheaper products.”

From the viewpoint of the professionals in the security industry, imports have a number of glaring drawbacks. “While there are many security components and solutions coming out of China that are brilliant, the problem is identifying which of the dizzying number of products from that region are good and which are not,” Maré notes. “There’s also the matter of consistency–if I buy one product today, will I be able to get the same one in a year’s time? Would the company even exist? From a security solution provider’s point of view, I have to assess whether I can make use of such a product as part of a tailored solution developed for a client. I would certainly not put in the development time if I thought the product would disappear when, in a year’s time, the next great thing hits the market.”

When a product fails, it’s also expensive for the supplier. “A security firm, as the supplier of the product, often ends up carrying the warranty,”

Maré notes. “We are thus very careful in our selection of ‘stock’ products and technology partners. Quite simply, beyond loss of reputation and potential failure of the solution, which may compromise my client’s security status, if the product is weak, my operating costs are higher as I need to keep more service stock on my shelf. And, of course, sending equipment back to China is expensive, especially since most of these products are commodity items. Which points to another potential problem – if suppliers are operating at a loss or earning low margins, they may not be around to service the product.”

Local skills and expertise are important to support any product but security solutions have a special urgency. “Find a supplier or solution provider that can offer local support,” notes Maré. “You don’t want to wait a week for a reply from the manufacturer when the security of your business, your personnel and customers are at risk.”

Superior products might cost more initially but the long-term returns are exponentially greater. “With established products, consistency in terms of quality and reliability are known factors, and when you are dealing with enterprise security, knowing you can depend on a product is paramount. This is especially important as security systems become more complex and integrated, or when you build security systems around unique product features.”

Security firms are becoming increasingly aware of the cost and quality challenges organisations are facing and some are offering attractive financial solutions. “Security spend can become an Opex rather than a Capex item, depending on the business and financial model organisations wish to employ,” says Maré. “An example of such model is a managed and ‘leased’

security solution where functionality and performance is SLA-based. This means the service provider is responsible for (variously) management, support and upgrading of the solution. There’s a double benefit here – the expense is put to opex and an unnecessary burden is removed from the organisation which may not have the necessary in-house security expertise.”

“Whatever your security needs, be sure to consult with an expert before you commit,” he concludes. “The prices of commodity goods will keep coming down and in the race to remain competitive, manufacturers do take ill-considered shortcuts. Ultimately, when your security depends on it, you don’t want to have to rely on decisions motivated by cost alone.”

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