Selecting the right video surveillance manufacturer to recommend to a customer can be one of the most important decisions an integrator will make. A system can generate a storm of complaints if it doesn’t measure up, or it can make you a hero and produce referrals to build your business.

The cost of a system will certainly factor into the decision, but with an increasing number of manufacturers now approaching the market from a subscription perspective, it’s more important than ever to calculate the total cost of ownership (TCO).

Video surveillance solutions sold by subscription may be enticing because of their low upfront cost, but a true calculation of cost requires a comparison of subscription and capex options over the long haul that also takes into consideration product reliability, maintenance, licensing and software maintenance agreements.

Product reliability has a huge impact on TCO, so be sure to ask how long the manufacturer has been in business, how extensive its customer base is and what the system’s failure rate is. And don’t just take the manufacturer’s word for it — ask for customer references and do your own independent research. In some cases, investing more upfront for a system that will last 10 years or more can actually save your customer money.

If your customer prefers to pay monthly, or wants a particular configuration like hosted services, ask what options exist. A good manufacturer will offer both on-premise and hosted options, as well as capex and subscription models.

Of course, no system is perfect. With hardware especially, hard drives can fail and fans can stop turning. This is where field serviceability has to be taken into consideration, because the last thing the customer wants is for you to have to send the unit away to the manufacturer for repair and leave them without coverage. Problems should be easy to diagnose and the design of the recorder should facilitate efficient field replacement.

Look for a manufacturer that provides innovative tech support solutions that can help with system installation, setup and troubleshooting. With March Networks’ own GURU Smartphone App, for example, technicians in the field can check the warranty status of a device, view video tutorials and initiate an express RMA, speeding issue resolution.

Warranties are also an important reflection of the confidence a manufacturer has in its products, so be sure to inquire about the initial warranty and the length and cost of any extended warranties on offer.

Last but not least, there’s the issue of managed services. Not every end user has the skill and expertise to manage a technically complex video surveillance system and ensure it’s operating at peak performance. A managed services program offered by a manufacturer and delivered by an integrator can enhance the reliability of a system through remote monitoring and troubleshooting. It can also provide a recurring source of revenue for integrators if they choose to adopt and re-sell the service to their customer.

A reputable manufacturer with years of experience, a solid support team and a track record for product reliability will almost always outrank the competition, but using TCO to evaluate your options is the only accurate way to make your selection and keep your customers happy.