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Best security system 2021: Protect your home & office

ZDNet has brought together the best options on the market this year, from DIY kits to full smart home setups.

You don't need to spend a fortune on making your home office secure, and thanks to mobile technology, our options are now far beyond a locked door and window fastenings. 

Smart video doorbells that record both video and audio feeds in real-time when you have a visitor; motion and sound sensors that can be used in and outside, digital door locks, cameras with excellent night vision -- the range of products that leverage mobile connectivity, apps, and Internet of Things (IoT) sensors are endless and are improving every year thanks to data analytics and the cloud. 

That is not to say that all smart home security products are created equal, and not every home needs to have costly setups when it comes to security -- sometimes, a few select pieces can create a home ecosystem that is enough to protect your home (and office) against intruders and alert you when suspicious activity is detected. 

ZDNet has created a list of recommendations suiting a variety of budgets and setups to help homeowners and remote workers decide how best to protect their properties, ranging from full kits to useful window sensors and cameras suitable for use both in and outdoors. 

Ring Video Doorbell Pro 2

Smart video doorbell

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Ring

A smart video doorbell is one of those products that you didn't realize could be a great addition to daily life until you invest in one. It may seem like overkill to go for a doorbell with Internet connectivity, video and audio feeds, and the ability to check-in remotely, but once you get used to the convenience of being able to chat to visitors and delivery staff no matter where you are, you will appreciate their value. 

Convenience, however, is just one benefit, as these types of products can be a useful security addition too, as you can clearly see visitors before opening the door, as well as deter potentially unwanted 'visitors' checking out your home. 

The Ring Video Doorbell Pro 2 is one of the latest products added to the range and boasts "3D" motion detection, HD+ video capture, Alexa integration, and "Head to Toe" front monitoring. The camera can be self-installed using an included plate.

Pros:

  • Useful for security and convenience when it comes to visitors and deliveries
  • Modern design

Cons:

  • Subscription required for constant monitoring beyond 30 days
  • Requires a hardwired power source

Ring home security system

Full, customizable smart home security system

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Ring

If the Ring ecosystem appeals to you, Ring also offers a full smart home security system that can be customized depending on the property and the user's wishes when it comes to security. 

You can create your own security system by combining elements including home alarms, motion sensors, window and door contact sensors, keypads, a smart doorbell, panic buttons, and both indoor and outdoor cameras. 

You can select bundles including a robust starter kit offering five pieces: a base station, keypad, contact sensor, motion sensor, and a range sensor.

Pros:

  • You can tailor your home security and tackle any areas of real concern by choosing each product separately and bringing them into one network
  • Easy installation, Alexa integration
  • You can hand over monitoring to a professional as an optional add-on

Cons:

  • A full package can be expensive 
  • Some users do not find the basic bundles include enough sensors

Nest Cam Indoor

Standalone security camera that plugs into an outlet

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Nest

For do-it-yourself types who want a few security gadgets but not an entire setup, Google's Nest Cams are worth considering. 

Nest Cam Indoor products are standalone security cameras that plug into an outlet. Once connected to the Nest mobile app, users are sent alerts when motion is detected and it is also possible to tap into the camera at any time to see what is going on at home. Built-in speakers and a microphone are included. 

Event-based or continual recording is on offer, and for free, snapshots taken over a three-hour time period are saved and viewable. A subscription option for 24/7 recording and storage is also available. 

However, you may want to hold fire and opt for wired, cheaper options that Google will make available in the near future for indoor surveillance, as well as in-or-out cams that are battery-powered. 

Pros:

  • Stylish and discreet
  • Night vision is a useful addition if you are away from home

Cons:

  • Pets may trigger the camera by accident in the home
  • A subscription is required for premium features

SimpliSafe home security system

Includes a range of bolt-ons

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SimpliSafe

For hunters of a full security system without a long-term subscription, SimpliSafe's home security system should be considered. 

SimpliSafe offers a $160 "Foundation" entry-level kit containing a motion sensor, an entry sensor, base station, and a key fob, which can be customized to include additional products such as a siren, video doorbell, a glass break sensor, or smoke, water, and CO2 sensors, among other options. At the time of writing, a free HD camera is also included.  

The Wi-Fi-connected system has a backup battery in case of a power outage, and the vendor maintains separate monitoring centers to keep an eye on homes within the network -- with operators alerting the police even if the devices are damaged by intruders. 

Kits suitable for larger homes, such as "The Knox," come with extra entry and motion sensors.

Pros:

  • No contract or long-term subscription required
  • Can be extended with sirens, water damage sensors, fire alarms, and more

Cons:

  • Expensive to set up beyond the entry kits

Honeywell smart home security starter kit

Includes motion sensors, a key fob, and a camera/speaker

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Honeywell

Another popular option on the market is Honeywell's home security kit. The bundle contains a selection of motion sensors, a key fob, and a camera able to record visual and audio footage in 1080p HD video. Night vision is also included. 

Honeywell's security system can be set to automatically arm itself when you leave home, and if you forget to shut a window or door where a sensor is installed, for example, you can be sent alerts to this oversight. 

A key selling point about this option is versatility, as the security system can be set up to operate in existing IoT setups offered by various vendors. Amazon's Alexa voice assistant is inbuilt to accept commands.

Pros:

  • 1080p night vision camera
  • Compatibility with Alexa assistant built-in
  • Extendable with multiple sensors

Cons:

  • The design won't appeal to everyone
  • Some customers say the control app needs improvement

Nest X Yale lock

A modern alternative to a deadbolt

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Nest

If you need a secure option for access to your home or business, the Nest X Yale lock could be the right solution for you. 

Available in three finishes, the Nest X Yale lock is described by Nest as "tamper-proof" and uses passcodes or mobile app-based controls, instead of a traditional key, to grant access. You will need Nest Guard or Nest Connect as a hub to control the lock.

There is no deadbolt and the device is battery-powered. Alerts are sent to users when power begins to run low, and if the worst happens, you can hold a battery to the device's terminal for a temporary power boost, allowing you to unlock the door.

Pros:

  • Useful for shared living arrangements, visitors, carers
  • Modern design

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • You may need more than one Nest Connect to control multiple locks

Wyze Home Monitoring Service

Budget-friendly home monitoring

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Wyze

A home option is the Wyze Home Monitoring Service, an affordable system for keeping an eye on entry and potential intrusion into your space. 

Currently on offer, Wyze's bundle includes a hub, keypad, two entry sensors, one motion sensor, and a leak/probe accessory. Two sticker decals have also been thrown in to make would-be burglars aware that they may be more likely to be detected.

After the core monitoring products have been purchased, the monitoring subscription is billed at $59.88 per year.

Pros:

  • Affordable
  • Customizable with additional products including cameras and extra sensors

Cons:

  • Only available in the United States
  • Cameras are not included

How did we choose these security systems?

We wanted to consider as many security angles to protecting a home and home office as possible. Entry points including windows and doors can be protected through smart door locks, sensors, and cameras, and should an intruder manage to get into a property, monitoring systems that send alerts to homeowners can make all the difference between perpetrators being caught or getting away with their actions.

Which security system is right for you?

Unlike a business location, homeowners do not need to invest in heavy-duty solutions in order to adequately protect their assets. Instead, a few products that have been carefully selected and placed in weak spots or entry points -- such as a front porch, garden, or close to ground floor windows -- can be all that is needed.

A camera or two, sensors that monitor windows, and, perhaps, a video doorbell or smart lock to protect your front door should be considered first. Larger properties can benefit from additional security components linked to the same network, but in either case, today's smart home security products can give you peace of mind both in or outside of the house.

Are there alternatives worth considering?

While our top picks have included a variety of functions and uses, the below are still worth consideration.

Why are sensors important in a home security product?

Sensors are the key ingredient in effective, discreet home security. There are many different kinds of sensors that are utilized in Internet of Things (IoT) products, including infrared, magnetic, audio, and motion, and each application depends on the type of security product involved.

For example, motion sensors are used for video doorbells and both indoor and outdoor cameras -- and heat sensors may also be thrown into the mix -- whereas door and window products may use a combination of motion and magnetic sensors to detect unauthorized entry.

Do you need an internet connection?

When it comes to today's smart, connected, IoT home security systems, the answer is usually yes, or devices may be connected to a hub that is connected to the internet. In comparison to business security offerings that are often monitored remotely, the central focus of home systems is to give the user power and visibility -- and this generally requires internet connectivity and a mobile device.

Do you need a subscription?

Subscriptions aren't compulsory in many cases when you buy a home security solution. However, 'basic' setups may ping alerts to your handset when a sensor detects activity but will not necessarily keep any feeds or recordings for a long duration.

It is worth signing up for a subscription if you want to make sure you have access to past event feeds. In addition, subscription services will usually sweeten the pot with additional layers of security such as automatic emergency calls and multiple device monitoring, or other advanced features.

Best security cameras in 2021: Keep your home and business safe