Wired or Wireless - Which is Best?

Wired or Wireless - Which is Best?

When it comes to alarm systems, there are many different options to consider, but one of the first things that comes in at any security consultation is wired vs wireless.  Aren’t wires systems completely outdates now?  Are wireless systems really secure?  What is the most reliable way to protect my property?

To get to an answer, we have to first understand the question.  “Wireless” can mean a lot of things, and more often than not, a system will consist of both wired and wireless components acting in conjunction with one another.  Here we will examine the different parts of a security system that could be either wired or wireless and see if there is an obvious and clear winner.

Security Devices

Okay, “security devices” is a broad term; it can apply to door sensors, motion detectors, smoke detectors, really any peripheral device that updates the system with a status report (“open” or “closed”, “alarm” or “no alarm”).  Most companies today will only sell you wireless devices – they are quick to install, no wires need to be run, and they work in just about any situation you can think of.  

But not all wireless security devices are created equal.  Many companies are still selling devices that are un-encrypted, meaning they are vulnerable to “hacking” or “jamming”.  Some manufacturers haven’t changed their wireless technology since the 1990’s, even though they keep coming out with new versions that look slicker.  Some devices work on very common wireless frequencies, meaning that they can be affected by cordless telephones, remote car starters, and other household electronics.  Battery life and range also vary greatly from one manufacturer to another.

Wired devices eliminate most (if not all) of these concerns, and are often significantly cheaper than wireless devices; but they come with a different sort of price: unless you already have wires in place, someone has to find a way to get a wire from a central location to each device location, and that can be costly and invasive.  


Depends entirely on the context.  Already have wiring in place?  It’s always better to re-use a good wire rather than “upgrading” to wireless.  No existing wiring in place?  You can feel safe with wireless technology; just make sure it’s got all the safeguards needed to keep you protected.  Reed Security only sells encrypted wireless devices.


The alarm is going off in your house or business.  How does the signal get to the monitoring station?  Traditionally, it was through a landline.  This was somewhat reliable and very cost-effective, since most homes and businesses already had a landline in place. But it would take 30 seconds or more for the signal to arrive at the station, and it’s possible that an intelligent criminal would know to cut the phone lines from outside prior to entering the house (which is surprisingly easy to do – anyone who knows what to look for would have no problem cutting a line, either at a house or a business).

But let’s be honest, no one has a landline anymore today.  Even businesses are mostly using VOIP (Voice Over IP) systems, most of which are not compatible with alarm systems anyway.  This leaves us with two methods open to us: internet communicators or cellular communicators.

Both methods are much quicker than a phone line.  Internet (or Wi-Fi) communicators are cheap, since they (again) utilize existing infrastructure with little or no added cost (almost everyone has internet at a property they want to protect).  But ultimately, it’s still a wired medium – the internet comes into the building through a cable.  It is thus just as vulnerable to being cut as your old phone line was.

Which leaves us with cellular communicators.  Not only is a cellular signal impossible to physically cut, it’s also very hard to effectively stop.  The networks are built using multiple towers, so even if one goes down, there is usually another in range.  And cellular networks are being improved all the time – communication only gets faster and more reliable as the technology progresses.  The average alarm signal can reach the monitoring station in under 5 seconds using a cellular network, improving your chances of catching an unwanted criminal or preventing a fire from spreading.


Cellular, all the way.  The combination of speed, security and reliability make it an obvious choice.


The number of people who add video surveillance to their alarm systems has risen dramatically in the last ten years.  Once considered a novelty (especially in residential situations), it is now very commonplace to find cameras set up all around someone’s home or business.  Wireless seems like the obvious choice – after all, if the property has already been finished, how could anyone run cables there anyway?

It can be extremely difficult to run cables through a finished house, this is true; but we must remember that even a camera that runs on Wi-Fi still needs power, which means running a cable to the nearest outlet.  All of a sudden, your “wireless” camera isn’t actually wireless at all.  Even if you can find a non-invasive path to get a power cord to an exterior camera, we now have to deal with Wi-Fi signal strength.  Many exterior house finishes, especially stucco and stone, will block the Wi-Fi signal in an extreme way.  What you end up with is a camera that takes 20 seconds to load and has a glitchy image.

Wired cameras are much more reliable and can often have much higher resolution than a Wi-Fi camera.  Yes, needing a camera to be wired in will limit where you can place the camera, but it will result in a picture that you’re much happier with.  We would prefer to tell someone that a camera isn’t possible in a particular spot, and instead suggest another spot, than to setup a camera with a weak Wi-Fi signal that will only cause frustration in the future.


Wired, whenever possible.  While Wi-Fi cameras will sometimes do in a pinch, you’ll be much happier with the images and reliability of a wired system.

Sometimes it’s very cut and dry which direction you should go when designing a security system; other times, it takes experience and discernment to make the right call.  At the end of the day, that’s why Reed Security custom designs every system after a face-to-face consultation, to make sure you’re not only getting the system you need, but also one that’s going to work well for years to come.


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