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The Pros and Cons of a Virtual Doorman


Jun 24, 2020 by Barbara Zito

A virtual doorman sounds like something out of a sci-fi novel, but it's actually quite accessible for both offices and apartment buildings in this time and dimension. While this type of building security uses technology to replace human interaction -- or at least most of it -- it still offers a secure, welcoming entry to the apartment building.

What is a virtual doorman?

A virtual doorman is not a robot or hologram projected in the lobby of an office or apartment building. There are different options in virtual security, but it often includes a person or team of people working to observe the building from a remote location through video monitoring. The front door is always locked until opened by a tenant or staff member with programmed keyfobs -- some more high-tech setups will involve biometrics, like fingerprints.

For visitor entry, residents can communicate with an operator on the virtual staff (some security firms have an app for this) to let them know of guests who will be needing access to the building. And for mail and packages, the virtual doorman can let a delivery person in, too -- though residents will have to pick up their own packages on their way up to their apartments.

With some virtual doorman setups, there is still some human interaction in that the remote team can see and greet staff members and residents by name -- albeit by intercom. In addition to the regular people who come and go each day, the virtual doorman will become familiar with all the other visitors and service personnel who enter the building in real time.

Is a virtual doorman right for your office building or rental property? Let's take a look at some of the benefits and drawbacks to having a remote staff keep an eye on the people and activities happening on a daily basis:

The pros and cons of having a virtual doorman

Pros Cons
• 24/7 security.
• Increased property value.
• Affordability and efficiency.
• Doesn't work if the power's out.
• Potentially slower emergency response.
• No personal touch.

The pros

It provides a 24/7 secure environment

While the benefits of an actual doorman (or woman) are many, there are many situations where it's not possible. For example, a small apartment building might not warrant the expense of a full-time staff member (or three, for round-the-clock service). A virtual doorman service can provide 24/7 security that's also cost-effective.

You can increase the value of your property

People will pay more rent for a traditional doorman building -- especially in Manhattan -- because it provides a level of security considered a luxury. If you own a small apartment building rather than a luxury building, a doorman might never have been a thought. But a virtual doorman will provide the peace of mind that tenants desire -- and will pay more for.

It is affordable and efficient

From a budget perspective, a monthly fee paid to a security firm is a more desirable option than paying a salary to staff. Plus, there's hiring and scheduling to think of, too. A virtual doorman takes all of these costs and considerations off your plate as a landlord.

The cons

Power outage = no security

A cut in power to the building might send the virtual doorman system offline. This could mean that everyone's locked out -- or that the door is open and anyone can get in. Either way, it's not an ideal situation. If you're a landlord who's thinking of including virtual doormen as part of your rental buildings, be sure to inquire about a Plan B for when the system is off the grid.

There's a lack of immediacy

The beauty of having a doorman is that there's a person on the scene. While a virtual doorman can alert first responders in an emergency situation, there's something comforting about having a building employee on the premises when something goes awry.

There's no human touch

While a virtual doorman service can be great for keeping a building secure, that's likely all it can do. There's no one to open the door for you when you have too many packages, and there's none of the friendly conversation that both doormen and residents often appreciate. Technology is a wonderful thing, but this service could put many humans out of a job.

The bottom line

If you have no front-door staff already in place, a virtual doorman can provide a new level of security for your tenants and more value for your property. But to replace human employees with technology will likely remove the neighborly interaction that your tenants also desire in apartment living.

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