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Vonage We're going to be snowbirding this winter, and decided it was time to get an alarm

We're going to be snowbirding this winter, and decided it was time to get an alarm system. We actually had an alarm system that the builder put in, but they never get around to explaining how to use the darn thing, and it's sat unused since.

I originally was going to go with the "alarm over broadband" solution (, but I got a little nervous by the fact that there are no phone numbers anywhere for them. I also wasn't impressed with the web site - no demo as to how to install the thing, etc.

In any case, I ended up going with You get a $100 discount via Vonage, so that was nice. We did the "upgrade existing alarm" option, since we had a hardwired alarm in place. I purchased an extra keypad, and two fobs. I had one concern insofar as we had a couple of sensor wires that were cut in the crawl space (a home automation project gone awry - I wanted to splice into the doorbell circuit, and my very clever solution was to cut wires that looked like doorbell wires, and then have my wife press the doorbell to see if I cut the right one . . . .). I called, and they said "no problem," just tell the installer, and he would take care of it.

The package came in the mail a few days later. Our installer/provider in the Seattle area for is Protection One, which has a co-branded site at I can actually log into either web site. Colors are a little different than (they're "alwaysp1 blue/green"), but otherwise the functionality is the same.

Protection One was pretty good. We had some issues with their installers having trouble meeting installation dates/times, but once the guys showed up, they were competent and did a good job. The first guy came and did all the basic wiring (well, the wiring was pre-existing - he fixed the crawl space issues, and wired the new panel and the new control panels). The second guy actually did the programming.

Once the second guy finished the programming, he called, and after telling them some numbers, gave the phone to me. The lady on the phone went through all the basics of the web site, which seemed easy enough to master.

Playing with the system has been great fun. You can get email notifications any time any sensor is activated, even when not in "alarm" mode. You can also get email notifications when the system is disarmed/armed/etc. And you can arm and disarm it from the web. Further, you can add users and add/change access codes over the web. The only thing you need to call them about is when you want to change the actual "call list" when an alarm event happens.

I've called Protection One twice so far. Once to do a test of the system, and all the operators are competent insofar as that is concerned. When you start asking questions, though, if it's anything past anything basic, they bump you up to a specialist - and if the specialist doesn't know the answer, they have to call's people. I didn't understand how the motion sensors were reporting notifications on the web site (even though it's on the help screen - DOH!), and the Protection One lady couldn't figure it out either. She called me back the next morning with an guy on the phone, and it was explained to me.

The cost for the hardware was pretty fair (go to to see). I paid $90 for the guy to reconnect all the wires in the crawl space, which I also thought was fair. There was no charge for the actual installation, but they do lock you into a contract. Two or three years.

The only downside is the monthly expense. It is pricey - $35/month. For us, though, it's worth it, since we'll be out of the house for months at a time. We'll be able to know each time the housesitter comes in to check on the house, etc. I'm also pretty comfortable with Protection One, which is the monitoring company for our area, based on my phone calls with them.

I know that offers $8/month monitoring, but the service didn't give me the warm fuzzies I need/expect/want from an alarm company based on their web site. I was also a little more hopeful that the "alarm over broadband" would have been actual data sent, as opposed to a modified-VOIP box (which seems to be a kludgy solution to me). The system may also be considered more reliable insofar as it's cellular as opposed to over broadband. But that said, our cable modem has not failed us yet. We even had an 8-hour power outage, and have a backup generator - and the cable modem still had a signal for the first 7 hours.

Anyway, the short of it is that if you're looking at, I think it's the real deal. The downside is price and the commitment contract if you choose to have professional installation. actually has better prices than, not including the Vonage discount. If you're in an area, then will push you to them (where is basically the "back end" provider for the web site). I asked one of the Protection One (P1 is the "owner" of guys who came to our house how we could upgrade the system with additional (wireless) sensors in the future, and he gave what I thought was a very fair answer - "we can do the whole thing for you, but if you know what you want, you'd probably be best off just buying it off the web, and then having us install them to save money."

- Mike.

Read The Full Thread: / review/experience

Here's another security provider that works well with VoIP and allows you to control

miked2 posted "We're going to be snowbirding this winter, and decided it was time to get an alarm" on 12/06/2006

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1Unlimited calling and other services for all residential plans are based on normal residential, personal, non-commercial use. A combination of factors is used to determine abnormal use, including but not limited to: the number of unique numbers called, calls forwarded, minutes used and other factors. Subject to our Reasonable Use Policy and Terms of Service.

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HIGH SPEED INTERNET REQUIRED. †VALID FOR NEW LINES ONLY. RATES EXCLUDE INTERNET SERVICE, SURCHARGES, FEES AND TAXES. DEVICE MAY BE REFURBISHED. If you subscribe to plans with monthly minutes allotments, all call minutes placed from both from your home and registered ExtensionsTM phones will count toward your monthly minutes allotment. ExtensionsTM calls made from mobiles use airtime and may incur surcharges, depending on your mobile plan. Alarms, TTY and other systems may not be compatible. Vonage 911 service operates differently than traditional 911. See for details.

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