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8 Key Differences Between a GSOC and a Central Station

By Zach Henderson, May 08, 2023

For those unfamiliar with the security industry, or those just dipping their toes into physical security capabilities, the term GSOC or global security operations center, can seem foreign or vague. Call centers, or central stations, on the other hand are better known and understood as many homes now have alarm systems or are at least familiar with how they work.

While somewhat related in regard to providing outsourced alarm management, GSOCs and central stations drastically differ in terms of monitoring, investigation, access control and system management, availability, installation and more.

In essence, a central station provides the bare minimum in terms of alarm management, and for organizations that are small, limited to one location or are retail locations, a central station may be the best option. However, for organizations that needs more control and flexibility when monitoring who comes in and out of their building(s), a GSOC will provide the necessary components to holistically monitor your enterprise’s physical security systems.

Let's look at some of the key differences between these two alarm monitoring support systems:

Live Monitoring:
Central stations do not perform live monitoring, they act in response to alarms or perform alarm monitoring. What this means is that the only time a central station will look at video monitoring systems (VMS), or check on alarms for your system is when an alarm is triggered.

GSOCs monitor 24/7, have access to VMS and manage access control systems meaning simultaneous, real-time access to the entire system, not just after a notification that an alarm was triggered.

Central stations do not investigate alarms. Instead, after an alarm is triggered, a call tree is escalated which means that one or more select people from your company get a phone call to verify if the alarm is false or not, even at 3 in the morning. If the central station cannot reach someone for confirmation, emergency services are dispatched. This can result in costly fees if emergency services are dispatched for too many false alarms.

Due to the 24/7 live monitoring of the entire access control system by a GSOC, all alarms are investigated prior to notifying your company’s contact. This process is customizable however, and your company’s contact can be notified for every alarm if desired. In reality, the vast majority of alarms are false, mostly due to a door being held or a faulty door contact/reader. With total access to the access control system, GSOC operators can determine the cause and validity of the alarm remotely, then escalate a call tree or dispatch emergency services.

Access Control Monitoring: User and System Administration
Central stations do not monitor your access control system.

GSOCs have full capabilities to monitor all parts of your company’s access control system including alarms, VMS, and badge and user management. This means that everything from video recording investigation to remotely disabling an employee’s badge access following termination is handled by the GSOC.

Device Management:
Central stations do not manage security system device repairs or replacements.

GSOCs can dispatch device servicing for repairs or replacements. They can also track alarm metrics and notify when a device is malfunctioning and sending too many alarm notifications.

Available 24/7:
Central station alarm monitoring is available 24/7; however, customer service call lines are open typically only during business hours (Monday – Friday, 9AM-5PM).

GSOC operators handle all calls from clientele, not just emergency calls or alarm notifications 24/7. Meaning if you have a question, need to make a change to system access, or are even just locked out from your building late at night, a GSOC operation can remotely grant access, answer questions and provide service at any time.

System & Alarm Reporting:
Central stations do not provide alarm reporting or metrics.

GSOCs can provide alarm matrix reporting, meaning they can look at alarm trends on a monthly or quarterly basis and calculate overall alarm reduction or increase over time, allowing you to make informed choices about optimizing your security system practices and procedures. GSOCs can also index device storage and repairs, retrieve security records, and perform device auditing and management.

Central station installation is a quick process, with alarm monitoring initiating almost instantly after the installation of the security devices and hardware.

On the other hand, setting up a holistic GSOC operation can take months, even years, and is a costly endeavour. While an outsourced, shared-resource model can make that set up much quicker and more cost-effective, it still may be longer than a central station.

This process involves auditing of the current access control system, developing customized policies and procedures for all parts of the GSOCs monitoring capabilities (alarms, badge access, etc.), and installation of a connection appliance before going live. For more information on the cost difference between an outsourced GSOC and building your own, check out our blog.

Virtual Escort:
Central stations cannot provide a virtual escort or virtual receptionist.

With VMS accessibility and 24/7 customer availability combined, a GSOC can provide virtual escort or receptionist capabilities. What this means is that if an employee is leaving work late and doesn’t feel safe walking to their car, they can notify the GSOC and an operator will stay on the phone with them as well as watch them through video monitoring, ensuring they make it safely to their vehicle, or dispatch emergency response immediately.

This process works similarly at a front door to an office building when someone without badge access tries to enter the building. An operator can visually see the person and speak to them by either intercom or telephone and can remotely grant them access. These capabilities make it so that physical guards or front door personnel are not needed and can save companies money in terms of staffing.

Want to learn more about how a GSOC can support your security posture? Contact us at