ACCESS CONTROL SYSTEMS MADE EASY: THE BASICS AN BEYOND
Is your workspace safe and secure? If you aren’t 100% sure, the answer is probably no.
Using an access control system is the best method for restricting physical access to off-limits areas. Common applications include interior and exterior doors, private offices, file storage, and more.
Limiting who has access to your business’s secure spaces is the first line of defense against unwanted intruders and thieves. Plus, it can even prevent employee misconduct. It protects your staff, your data, and your business’s physical property.
At first, these systems may seem intimidating. But, they use straightforward technology that’s super easy to understand once you’ve mastered the basics.
Before high tech gadgets like pin pads and key cards, controlling access came down to flawed techniques. Hard copied keys, logs, and hired security were the best options.
These days, more companies of all sizes are relying on technology for access restriction. The right system for your workspace will be easy to use and monitor and protect your most valuable assets.
In this article, you’ll learn what access control systems are, how they work, and which type is best for you. And, we’ll be using basic terms that anyone can understand.
We’re also hooking you up with tons of pro advice to keep in mind while you shop for the ideal system. Keep reading to cash in on all our best tips and tricks!
WHAT ARE ACCESS CONTROL SYSTEMS?
Simply put, these systems control entry to your business’s different spaces. They can also establish multiple levels of access for various office areas and electronic devices.
You already know that access control systems authenticate the identity of users and limit their access to specific areas. But that’s not all. They can gather and store an access log, too.
This datalog allows you to monitor both employees and guests and will help identify the parties responsible, in case of a security breach.
Are you protecting highly valuable property and data? When combined with additional monitoring like video surveillance, this type of record-keeping ensures total control over your business’s valuables.
User authentication is also a valuable tool for human resources.
For example, a system administrator can immediately restrict an employee’s access if they change roles within the company. This response is especially helpful for employee suspension or termination.
Is your business time-sensitive?
Automated access control can speed up entry and exit for both customers and employees. These days, most of us have little time to waste waiting in a security line.
Advanced access control systems can also enable a lockdown if needed. In emergencies like fire and robbery, this instant response can make a huge difference in which assets your company loses or retains.
When combined with other security features like crash bars, emergency and lockdown modes can also assist in evacuating the office or workspace. Restricting access to some areas helps “funnel” employees and clients toward safety.
There are many different types of access control systems available. Keep reading to find out which one best suits your business needs!
TYPES OF ACCESS CONTROL
There’s no one size fits all approach to access control. Each type of system offers different features and benefits.
If you’ve ever stayed in a modern hotel room, you’ve used an access card.
Card access systems utilize an electronic “key” card that can be scanned or swiped for entry. Each card is uniquely encoded and can be reprogrammed for a new access level at any time.
One of this system’s big benefits is its excellent logging ability. Each card reader is capable of documenting how many times a day a card is scanned, and when.
Not all card readers require direct contact. Some, called proximity readers, can collect data and grand access from a short distance, usually between three and six inches.
Most access cards are about the same size as a credit card. Their compact size makes them easy to carry in a wallet or purse or wear attached to a lanyard.
You might be thinking, what stops users from sharing their cards or tailgating to let multiple people pass?
Anti-passback systems can be used to prevent these potential security breaches. The most straightforward approach is to install card readers at both the entrance and exit sides of each door.
Biometric locks, sometimes referred to as smart locks, use advanced technology like facial recognition and fingerprint scanners to identify the person seeking access.
This type of access control offers superior protection because employee and customer credentials can never be lost or stolen.
Biometric readers are at the forefront of technology, and they are also some of the most affordable options available. So, it’s no surprise they are growing in popularity.
In the past, many employees did not feel comfortable using biometrics for office access. But, it’s becoming increasingly common.
Plenty of your employees are already using biometric security to protect their smartphones and personal electronic devices.
PASSWORDS AND PIN CODES
Passwords and pin codes have been used in door access control systems for years. These basic designs are among the easiest to operate for business owners as well as their employees and clients.
This type of system doesn’t rely on physical credentials to grant access. Instead, it requires users to enter a unique series of letters or numbers into an access control keypad.
Some models only accept one master code, while others use personal PIN codes that determine which users can enter, and when.
The one major downside to this type of access control is its ability to be shared or forgotten. So, it isn’t the best option for high-security areas.
For this reason, PIN codes and passwords are best used alongside additional security access control systems and high-security Grade 1 locks.
Mobile access technology works the same way as card-based access security. The only difference is that your smartphone acts as the “key” card.
Most of these systems require users to download an application that lets them unlock approved secure areas. These apps often use RF and scannable barcode technology for authentication.
The majority of mobile access systems require users to tap a button in the app or hold their phone up to a reader. Other, more modern systems are activated by simply touching the reader with your hand while the phone is in your pocket or bag.
Mobile security access may operate via Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, or cellular data, and it works best on newer smartphones.
One of the biggest perks when using mobile security access is the ability to issue temporary and partial access. Once a user has the app installed, you can easily grant them access for as long or short a time as you like, and to specific doors within your space.
This feature can be a major time saver for frequent clients and regular visitors.
FORMS OF ACCESS
Security access comes in three main forms, discretionary, mandatory, and role-based.
DISCRETIONARY ACCESS CONTROL
This system of control allows business owners to decide who can access what, and make instant changes via a control panel. So, it’s one of the easiest to use.
But, it’s also one of the least secure options available.
Most business owners aren’t security experts, and discretionary access leaves a lot of room for error. Accidentally providing the wrong level of access to an individual can be harmful, and this type of mistake can go unseen for a long time.
Another downside to discretionary access is the level of authority given to administrators. Anyone with the authority to make changes can easily pass access to inappropriate users.
MANDATORY ACCESS CONTROL
Unlike discretional access, mandatory access control is a highly restrictive option. It gives complete access to and management of the system and its access points to just one administrator or owner.
Another major security feature of mandatory access control is the ability to preset parameters. Restrictions are programmed upon installation, and cannot be circumvented.
This restriction means that a system owner or administrator will likely have to create a new profile and credentials to change any user’s access or permissions. Some business owners may find this process to be complicated and time-consuming.
While mandatory access may sound complicated, it isn’t impossible to understand. Plus, it’s the best option available for preventing employee misconduct and protecting high-security areas.
If you aren’t tech-savvy but still want the highest level of security, hiring an outside administrator is your best bet.
ROLE-BASED ACCESS CONTROL
Role-based access is the most in-demand form of security control. This type of system assigns different levels of access to individual users, with varying degrees of influence.
The most common way that businesses utilize role-based access is to assign one security manager who acts as the system administrator. This manager can, in turn, assign “middle management” security roles to employees.
This access type is the most flexible and easiest to modify. Plus, it comes with a few unique benefits.
The “separation of privilege” provided by role-based access gives more precise control than other options. It can grant multiple departments access to different areas of control.
Some advanced role-based access control systems can incorporate rules, such as when specific individuals can enter set zones or areas of a building. It can also set limitations for cell phone use.
Sometimes referred to as RBAC in the digital world, role-based access control is also a top pick for data protection.
WHICH SYSTEM IS BEST FOR YOUR BUSINESS?
You’ve learned all that you need to know about the different types of building access control systems. Now it’s time to decide which one will best serve your business!
But before you do, there are a few last things to consider.
Some systems will require you to implement a new security protocol. You may also need to hire new staff and install commercial doors and automatic locks throughout your workspace.
Depending on your current security system, you may also need to install or upgrade your network of computers. If you’re using advanced technology like biometrics or managing digital credentials, you’ll need a lot of computing power.
You will also need to store new and potentially large amounts of data. There’s no point in using security access control that logs employee and client activities if you can’t access the information.
This consideration is especially important if you plan to integrate other security features like closed-circuit security cameras.
Before you select a system, you should conduct a review of your workspace’s current security. Look for weaknesses in your building’s entrance and exit access, as well as internal doors.
You should adjust your technology and protocol to cover any breaches or gaps that you find. The right system will solve your security problems, be easy for you to operate, and offer features that you will use regularly.
Though some of these systems are easy to install on your own, working with a security consultant is still a good idea.
These professionals will help you to assess your business needs, select a system, and put your new security access to work. They can also help you implement system owners or administrators, and even monitor your security access remotely.
By now, you should have a solid grip on the basics of access control systems. And, you might even have some ideas about your ideal system in mind.
Don’t forget that your first step should be conducting a security audit and identifying your current system’s strengths and weaknesses. You’ll likely need professional locksmith services, and help from a security consultant.
Once you’ve identified your current strengths and weaknesses, you can use what you’ve learned in this article to choose the very best access control system for your workspace.
Decide on the type of access control that you want, be it “key” card, biometric, password protection, or mobile credentials.
Then, select a form of access that works well with whatever technology you’ve chosen. Compatibility between these two factors is absolutely vital.
Once you’ve got these big decisions taken care of, you’ll just need to double-check a few details like data storage. Then, you should be ready to move forward with a new, more secure workspace for employees and clients alike!