Why know the ABC's of Access Control? With threats to security being a constant concern, the quest on how to better control facility access is an ongoing process. When talking access control, it is all about WHO, WHERE and WHEN.
Prior to the introduction of electronic access control systems, access control was enforced through keys and locks. A person with a key could enter a locked door; and that is about as far as access control went. There was no way to restrict access on specific times or dates; so long as a person possessed the key, they were in.
The dawn of electronic access control systems began in the 1960’s. They were developed to eliminate problems with lost keys. Not only was a lost key a high security risk, it was also a big hassle to change locks each time it happened.
However, more than just addressing the lost key situation, it enabled those in charge of security to add, allow, restrict or deny any person’s access to any specific area at any time.
Electronic access control systems answered the need to control WHO can gain and WHERE and WHEN that access is given.
ABC's of Access Control: System Components
Electronic access control systems can range from the most basic to the most complex. However, regardless of type or complexity, access control systems consist of the following basic components:
This is the equipment that electronically locks and unlocks the doors that are controlled by the access control system. The hardware, in most cases, is designed to control entrance into a building or a secure space, but in order to comply with building and fire codes, they do not normally restrict exit at any time, although there are exceptions.
The server computer serves as the “brain” of the access control system. The server computer runs easy to understand access control application software. The server and the accompanying software contains the database of authorized persons, as well as, the commands for entryways within the building or property.
New technology today provides for the option for the Access Control Server and associated software to run in the cloud as a cloud-based solution, thus reducing costs and increasing ease of access to the system through the internet or a smartphone, with proper credentials, of course.
The system allows for tracking of WHO entered the premises, at WHAT time and WHERE they went. An audit trail is generated and can be used to assist investigation into any security breach
These are the devices that “read” entry credentials and allow or deny entry. There are 3 basic types of readers:
b. Card Reader
c. Biometric Reader
In electronic access control systems, credentials are essentially the “keys”. These are presented to the reader to gain access to a secure area. When access is granted, the door is unlocked for a predetermined time. Information such as time and date of entry is recorded.
Credentials used in electronic access control systems depend on the kind of readers that are used:
a. Personal Identification Number (PIN) in case of Keypads
b. Smart Card or Fob for Card Readers
c. Fingerprint, Handprint or any Biometric characteristic for Biometric Readers
Advantages of an Electronic or Keyless Access Control System
Credentials are configured for each individual granted access. This allows for customized access depending on who is holding the credential. Therefore, a certain person can be granted full access while some can have restricted access to certain areas and may only enter at a designated time period and day.
Therefore, it is possible to issue access credentials for managers who may have full access or to cleaning crews who may only access office and public areas and may enter the building only for a designated time period.
While initial installation may involve some financial outlay, electronic access control systems are cost effective. Compared to traditional lock and key systems, the use of swipe card, key fobs and biometric access negates the need to change the locks in the event of a lost or stolen card or if a card is not returned by a resigned or dismissed employee.
The system allows for easy deletion of a particular card or access credential from the system while causing no inconvenience to other users.
As mentioned above, audit trails are created and businesses can keep a record of persons who entered and the exact time they entered. This becomes especially useful if thefts or any incidents occur that can be narrowed down to a specific time period; records can be pulled up to determine who entered the building corresponding to the time period.
What information is stored by the system?
- Date and time credential was used
- Name of credential holder
- Unique ID number or badge number
- Name of door or reader being accessed
- Access granted/denied condition
This information can stored up to several years.
You can centralize monitoring several properties, even those in overseas location from just one server.