Access Control Systems: Is Restricted Access Right for You?

Do you have control over who can access your home or workplace? You don’t want just anyone to come through the door. Access control systems allow you to limit the list of people who can come and go, using a card, passcode, or another method of controlling entry.

When you think of access control, you might think of high-tech businesses, data centers, and government operations. However, ordinary homes and businesses can benefit from the same systems those places use. Keep reading to learn whether or not access control is right for you!

What Are Access Control Systems?

The term “access control” refers to access restriction for physical locations or for certain information. Here, we’re going to focus on limiting access to physical places, like your home or business.

The simple definition of access control covers any method that restricts who enters or leaves a specific area.

Historically, types of access control included human security personnel, physical barriers like fences preventing the circumvention of the system, and locks and keys (more on those below). But modern automated systems let you control access without needing in-person control. These systems range from simple to high-tech, and security companies are regularly developing new access control systems.

Reasons to Use a Door Access Control System

You probably have a set number of keys to your house or business, which is a type of access control. However, modern access systems allow for easier entry and a safer, more customized access control list.

For example, you can change a passcode or remotely turn off an access card if you no longer want the code- or cardholder entering. However, if someone has a key, the only assurance they can no longer enter is changing the locks. This can get expensive. Keys are also easy to copy while replicating electronic access control methods is harder.

Let’s take a closer look at some reasons why an access control solutions might be right for you.

1. Monitor comings and goings

With a traditional entry system like a key, there’s no record of exactly who enters or leaves, or when they do. However, a modern access control system lets you view precisely when people pass through your residence or other buildings.

Monitoring this information requires using either a browser-based or server-based system. A browser-based system stores information about who can access the building online, as well as who uses the access and when. You use any web browser, log into the system and view this information, anytime. The company in charge of your access control system stores the data.

A server-based system stores the same information on a local server, instead of online, either on-site or located remotely. Server-based systems mean only someone who has access to the server can view information about who enters or leaves.

Server-based systems provide an extra layer of security to your entry and exit data by default — only those with access to the server view the data. However, if you want access to entry information no matter where you are, you’ll need a browser-based system.

2. Control access times and more

The top reason people may want access control is taking charge of who enters a certain building at a given time. Users can customize these systems, changing which doors a person uses, what time of day they can, and the days when they have access. You can even give someone access for a limited period only.

This lets you make sure people can’t get into rooms they don’t need to, and can’t enter the building during off hours. You get specific control over who goes where and at what times. You can also track who is present and who is off-site.

3. Protect valuable assets

Access control helps keep expensive equipment and other valuables safe. You limit access to rooms where you store valuables and make sure the only people allowed in those rooms are trustworthy and properly trained.

Theft is an obvious concern that access control helps with. But theft isn’t the only concern. For example, untrained employees who accidentally damage delicate equipment without meaning to. If you limit their access, you limit the potential for damage.

The more controlled access points your building has, the less likely it is that a thief or other unwanted person will get in. If you have a single lock and key, breaking in is easy for vandals and thieves. But if you block access at multiple points, many fail before they reach your valuables.

The Best Access Systems

Which type of access control is best for your home or business? Some of the top choices include:

1. Biometric access systems

A biometric access control system uses identifying information like fingerprints, verifying people who enter have access.

Once, using fingerprints for access was the stuff of science fiction plots. However, today it’s fairly common — many smartphones actually use your fingerprint, unlocking the device. Face scanners are a less-common type of biometric access control.

Fingerprints and other biometric systems commonly grace places where they need high security. These systems allow entry only to certain people while recording information about who is entering.

2. Card access systems

Card access systems involve swiping or entering a card with a magnetic strip or a chip to permit access. These systems tend to be inexpensive and easy to install.

Instead of using a key to open a lock, card access systems involve a credit-card-shaped plastic card. The magnetic strip, chip, or another device in the card automatically triggers the door to unlock when properly inserted. These magnetic locks automatically lock again when the door is closed, reducing the risk that someone leaves a door open accidentally. (Most other access control systems also have this feature.)

3. Proximity access systems

This type of access control system uses a card, but the card reader doesn’t require swiping or insertion. All that’s needed is holding the card near the card reader, and the door opens.

Some proximity cards work at a greater distance, while others the user to hold them right against the card reader. Entrants can keep the card in their purse, pocket, or wallet and still open the door, making access fast and easy.

4. Keypad access systems

Another common access system involves a keypad where the user must enter a numeric code.

Only people who know the code can enter and the property manager changes it as needed (in case the code ends up in the hands of someone unauthorized). One drawback of these systems is that people may have a hard time remembering the passcode, and writing it down makes it more likely to end up in the wrong hands.

Sometimes, more than one type of access system may be used for added security. For example, property managers may require people to use both a card and an access code to enter.

Innovations in Access Control

In addition to these traditional access control methods, modern technology has brought some interesting innovations to access systems. These new methods are poised to make access more convenient without sacrificing security. Here are some of the most exciting access control trends:

1. Mobile credentials

Our smartphones are quickly becoming hubs for more than just communication. Mobile devices can offer convenient and secure access control methods.

Phones can combine a password or access code with proximity access, so people can use their phones to “tap in” to a given location. This is also a good way to provide entrants with a one-time, expiring password. Phones can be used to control access to data and information, as well as physical locations.

Mobile access is a more convenient way to open a gate or a door since Bluetooth technology can read credentials from a greater distance than card readers. This opens new avenues for easy proximity access.

2. Gesture-based access

Phones also allow for the possibility of access based on the right gesture, combined with the right credentials. Someone might need to hold a smartphone up near the reader and rotate it for access, for example.

3. Identity management advances

Physical access control is now crossing paths with data access. This allows more customized access control methods across multiple devices, using different identification numbers and other forms of identity management. Specific identification methods can be set up for different users with online identity management systems.

4. Biometric advances

Biometric access systems are becoming more user-friendly, with a new focus on user experience as well as security. Mobile devices are also syncing with biometric systems, allowing for biometric access systems that use mobile devices to verify identity.

Which Access Control Systems Should You Choose?

The right type of access control depends on what you plan to use it for. For businesses, high-security systems like biometrics or multiple methods are often ideal. Businesses stand to lose a lot if someone unauthorized gains access. Also, with so many people entering throughout the day, credentials have more of a chance of being stolen or otherwise compromised.

However, private residences are usually well served with simpler types of access control, such as a keypad or card system. With fewer people going in and out on any given day, it’s less likely that the code will get stolen or a card will get lost.

That said, the right access control system for you depends on what you’re comfortable with. Some people are still happy with a lock and key, while others seek out the high-tech security offered by the most modern systems. Would you try a system from this access control list? Leave a comment and let us know!

Featured image CC0, by websubs, via Pixabay.

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