Electronic Access Control Systems – The Key to Crime Prevention

In my role as a Security Consultant, I have been on countless appointments at companies that do not have a comprehensive key management plan in place. It’s not really that uncommon of a problem and it can quickly get out of control.

Almost every home and office is secured with a lock and a key. Most people have a key chain to help them keep track of these important symbols of modern society. House keys, office keys, garage keys and several car keys usually rattle around in most people’s pockets or purses.

Even though lock and key mechanisms incorporate many modern security features they are still susceptible to being lost, stolen or copied. Another inherent weakness in lock and keys is that anyone with a key can enter your building any time they want.

Each year, companies spend hundreds of thousands of dollars re-keying buildings because someone lost a set of keys or an employee was fired who did not return a set of building keys?

Do you know how many grand master keys have been issued in your building? Can you reasonably say with confidence that none of your keys have been copied by less than ethical employees? Do you have employee’s entering your office at odd hours? Has your building ever been left unlocked?

If you have experienced any of the preceding issues, perhaps and Electronic Access Control System is the “key”. An Electronic Access Control System can provide you with an effective solution to your key management nightmare while providing a very potent tool in your overall security management plan.

Take back those keys! A properly deployed electronic access control system will allow you to secure your facility and deter crimes by limiting access to authorized personnel and separating public from private areas.

The capabilities of electronic access control systems vary greatly. They range from single door stand alone systems that you program through a keypad, to medium sized computer based systems, to the top of the line “enterprise” systems that have the ability to communicate control thousands of card readers on multiple continents.

Electronic Access Control Systems have some very basic things in common. Each of them will allow you to control who goes where and when in your facility by requiring the presentation of a unique credential at a Card Reader or a PIN pad and they can be set up to provide you with a report of who has entered your building.

There are several manufacturers that provide 1 to 4 door solutions that are programmed through a keypad or a remote software package. Some of the higher end burglar alarm systems can also control access on up to 4 doors.

These smaller systems provide fully controlled access to individuals based on the door, the date and the time. Some of them allow you to hook up a form feed dot matrix printer directly to the controller in order to get reports. Most of these systems are limited to less than 4 doors and a couple of hundred users/credentials.

Many people who use the 1-4 door systems will usually program cards to work 24 hours a day because it can be difficult and time consuming to manage multiple time groups or limit an individual’s access.

That’s not to say that you cannot provide full date and time limited access control with a 1-4 door system, but if your application requires periodic updates and multiple users, you may want to consider a more sophisticated solution. A good application for a 1-4 door system would be a remotely managed multi-tenant building without an on site manager.

Lower to mid range P.C. based solutions can be provided that control access on 1 to 32 doors of access. Systems in this range can provide controlled access to several thousand users. They are a good choice if your intention is to allow keyless entry on a limited number of doors at a single site and run some limited reports.

Most electronic access systems in the low to mid range are Windows based software applications that use MSDE or other off the shelf database software; therefore the reporting features are fairly limited.

In addition, the low to mid range systems have limited abilities to monitor alarms, provide video badging, integrate with 3rd party databases or interface with other systems such as CCTV or Burglar Alarms.

There are literally dozens of manufacturers flooding the small to mid range market and their offerings vary greatly. You would be wise to perform some due diligence and ask for local references from any vendor that you may be considering.

Enterprise Level Access Control Systems occupy the top tier of entry control systems. There are only a handful of manufacturers that can truly call themselves an “Enterprise Level” solution. These highly sophisticated systems are true security management systems that can easily and effectively handle thousands of card readers, hundreds of thousands of cards, and a multitude of workstations spread all across the globe.

An Enterprise Level Solution has integrated single point of entry video badging, seamless integration to CCTV systems and Digital Video Recorders, true real time alarm handling with live on line graphics pages and full blown database solutions like SQL Server or Oracle.

Enterprise Level Access Control systems utilize door processing units or access control panels that can communicate via RS422/485 and TCP/IP Protocol. Enterprise Level Systems are only sold through factory trained and authorized systems integrators who have a proven track record and fully staffed service departments.

If you need an Enterprise Level Access Control System, I highly recommend that you perform your due diligence on both the manufacturer and the security companies that you are considering. Make sure that you choose a reputable Security Company or a Systems Integrator that has a strong computer networking background to perform and support the installation. Ask for several references of projects of a similar size and scope from both the manufacturer and the Systems Integrator. Interview each reference thoroughly before you make a purchasing decision.

You will thank me later!

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