June 17th, 2019 7:30 am

3 Components of Access Control for Your Office

card access control systemsDo you need an access control system? Well, if protecting your employees, your physical assets, and your data is an important part of your business operations, then yes. There are three types of access control that comprise a complete physical security system.

Security starts at the door to ensure your buildings and employees remain safe. Access control in network security is also important and will be a topic in a future blog. Today is all about physical security, such as card access control systems.

Physical Access Control Systems

Physical access control is all about who is allowed to enter or exit, where they are allowed to enter or exit, and when. Think of the locks in your home: you have the exterior locks on your doors and windows, and some rooms, like the bathroom, have locks. These days, mechanical key locks aren’t the only way to lock and unlock doors—door access cards, biometrics (i.e. fingerprint access) add much higher levels of security through electronic access control, which grant access based on the credential presented. When access is granted, the door is unlocked for a predetermined time and the transaction is recorded. When access is refused, the door remains locked and the attempted access is recorded. The system will also monitor the door and alarm if the door is forced open or held open too long after being unlocked.

Access control points can be doors, turnstiles, parking gates, elevators, or internal office doors. Access can rely on users credentials, biometric fingerprints, face, card readers, and pin on.

That explanation is very high-level, and I could go on in more detail. However, what I really want to discuss today are the three types of access control so that when you call your security professional, you know what the purpose of each component is.

Components of access control are:

1. User-facing: access cards, card reader, and access control keypad

2. Admin Facing: access management dashboard, integrations, or API

3. Infrastructure: electric door lock hardware, access control panel, and access control servers

1. User-facing

When most people think of access control, they are envisioning the user-facing systems— access cards, card readers, access control keypads.

ID badges, smartphone apps, or key fobs are called credentials because they contain the data that tells the reader what level of access, or permission, the person has. Access control cards are typically proximity cards that held two to six inches in front of the card reader. The benefit of credentials is they are personalized. That means any unlock event can be traced back to the person associated with it. the card readers are mounted on a wall next to the door. It reads the data and sends a request to the server to unlock the door. Some access control systems use keypads that require a PIN or biometrics instead of a card or fob.

2. Admin Facing

Most of the actual access control happens on the admin-facing side. First is the management dashboard, or portal, where you set the parameters of who is allowed to access the premises (or specific areas of the building) and under which circumstances. The management dashboard is often cloud based.

The system also requires a way to provision access, such as a card-programming device. In some systems, it’s possible to automate the provisioning (creating and deleting access) by connecting the access dashboard to the company employee directory. When a new hire shows up in the system, access is automatically provisioned via an API or integrating-database service. The complexity of the system will depend on the levels of permissions you need or want to grant.

3. Infrastructure

The Infrastructure is the electric door lock hardware, access control panel, and access control servers.

The electric door lock hardware is, you probably guessed it, electronic locks. They are either fail safe (they lock when supplied with power) or fail secure (they unlock when they supplied with power). Which type to use depends on the area being secured. For example, entry doors need fail-safe locks because people to be able to exit at any time, even in the event of a power outage. IT rooms call for fail secure because they need to remain locked at all times, even in the case of emergencies.

All of the locks are wired to the access control panel or an intelligent controller. For that reason, it is typically installed in the IT room or electrical closet. When a person presents a valid credential at the door card reader, the panel receives its request to unlock a specific relay connected to the specific door wire.

Every access control system needs to store the permissions on a secure server, whether local or in the cloud. This server is the brain, making the decision whether to permit access based on the credential presented. The server also tracks and records activity and events regarding access, allowing administrators to pull reports of past data events for a given time period.

One piece of the infrastructure part we often see missing in a plan is the cabling. Cables are a critical part of access control, and if they are not installed properly (according to a well-crafted plan) can prove very expensive. (see “Getting a new office: When to think about network cabling” for more on this topic).

What now? Your card access control systems

We offer a range of state-of-the-art access control system design and installation services for your business or office building using advanced analog and IP-based technologies. We work directly with you to evaluate your company’s unique security needs and develop a comprehensive, customized security solution tailored to your organization.

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