Regardless of its size, security is paramount for any business. Whether you have to protect the safety of your employees or inventory or work with expensive assets or confidential information, you can’t risk compromises and put thousands or even millions of dollars on the line.
Gone are the times when you have to worry about cutting keys that could be lost or retrieving them if an employee leaves the company. Enter access control systems. These systems offer a reliable and efficient security solution with easy management, real-time activity tracking and enhanced security measures.
If you are unsure whether this is right for your business, this blog will look at the benefits of an electronic access control system.
What Is an Access Control System and How Does It Work?
Let’s first look at the purpose of an access control system. Access control systems grant and restrict gate access to a room, specific area, or building. Users must present credentials to access an area, such as a keycard, fob, an app or even biometrics. This ensures that only authorized individuals or entities are granted access while preventing unauthorized or unwanted access. Access control systems can be found in many residential, commercial and industrial environments.
An access control system comprises various components that regulate and manage access to a physical or digital environment. These components include access cards and credentials, card readers and access points, control panels and servers, and software and databases.
Access Cards and Credentials
Access cards are physical or digital devices that serve as a form of identification. Common types include keycards, key fobs, smart cards, and mobile phone-based credentials. These credentials are the digital or biometric information associated with a user, such as PIN codes, fingerprints, or retina scans. Both cards and credentials are issued to authorized individuals and are used to authenticate users during the access control.
Card Readers and Access Points
Card readers are devices that interact with access cards and credentials and capture and verify the user’s information to gain access to the area. They can be installed at any entry point, like doors, gates, turnstiles, or elevators. These card readers typically are connected to access points, which are the physical locations the user is trying to gain access to, and access is granted or denied based on the information received from the card reader.
Control Panels and Servers
The central processing unit of an access control system is called a control panel. They manage the communication between card readers, access points, and the server. They often make real-time access decisions by verifying user credentials and sending access requests to the server for further validation. These servers form the system’s backbone and store user data, access policies, and event logs.
Software and Databases
All-access control systems use software to configure and manage the system. It provides a user interface for administrators to define access policies, add or remove users, and monitor system events. The user information, access rights, and event logs are stored in databases that allow for quick data retrieval during access control operations and for generating audit trails. You can integrate the access control software with other security systems, such as video surveillance or alarm systems, to provide an even more comprehensive security solution.
The working principle of access control systems
Generally, access control systems operate based on a well-defined set of principles to ensure the security and integrity of a physical or digital environment. These principles include authentication, authorization, access monitoring and auditing. Additionally, access control systems possess vital features such as role-based access control (RBAC), two-factor authentication (2FA), biometric authentication, and integration capabilities.
Authentication is the process of verifying the identity of an individual seeking access. It ensures that the user is who they claim to be. Standard authentication methods include something the user knows (like a password or PIN), something the user has (such as an access card or mobile app), or something the user is (biometric traits like fingerprints or facial recognition). Access control systems require users to provide valid authentication credentials before proceeding to the next step.
Authorization follows authentication and determines what actions or resources an authenticated user can access. Generally, access control systems use predefined access policies, permissions, and roles to make authorization decisions to ensure that users are only allowed access to the areas or data that align with their roles and responsibilities.
Access Monitoring and Auditing
Access control systems continuously monitor and record access events in logs containing details of who accessed what, when, and whether access was granted or denied. This monitoring and auditing help identify security breaches, suspicious activities, or policy violations, providing accountability and supporting investigations.
Key Features of Access Control Systems
Role-Based Access Control (RBAC)
RBAC simplifies access control by assigning permissions to roles rather than individual users. Users are assigned roles based on their job responsibilities, and access is granted or denied according to these roles. RBAC helps streamline access management and enhances security by reducing the complexity of access control.
Two-Factor Authentication (2FA)
To add an extra layer of security, 2FA requires users to provide two forms of authentication, typically something they know (e.g., a password) and something they have (e.g., an access card or mobile device). This makes it more challenging for unauthorized users to gain access even if they have one of the authentication factors. This is a common authentication method for online access to programs, databases and more.
If you want to take security further, biometric authentication uses individuals’ unique physical or behavioural traits, such as fingerprints, retinas, facial features, or voice patterns, for authentication. Biometrics provide a high level of security and are difficult to forge or replicate.
Access control systems can integrate with other security systems, such as video surveillance, alarm systems, and visitor management systems, enhancing overall security by providing a comprehensive view of security events and enabling automated responses to specific situations.
Who Uses Access Control Systems?
If you are now asking yourself which industries could benefit from an access control system, the answer is all of them. Access control systems are used in various businesses and organizations, from businesses and residences to governmental and public facilities.
Businesses and Organizations
You can find access control systems in many medium to large businesses and organizations, giving them the flexibility and security to manage even a large workforce. These days, they provide security to office complexes, manufacturing facilities, retail stores and healthcare institutions.
Access control systems have quickly become popular for apartment buildings and gated communities. They make managing the access tenants easy and secure, removing the hassle of making and distributing keys and retrieving them upon moving out.
Government and Public Facilities
Due to their ability to set up access hierarchies for specific zones and areas, access control systems are critical in ensuring the security and integrity of government and public facilities. These systems are extensively employed in government buildings, courthouses, municipal offices, and public facilities such as airports and transportation hubs. They help manage access to restricted areas, ensuring only authorized personnel can enter sensitive locations.
Government agencies use access control systems to protect classified information, secure critical infrastructure, and maintain the confidentiality of government operations. In public facilities, these systems enhance safety by regulating access to secure zones, monitoring visitor movements, and providing real-time visibility into who is on the premises.
Additionally, access control systems contribute to emergency preparedness and response by allowing for lockdown procedures and providing crucial data for evacuation planning.
Critical infrastructure protection
Due to their stringent authentication and authorization protocols, access control systems play a vital role in critical infrastructure protection by fortifying the security of essential facilities such as power plants, water treatment plants, transportation hubs, and communication networks.
These systems help safeguard against potential threats and vulnerabilities by limiting access to authorized personnel only. Access control systems ensure that individuals with the necessary credentials can enter critical infrastructure locations while preventing unauthorized entry or tampering. In the event of a security breach or emergency, access control systems also facilitate rapid lockdown procedures and provide real-time data for response teams, enhancing overall safety.
Their ability to monitor and audit access events contributes to the early detection of suspicious activities and supports the prevention of potential threats, ultimately strengthening the protection of critical infrastructure and underlining the importance of access control in security.
What Are the Benefits of Access Control Systems?
Access control systems come with various benefits that make them a popular choice.
Enhanced Security and Improved Safety
One of the most significant benefits of access control systems is their enhanced security. They ensure that only authorized personnel enter restricted areas to protect sensitive information or valuable assets. This deters intruders and unauthorized people from accessing areas outside their security clearance.
It also allows businesses and organizations to set up efficient lockdown capabilities as they can effectively cut all access from a centralized control panel. They also can be integrated into existing fire and alarm systems for additional efficiency.
Access control systems are convenient for users and administrators as they create a “set it and forget it” environment where the access levels are set and only have to be adjusted in case of changes without needing different or additional keys.
The elimination of physical keys is one of the most significant advantages of an access control system. Traditional keys pose a security risk because if a keyholder loses their key, you may have to change all locks this key had access to to maintain the security of the building. Access cards, fobs, or other types of credentials allow for customized access levels and quick and easy adjustments. You can even set up access for specific persons on certain days and times, giving you complete control.
Activity Monitoring and Audit Trails
An access control system also allows for real-time tracking of access events. This allows for detailed reports of all comings and goings, which can be worth a lot in the case of a security incident. You can see who swiped their card to access an area at a specific time, making investigations and ensuring compliance a breeze.
The centralized control panel enables you to add and remove users easily, regardless of the company’s size and over multiple locations. You don’t have to worry about getting additional keys cut and distributed but can just issue access cards and then program them per the individual’s responsibilities and clearance.
You can even integrate the access system into other systems, such as timekeeping and payroll, to record the time worked, creating synergies.
Time and Attendance Management
Many companies connect access cards with time clocks, so the employee “swipes in” at the beginning of the workday and out at the end, recording their employee hours to the second. This allows the control access system to be integrated into a payroll system, reducing the risk of time theft and increasing productivity while reducing wasted money.
The elimination of keys will dramatically reduce expenses. Depending on how many restricted areas you have, this can mean a lot of locks and even more keys, not even talking about the hassle of managing physical keys. It also eliminates the risk of duplication, preventing unauthorized access. In turn, this also can reduce the risk of theft or vandalism, increasing your security and potentially even lowering insurance premiums. Some insurance companies will consider modern control access systems when calculating your premiums.
Remote Access Control
With a traditional key, you must go to the location of a potential problem; a system will give you access from anywhere. You can check from a centralized location if there is an issue with access and fix it remotely. This is especially useful in the case of a security breach or threat, as you can instantly restrict access remotely and either prevent or contain the problem.
Some systems even allow mobile app integration, giving you access to your system from literally anywhere.
Compliance and Reporting
Depending on the industry you are operating in, you may be subject to regulatory requirements. These systems maintain meticulous records of access events, including who accessed what, when, and for how long. Such detailed logging ensures adherence to regulatory requirements by providing transparency into access activities, which is crucial for demonstrating compliance with data protection laws, industry standards, and internal policies.
Access control systems facilitate auditing by generating comprehensive reports that can be easily accessed and analyzed. These reports are instrumental in identifying potential security breaches, unauthorized access attempts, or policy violations, enabling swift corrective actions. Moreover, compliance mandates often necessitate the implementation of specific access controls, and these systems provide a means to enforce and document these measures.
Access Control System can take your business’ security to the next level by increasing safety and convenience, being seamlessly scalable, allowing you to integrate it into other systems, such as payroll, and saving money.
With data and asset security at an all-time high, access control systems have become integral to modern security. If you are a business or organization looking to upgrade your security systems, consider all the benefits of an access control system.
Cam Technology is the premier security provider in the GTA, creating innovative security solutions for all kinds of structure types and requirements. Equipped with expertise and intimate knowledge of modern security systems, our experts are dedicated to working with you to find the perfect security solution for your business.