Complex Made Simple

Access Control 101 – Choosing the Right Access Control System

When businesses start looking for access control systems, the choices may be overwhelming. Here's what you need to consider.

You might need support for a versatile portfolio of access control hardware including electronic locks, readers, controllers, etc Security and IT professionals want to migrate to an IP-based access control solution but feel stuck because they have a sizable investment in their existing hardware Choose a provider that offers protection against cyberthreats with end-to-end encrypted communications for software and hardware

By Firas Jadalla, Regional Director for the Middle East, Turkey and Africa (META)

Access control has always been an important part of a security solution. Improvements in electronic access control – including IP and wireless solutions as well as cloud access – have contributed to its continued growth within the overall security sector for several years.

Businesses that seek to install a new electronic access control solution – or migrate to an IP-based system – will find no shortage of products on the market. When shopping for a new access control solution, it’s essential to research the following topics.

The “must haves” of a modern access control system

Expectations for a modern access control solution should be high. Technology has made great advances in access control since the advent of the mechanical brass key and hardwired door hardware. 

Today’s access control systems offer a variety of features and benefits – ease of use, scalability, streamlined solutions, future-proofing, reduced Total Cost of Ownership (TCO), and mobile and cloud-based options, just to name a few. But when evaluating vendors, it’s essential to choose a provider that plays well with others. You can only leverage your existing hardware and infrastructure investment with a new solution that is committed to open architecture and not the limiting traps of proprietary products.

Modernizing your access control should give you the opportunity to integrate all physical security – access control, video surveillance, intrusion detection, communications, etc. – into a unified platform with a single interface which provides much simpler and effective facility monitoring and management.

Read more: Debunking myths about the security of access control systems

When choosing a modern access control solution, it should have a few essential elements:

-Simple to use.

-Secure from end to end to combat cyberthreats and unauthorized access.

-Support for a versatile portfolio of access control hardware including electronic locks, readers, controllers, etc. This includes the capability to work with existing hardware to leverage investment in infrastructure.

-Future proof, as a system that relies on key fobs today might want mobile access tomorrow.

-Efficient multi-site management and monitoring that connects systems and remote sites together seamlessly.

-Scalable to a large number of doors across a network.

-Cloud and mobile solutions that offer end user flexibility and maximize infrastructure.

-Unification with other security systems like video surveillance, intrusion detection, etc.

Migrating to an IP-based access control system

Change is rarely easy, but often necessary. If you have an outdated legacy access control solution – or none at all – it’s time to choose an IP-based system. Networked access control is more secure, easier to manage, offers more customization, and is less expensive than legacy systems.

Oftentimes, security and IT professionals want to migrate to an IP-based access control solution but feel stuck because they have a sizable investment in their existing hardware. You might actually be able to leverage that infrastructure as well as import cardholder data into the new software. There are access control providers that allow you to install new access control software that enables you to upgrade functionality while keeping your existing hardware. Then you can replace aging hardware over time, adding to the system as needs or budgets allow. 

Because migrations are complex in nature, the key to a successful migration is planning. When migrating an existing system to IP, you must take into account the impact that downtime will have on system users. A good integrator will schedule migration downtime during off-peak hours and will have completed pre-migration mapping and testing to avoid unnecessary delays.

The freedom to choose your hardware

The access control world is moving away from proprietary, closed systems that only work with specific manufacturers whose hardware is only compatible with one software platform (their own!). A modern IP-based access control system must be compatible with the wide variety of hardware on the market, and, as we mentioned earlier, also work with older hardware. By supporting the ever-growing collection of open architecture access control modules, readers, controllers, and electronic locks, an access control system safeguards the long-term viability of your access control investment.

Read more: Teen’s Drone hack exposes poor security controls for IoT devices

Cybersecurity and privacy should always be top of mind

The increase in hacking and cyberattacks means your physical security equipment is a potential entry point to your network and critical infrastructure. No access control provider will be able to perfect a product that has no vulnerabilities, but they should have solid protections in place as well as a process that quickly and completely addresses any vulnerability. 

Choose a provider that offers protection against cyberthreats with end-to-end encrypted communications for software and hardware, secure claims-based authentication, as well as digital certificates. Ask about whether the provider conducts regular penetration tests to try and catch vulnerabilities on their own.

Access control credentials are a link to a system that can contain private end user and confidential company data. Insist on a provider that takes the extra steps to achieve industry certifications designed to protect privacy like ISO 27001 and to help you comply with global privacy regulations such as GDPR, and the California Consumer Privacy Act. 

Choose a provider that can offer an easy path to the Cloud when you're ready

Access control is moving to the Cloud. Is your new access control provider on board? Access Control as a Service (ACaaS) makes it easier and more affordable to deploy and maintain an enterprise-class access control system. Always up-to-date with the latest software features and protections, resilient, and secure – an ACaaS solution allows you to focus on securing your employees, visitors, and assets without the hassle of maintenance. An ACaaS solution requires less hardware and less time and commitment from your IT department. Plus, providers might be able to use your existing hardware – controllers, modules, and electronic locks – to securely link to the Cloud.

Read more: One third of MENA businesses don't have a response plan for a cybersecurity hack

Future-proof functionality can help you transition from cardholder to identity management

Access control has evolved into more than just keeping the wrong people out of buildings. That’s why more businesses are starting to manage identities instead of just cardholders. Identities are digital profiles for every person that comes into contact with the organization. These profiles can include many attributes such as company role, pay grade, seniority, qualifications, accreditations, and more.

By using an identity and access management system, an organization can automatically assign employee rights to buildings. This eliminates the resource-draining tasks of requesting and granting permissions while ensuring compliance standards are being met. 

Read more: Native email security systems open doors to vulnerabilities

Access control, video surveillance, intrusion detection – security should be unified

There are many important components of a security system – access control, video surveillance, communications, intrusion detection – and they should all work together seamlessly to provide a comprehensive solution. When choosing a modern IP access control product, it would only be wise to select one that is unified with other security functions. A unified system takes the components of a security solution beyond just being connected. It provides one platform that fully embeds all video surveillance and access control capabilities via one user interface. This maximizes usage of the infrastructure, makes upgrades seamless, and presents unified threat level management. Plus, it’s easier for employees to learn one system.