Security is of foremost concern in any establishment. Whether it be a business or a home, making sure that your place is clear of any outside threat is important for anyone to live and work in peace. We rely on access control to secure the places we spend many of our days.
With increasing awareness and preference for privacy, there is no denying that access control will quickly become a key priority in any work or home space. But what is access control exactly? We break down the concept of access control, why it matters, and count the ways access control is applied to modern-day establishments.
What Access Control Is and Why It Matters
Access control is an important part of data management and overall business security. Through physical or digital methods, access control enables property owners to screen those allowed to enter a specific room or area. For businesses, access control confirms or denies a user's entry, impacting their access to company information and resources.
The complexity of access control in an establishment can vary depending on the number of authorized persons and the zones or areas for screening. While different establishments have different purposes for imposing entry restrictions, access control at its core upholds privacy, safety, and area maximization. Here are some of the ways that access control can benefit your establishment or business.
With more technological advancements at our disposal, theft occurrences have also become more sophisticated.Theft can be done right under our noses, and the items stolen can be as tiny as a USB drive. Commercial or residential buildings alike must protect themselves from the rising threat brought about by bringing visitors into the building or the possibility of random passers-by sneaking their way in undetected.
The most common benefit of an access system is that it keeps outsiders away. It must be with the owner's knowledge and full approval should they enter the building. Access systems make executing this rule easier—to gain entry, you must have the right access credentials.
Moreover, access systems with related software allow for flexible changes in degrees of access given to different parties, if at all. Let's say you have a project team for three months. They should be given access to restricted areas, but only until the project's duration. Some access systems can generate valid codes only for a limited period, saving you the time and effort of making keys and getting them back later.
Keeps Access Strictly to Relevant Parties
Restricting access to select areas might sound like a bad thing at the onset. Shouldn't everything be transparent? However, confidentiality is part and parcel of any growing business. Some areas or information should not be accessible to everyone in the company to preserve trade secrets, maintain product integrity, or preserve the customer experience. It also limits the level of risk for insider jobs that lead to a breach of property or information. Access control is key to making sure only those privy to the inner workings of a commercial or residential establishment can enter.
Selective entry is a preventive measure also done for the good of all inhabitants. Some areas must only be accessed by those who are professionally trained to do so. These may contain dangerous or toxic materials that could cause irreversible damage. Imagine if an unsuspecting child could enter an electrical room, or an unaccompanied building guest could stumble upon a factory's production line. These unauthorized entries could risk both the guest and the establishment. By restricting certain sections, access control systems allow all visitors to roam freely within safe zones, giving everyone peace of mind.
Monitors Employee Movements
Many offices encourage employees to work on-site. But despite this, forward-thinking business owners take a hands-off approach to tracking their employees' whereabouts. The mindset is that you’re working professionals—not children—and need less hand-holding on where you have to be.
But to make sure that this baseline requirement is covered, some access control systems come with digital time logs, which record an employee's ins and outs across days, and across the many rooms of the organization. This makes an employee's location transparent at any given point in time. The time stamps can even tell you if someone hasn't reported to work for the past few days. For organizations with staffing in shifts, these controls can also inform you if someone shows up outside their assigned shift or if someone logged in lots of overtime the past week.
For many employees, this sounds like overkill. And on your end, watching over your employees' whereabouts seems like a separate day job. You can program access systems to notify you only when deviations occur, giving everyone much freedom while also keeping you on top of things.
Moreover, there can be wolves in sheep's clothing within your midst—or even as unsuspecting maintenance staff or couriers—so having an added layer of protection in our office or home gives everyone more peace of mind.
Maximizes the Area
In the past, businesses used to segment spaces physically. All related areas must be in one space to manage user flows and differing levels of confidentiality. But nowadays, with the rising costs of real estate, offices have gotten smaller. With less space, businesses are more challenged to optimize their available areas to provide effective and efficient workspaces relevant to each member.
Access controls help owners maximize their available space by creating access zones. These zones could be open for all employees or made private for the access of select users. The access controls may also vary per role or user so that each user can have a unique set of access zones across the same office. This gives more flexibility in laying outrooms; gone are the days when rooms had to be rearranged just because the boss needed everything nearby. Instead, rooms can be arranged to make for the most operationally efficient layout.
Moreover, access controls linked internally through a local network can be of great use in granting one access across office rooms or buildings. Instead of asking for permission for each entry and exit, it only takes one permission granted to open up a new segment when needed.
Types of Access Control
The concept of access control has spanned varying degrees of technological advancement. We lay down five types of access control, from the manual to the modern, and learn about their pros and cons.
Physical Access Control
Physical barriers are the simplest way to keep unwanted elements out, from turnstiles in the train station, barriers to stop cars at toll gates, to revolving doors in malls and office buildings. Before modern technology, these barriers played a simple yet important role in setting boundaries.
A sophisticated software system is of little use if it is not integrated with the establishment's physical space. Therefore, it is important to consider the room layout to create a truly secure space. But likewise, physical barriers are sorely lacking in any form of screening process for entry or exit. Simply put, if you can open a door, you have access.
Manual Access Control
Manual access control is a level up from physical access control. Instead of leaving doors and access points unattended, these are complemented with staff such as doormen, stewards, or security guards. These people secure the venue by aiding in the decision-making process of allowing entry. This is done by identifying individuals that wish to enter the premises and allowing them entry only after fulfilling specific criteria—like how movie-goers are allowed to go inside the theater after showing the staff their valid tickets. This is usually practiced in public venues with low-risk security. These areas are high-traffic and have little time to get information from individuals beforehand.
Mechanical Access Control
This type of access control uses simple technology to ensure venue security. An excellent example of this would be the usual lock and key combination. The venue is equipped with a lock, and only those with the corresponding key are granted access. This setup is great for establishments that do not have dedicated manpower, such as houses and garages. It is a lower-cost option to ensure security in your venue, but it also means a greater risk of the gadget being physically broken by intruders. Keys can also get misplaced, posing a security risk for insiders entering undetected.
Electronic Access Control
An electronic access system is a perfect option for those with advanced security requirements. The electronic access system comes with many complex parts. Instead of bulky keys which are costly to replace, an access card or chip is tapped against a reader, and the reader interprets if the user is authorized to pass through.
The beauty of electronic access keys is that they can act as a personal profile. The reader grants entry and keeps track of who's gone in or out of the room for surveillance purposes. Having a complex key also allows the access system to generate a unique set of access codes per individual and can be changed depending on the following criteria.
This criterion assesses if your job function requires access to a certain room. This criterion is very popular for business owners as it can group access codes depending on the type of teams you have on board. It also cuts down the time to think of the relevant access codes per individual: have one template per team and cascade to the rest.
Rule-based access uses circumstances standard for all employees as criteria for access. For example, an office could grant access to employees from 9-5 on weekdays but remain strictly closed on weeknights and weekends. This ensures that no one sneaks in to take something from the office after hours. You can also remove selective access based on events like lifting access control during a house party and arming the system again once it ends.
Identity-based access is the most unique as it uses data specific to the individual—their biometric data. Instead of bringing a keycard around, your fingerprint or eyes are used as the key for the reader to confirm you are who you say you are. This is great for sections with high-level security where access should not be transferable across individuals.
These criteria can be applied to two types of electronic access systems, such as:
Standalone systems are the simpler form of access controls for single access points. Permissions are logged straight to the standalone system and require few connections with other machines. However, some brands are modular, giving enough flexibility to expand onto a bigger access network. An easy example of a standalone system is the electronic door lock at home.
Online systems are great for systems where there is high use and high access. Think of all the times you've gone in and out of meeting rooms at work. Because of the frequency of these entries, data is wired and connected to the host server. Due to the complex connections, online access systems can achieve high-security setups and real-time validation. These can also be connected to other alarm systems such as the fire alarm, elevator controls, etc.
Mechatronic Access Control
The best of both worlds, mechatronic access control systems combine electronic and mechanical strengths to beef up the security of your establishment. The process starts with an access key being read through an online reader, and once confirmed, the mechanical lock will proceed to unlock the door for entry. This is commonly used in hotel doors or private residential buildings.
Whatever purpose you’re using the space for, security is one of the fundamental aspects that must be done excellently. There are no take backs in a breach of security, and as such, be sure to know your security needs and match this with the access control tool that best fits you.