Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Building Management: 5 Reasons to Use Access Control Systems for Business & Government Security

by Mark Pendergast, Citiguard Managing Director

Building management is one of the top concerns of property managers and building owners looking to increase business security. Multiple interior and exterior doors, the presence of restricted or sensitive areas and heavy traffic all contribute to increased access control issues. Access control security systems can help solve many of these issues and minimise unauthorised entry.

In this article, we'll examine the different access control technologies available to government and businesses, and then we'll take a closer look at how they can help you increase your building security (and save you money, too).

Part I: What Technology can an Access Control System be Comprised of?

Some building managers may think of access control security systems as complicated, expensive electronic networks that are difficult to implement. In reality, they can be tailored to fit many different building sizes, occupancy types, and budgets.

An access control security system allows building management professionals to do more than just control admission to restricted areas. It also keeps electronic records of entries and exits into those areas. Such records help building managers gauge traffic and identify who used a door at any given time. This makes it much easier to answer important security questions such as, “Who was in the building when that incident happened?” and so on.

What access control method is best for you depends on your specific business security needs. Four such methods are detailed below.

Access Control Method #1: Keyless Entry Swipe Cards

These cards bear magnetic strips which contain information about the cardholder. A card reader scans the stripe and allows or denies entry accordingly. The cards are relatively inexpensive, and each user can be given a different unique ID for entrance and exit tracking.

Access Control Method #2: Biometric Scanners

This type of system requires the user to input some type of biological information, in addition to or instead of an access card. The most common types are retinal (eye) and fingerprint scanners. Palmprint scanners or voice activation systems can also be used.

This kind of access control system is more secure than swipe cards – sounds silly to say, but it's quite difficult to forge an eyeball or a hand. The technology for these devices has been advancing and is becoming cheaper to make and install.

Access Control Method #3: Keypad Systems

Users enter an assigned code into a keypad in order to obtain entry into a building or area. Electronic keypads are hard to tamper with, and are reprogrammable in the event that a code needs to be changed. Unique access codes can be given to each user to track entries.

Access Control Method #4: "Smart Cards" or Proxy Card Readers (Proximity Cards)

These are similar to swipe cards, except that the user's information is contained in a microchip rather than a magnetic stripe. These tend to be more secure and less prone to damage than magnetic keyless entry cards.

Both swipe cards and proxy cards have the additional advantage of being able to display a photo and written security credentials, facilitating the work of live security guards to verify identity.

Access Control System Design

An access control security system has several major components. At its core, there is a computerised control centre and a log of each person who is granted access to the building or its parts.

The control centre is linked to entry points throughout the building. These points can include not only doors, but also elevators, turnstiles, parking gates and other barriers. There's no fixed limit to the number of points which can be monitored in this manner.

Here is how the security link works: Barriers at the entry points are outfitted with electronic scanners which serve to verify information entered by the user.

When Information is entered into the scanner (either by swiping an access card or inputting biological information, etc), the reader then relays the information to the control centre. The computer verifies security credentials and grants or denies entry accordingly, with a note in its logs that it did so.

Part II: 5 Reasons Access Control Can Increase Business Security and Government Security

Both governments and mid to large-sized buildings & businesses can benefit greatly from using access control security systems. The five biggest benefits include:

1) Reduced Cost Due to Less Security Guards Needed and Easier Lock Changing

It may be cost prohibitive in large buildings to have security guards monitor every crucial point of entry. From this viewpoint, access control security systems may pay for themselves within a few years or less, while still maintaining security.

Another important aspect of cost reduction for government or business security involves the use of smart cards. Using a swipe card or a proxy card negates the need to change the locks if a key card gets lost, stolen, or is not returned by a dismissed employee. Simply delete that one card from the system and access is prevented, while access for other users is uninterrupted.

Say the unfortunate happens - you run a few warehouses, and have a low level manager who turns out to be a bad hire. He runs off and quits one day without returning his building keys. Now you have to change all the locks... an expensive fix, but it has to be done or you leave yourself open to theft, or perhaps worse.

Compare this to the situation where an electronic access control system was installed. If all he absconded with was a keycard, take 5 minutes and delete his access credentials from the system, forever after denying him access - no locksmith needed. That's real money saved.

2) Ability to Maintain Both Public and “Employees Only” Areas Simultaneously

Many buildings see a mix of daily traffic between public visitors and staff. With access control installed, public visitors are still able to enter, but can be kept from getting past restricted points. Non-staff don't have to feel intimidated by elaborate, overbearing business security systems, and building managers don't have to worry about visitors gaining access to restricted areas.

3) Ability to Record Entries and Exits

Governments and some businesses often need to keep records of who comes and goes. Access control security systems allow them to do so in a manner that is efficient and easily interpreted.

4) Ability to Protect Sensitive Areas

Access control systems allow the user to set various levels of security access. After assigning a keyless entry card to every person who works in a particular building, specific security clearances can then be granted to each cardholder.

For example, one cardholder may be given access only to exterior doorways. Another cardholder can be granted access to both exterior doors plus some or all interior barriers. This allows for building employees to come and go with ease but keeps sensitive areas protected.

Certain situations can also be simpler to handle when access control is installed. In the event of a major security problem, electronic access control facilitates a security lockdown (or security lockout), preventing all access except by those granted high-level clearance. This helps keep the problem contained in the building (or keeps it off the premises).

5) Ensuring Employee Honesty

The true cost of employee dishonesty is difficult to estimate after a breach in business security, which these days is unfortunately much too common. With access control systems implemented in their areas, executives responsible for building management don't have to constantly wonder about employees gaining access to unauthorised areas. This peace of mind, for some execs, may have a monetary value much higher than the cost of the system!

In Conclusion

Access control security systems are relatively simple to monitor and maintain. Properly installed, they are difficult to tamper with and override, creating peace of mind for building managers and tenants. If you're in the business of building management and site security, access control can be a very appropriate option to satisfy your security needs.

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