Access Control Systems – The Basics

Access control systems provide convenient access to authorized people entering your building.

For any company, physical security is a top priority and a well-designed access control system is an effective way to achieve better security. Further, with quality equipment and professional installation, they are easy to use and give you the right balance of safety and convenience.

When selecting an access control system make sure it’s easy to use, it integrates well with your door hardware, and it can easily be managed remotely.

Good access control systems should also send you notifications when there is unusual activity.  For example, if a door is accidentally left open, or if a door is being forced open.  This will result in your security managers taking immediate corrective measures.

Benefits of Access Control Systems

  1. Simplify Management of access to the building.  Issue permanent or temporary digital credentials
  2. Don’t Worry about Misplaced or Stolen Keys. Rekeying doors is $150-$300 a door
  3. Create an Audit Trail of people entering (and exiting) your building
  4. Automatically unlock and lock doors via schedule rather than having staff do this manually
  5. Recieve Notifications via text message or email if a door is forced open, held open, or propped open

Components of Access Control Systems

There are many access control systems on the market and they all consist of the same basic components.

Access credential

This is the electronic version of the “key” that’s presented to the card reader, and after verification, unlocks the door.  Gain access through cards, key fobs, smartphone credentials, or biometric.  Further, you can combine credentials for two-factor authentication.  For Access Control Diagramexample, people entering need to swipe their card and enter a numeric code.

Card Reader

The card reader is the most visible part of the access control system, and mounts on the wall or door frame. It’s main purpose is to read the credential and send the information to the access control panel for verification.

Keypad

Some access control systems also have a keypad and require the user to enter a PIN to open the door. However, PINs are easily transferrable and not as secure as cards, fobs, or other credentials.

Access Management Dashboard

This is a dashboard that your security administrator use to create schedules, manage people, and control doors. In a high security area, you may want to only grant access to a few employees. For example, you can create groups that have access to front door between 8:00am and 5:00pm.  On the other hand, a separate group can exist that has access to the front door 24 hours a day.

Access Control Door HardwareDoor Locks

Electrified door hardware ranges from electric strikes, maglocks, and electric exit devices etc. The type of electrified door hardware is best determined based on the construction of the door.

Always remember to check building and fire codes before locking a door. People need to freely exit a building at any time. 

Access Control Panel

The access panel controls the locks, card readers, and all the devices. When a credential is presented to the card reader, the number is sent to the panel, and compared to a database. The result of a valid credential is “Access Granted” which unlocks the door.

Management Software

The Management Software is the brains access control system.  It resides on a server, appliance, or even on the access control panel for basic systems. The server can be local or in the cloud, depending on the system you choose. 

The Access Control Management Software is the main interface that’s used to program the system.  It stores the database of users, doors, and credentials.

Access Control GuideThis was a very high level overview of Access Control Systems.  If you liked this article, you may want to download our Ultimate Access Control Guide, which explores this topic in more detail.  It includes budget pricing and detail on all the system components. 

You may also want to read about maglocks, which are very useful when you want to control access in two directions (in and out).  On the other hand, this article on electric strikes is useful.  Electric Strikes are the most commong type of electrified door hardware for an access control system.

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2020-06-15T16:26:40-04:00

About the Author:

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At the age of 24, with no experience in the security industry or any money in the bank, Carlo quit his job and started Spotter Security from his parent's basement. Founded in 2004, Spotter grew from a single man operation into a multi-million dollar security system integrator that caters to businessess and construction sites across Canada.