Ultimate Guide to Door Entry & Access Control
The ultimate guide to door entry & access control. Learn about the advantages and disadvantages of stand-alone, audio, video & integrated alarm systems, as well as the installation & maintenance considerations.
- What are Door Entry & Access Control Systems?
- Why is Door Entry & Access Control Important?
- Types of Door Entry & Access Control Systems
- Installation & Maintenance of Your Access Control System
- What are the Data Security Considerations?
- Which Access Control System is Right for Me?
- Summary of Door Entry & Access Control
What are Door Entry & Access Control Systems?
Door entry and access control systems are security solutions designed to manage entry to a building, facility, or designated area. Access control systems have the primary purpose of ensuring only authorised individuals are granted access to a space.
There are four main types of access control system: stand-alone, audio, video and integrated. These different systems vary in complexity and can either be monitored centrally, remotely or require no surveillance at all.
Choosing the appropriate access control system is dependent on the premises and timeframe that an entry management system is required.
Premises such as offices, car parks, warehouses, storage facilities and apartment complexes are all spaces which can benefit from the security of access control, either on a temporary or permanent basis.
Why is Door Entry & Access Control Important?
Door entry and access control systems are an essential component of many security strategies. These systems provide three crucial benefits: security reinforcement, surveillance enhancement, and effective deterrence.
The primary importance of access control systems is in their ability to significantly boost the security of a site. By regulating and restricting access, these systems provide an effective barrier against unauthorised users gaining access.
Increased security is vital in safeguarding sensitive areas, confidential information, and valuable assets. Whether it’s a corporate environment guarding protected data, or a residential complex ensuring the safety of its residents, access control serves as the initial layer of defence against potential security breaches.
When combined with surveillance technologies, such as cameras and audio software, access control systems can also increase surveillance capabilities.
A key benefit of amalgamating access systems with image and audio capture, is the ability to create a comprehensive record of entry events. This record-keeping can be invaluable in situations such as post-incident analysis, investigations, and for informed decision-making.
Equally significant is the impact of access systems as a deterrent.
The presence of access measures can be a discouragement from attempting to gain unauthorised entry. Intruders are more inclined to avoid locations equipped with robust security systems, opting for easier targets.
This deterrence plays a pivotal role in curbing unwanted activities, ranging from minor trespassing to major security breaches.
Types of Door Entry & Access Control Systems
Depending on the security needs, timeframes, staffing and the type of premises, different entry management solutions are required.
What are Stand-Alone Access Control Systems?
A stand-alone access control system uses access credentials to authenticate identity. Access credentials come in the form of proximity cards, key fobs, PIN codes, or even biometric data (like fingerprints).
As indicated in the name, ‘stand-alone’ means that this system functions without centralised or networked management. A stand-alone system is placed at the entry point and grants or denies access based on information stored locally.
Advantages of Stand-Alone Access Control
Stand-alone systems excel in simplicity. They are fitted directly onto the access point and require uncomplicated authentication methods, making them incredibly user-friendly. This simple process makes them accessible even to those with minimal technical expertise.
Stand-alone access systems also boast a minimalistic setup. They contain fewer components compared to their more complex counterparts and don’t rely on a network connection. These characteristics not only simplify installation, but also reduce maintenance needs.
Detachment from network connectivity is a multifaceted benefit. This independence also reduces the need for elaborate cybersecurity measures and can be used in areas with a poor network connection.
Among the advantages of stand-alone access control systems, cost-effectiveness stands out. The simplicity of installation and maintenance means lower costs. For businesses or individuals seeking a security solution that doesn’t strain budgets, stand-alone systems are a standout choice.
For smaller premises, managing access is remarkably straightforward with a stand-alone system. Administrators can effortlessly grant or revoke access permissions directly at the entry point.
Finally, stand-alone access control systems are inherently scalable. As the need arises, you can seamlessly extend to additional entry points, without significant complexity. This adaptability makes them an excellent long-term solution that evolves with your security requirements.
Disadvantages of Stand-Alone Access Control
One of the drawbacks of stand-alone systems is their lack of audio and visual identification features. Without integrated cameras or audio detection, these systems are unable to provide identification outside of access credentials.
Unlike other access control systems, stand-alone lacks centralised or remote access. This can make managing access events across multiple entry points difficult, especially in larger or multi-site environments. Further to this, as data is stored locally, analysing and reporting on access patterns can also pose a challenge.
Without a network connection, stand-alone systems can experience power outages or technical failures and administrators will not be notified. This can potentially leave access points unsecured. Therefore, vigilance is required to ensure consistent power supply and functionality.
Although easily scalable, stand-alone access control systems can become problematic when managing many entry points. Administration, coordination and management needs increase with the number entry points. Plus, any alterations to access rights must be manually updated at each individual entry point, making it time-consuming and prone to human error on larger sites.
Due to the reliance on access credentials, stand-alone systems can be vulnerable to unauthorised access through sharing of credentials and tailgating (when an unauthorised person follows an authorised person into a secured area). Therefore, authorised individuals must be entrusted to ensure security is maintained.
What are Audio Entry Systems?
An audio access control system establishes a direct communication link between an entry point and a central or remote location, usually using a telephone-based setup.
Individuals seeking access can audibly identify themselves to the user, enabling verification before entry. This system often includes a button for remotely unlocking the access point.
Advantages of Audio Entry Systems
The key difference between audio and stand-alone systems is the ability for two-way communication. This enables direct interaction between the person seeking access and the control point, allowing gatekeepers to confidently verify those requesting access, and provide an immediate response.
Two-way communication is particularly beneficial for ad hoc access provisioning. Temporary or one-time access can be granted easily and remotely, catering to dynamic security needs.
The physical conditions of the entry point can also make audio systems a more beneficial option. Poor visibility at the entry point can mean that audio systems are favoured over video based access management.
Audio access control systems are centrally controlled, allowing administrators to manage access requests and permissions from a single or remote location. This simplifies management and enhances efficiency, which is especially important in larger facilities.
Centralised security solutions also allow for real-time tracking of access events. Meaning you are able to compile a record of who accessed a location and when, aiding in security management and incident investigations.
Audio solutions can also alleviate privacy concerns associated with image capture. Depending on the context of the premises, using voice verification may be preferable to recorded images.
Disadvantages of Audio Entry Systems
The absence of image capture means audio access control systems only offer limited surveillance capabilities. The lack of visual identification restricts the information that can be gathered about the person requesting access. This can make audio systems more susceptible to tailgating or impersonation in comparison to video entry management systems.
Entry points with loud background noise can compromise the system’s usability. Accessibility is another important consideration – poor sound quality can make using this system problematic for those with hearing impairments.
Operation of audio access control places the gatekeeping responsibility on users. Therefore, security is reliant on users being attentive when granting access. Plus, in the absence of continuous monitoring, delays in granting access can occur.
Audio systems depend on network connectivity for communication. Consequently, audio systems are unsuitable areas with a poor connection. This reliance on network functionality also necessitates cybersecurity measures to protect against potential breaches.
What are Video Entry Systems?
A video entry system integrates a camera into the access control system.
Users are able to visually and audibly identify individuals seeking entry in real-time.
Similarly to audio, video access control systems can be monitored, and access can be granted either centrally or remotely.
Advantages of Video Entry Systems
Image capture is the most notable addition compared to audio access control systems. The dual-layered identification enhances accuracy and security, and provides added user confidence in the system.
Live video footage allows for surveillance capabilities by recording events at the entry point. This provides the premises with a valuable resource in the situation of incident analysis or investigation.
Unlike audio and stand-alone, video entry systems mitigate the risks associated with shared access and tailgating. The visual component provides an additional layer of verification, minimising the chances of unauthorised entry.
Surveillance and image capture act as a deterrent against potential intruders. The awareness of being visually monitored can discourage unauthorised access attempts, enhancing the security of the premises.
Video access control has the potential to integrate with existing audio and intercom systems. This scalability means that surveillance capabilities can be added to a current security system, to align with evolving security needs.
Similar to audio entry management, video systems can be centrally controlled, and share similar advantages in this area: efficient real-time tracking, ad hoc access capabilities and remote accessibility.
Disadvantages of Video Entry Systems
Despite added advantages in comparison to other security solutions, video access control does share some limitations with audio systems.
Similar to audio entry systems, video solutions are reliant on a network connection, so also require a stable network connection and cybersecurity measures. Video access control also requires users to grant entry, which relies on user vigilance and consistent monitoring.
Video entry management systems can face limitations in areas with poor visibility or low light conditions. Depending on the level of compromise on image quality, the video feature may become largely redundant. Additionally, if visual quality is poor, users with sight difficulties may face challenges in verifying individuals.
Compared to stand-alone or audio-only systems, video entry management can be more expensive to implement. The inclusion of cameras and the necessary hardware increases upfront costs, making them less cost-effective in budget-sensitive scenarios.
What are Integrated Access Control Systems?
An integrated access control system has the capability to merge audio, video, and intercom functionalities into one entry management system.
Integrated access control can also combine with other aspects of a security strategy in a centralised hub, connecting with features such as site CCTV and intruder alarms.
An example of an integrated system could be a shared office: entry points covered as part of wider CCTV strategy, a stand-alone access control system, and intercom functionality at the entry point.
Advantages of Integrated Access Control
Depending on the security elements that are being combined, there are varying benefits of integrated systems.
This customizable approach can provide holistic security coverage, allowing you to double down on the advantages and mitigate the drawbacks of different security features.
Using the example of a shared office space, a stand-alone system makes the office easily accessible for employees with an authorised fob, the intercom system provides ad hoc visitor access, and CCTV provides a visual log of entry in the case of an incident.
The holistic approach provided by an integrated access control system means different features are able to come together to form a cohesive, multi-layer strategy that aligns with the practical and security needs of the premises.
Disadvantages of Integrated Access Control Systems
Integrating multiple security systems with an access control solution can be complex and costly. Besides the initial investment in hardware and software, there may be additional expenses associated with customization, compatibility testing, and ongoing maintenance. This can strain budgets, particularly for smaller organisations.
The increased complexity of integrated systems may also necessitate training for the users responsible for operation and maintenance, incurring additional costs and time commitments.
When integrating different systems, there can be compatibility issues, either between providers or system generations. Each system may use different hardware or software, making it challenging to ensure a seamless integration between them.
As integrated systems grow in complexity, scalability can become an issue. Adding new access points or expanding the system with more security features may require extensive reconfiguration and testing.
Installation & Maintenance of Your Access Control System
The installation of access control systems varies significantly depending on the system being installed.
Stand-alone systems have the simplest installation. This is because they have fewer components and can be installed directly onto the access point. Additionally, with stand-alone systems, you don’t need to lay cables to connect the device to the internet.
Audio, video and integrated access control systems require a much more intricate and complex set up. With the presence of microphones and cameras there are more components to these systems. They also require wiring to connect them to a centralised hub.
All access control systems require regular inspections. Checking for things such as wear and tear, signs of damage or tampering, power and network connection stability, testing for any issues and cleaning any readers, scanners, cameras and microphones.
If your security system is connected to a network, then it is likely to also have software that needs updating for the latest security features and vulnerability protection.
Maintenance can also be a great opportunity to back up any data stored either at the entry point or on the centralised hub. Copy access logs, user credentials and surveillance footage into a separate secured location in case of system failure.
Finally, especially in larger or frequently changing premises, maintenance is a good time to review the access data and permissions. Check that access patterns are what you’d expect and that user permissions are up to date.
What Are the Data Security Considerations?
It’s important to keep your security system’s data secure to both protect your premises and comply with data protection policies.
You should stay up to date with data protection and data handling laws and ensure you have a valid data retention policy in place. To ensure you are complying with all the relevant policies and your system is protected from vulnerabilities, it is also best practice to carry out regular security audits.
Regularly checking access points for tampering is also an essential part of routine security checks. This ensures that the only data being captured at the entry point is going through your data security protocols.
Access control systems often have multiple administrators. These users could be the source of a potential data breach. To keep any sensitive data safe, you should ensure strong authentication is required to access the system, apply differing levels of access dependent on user needs, and organise adequate training for administrators.
For access control systems with a network connection, there are various steps you need to take to keep data secure from cyber threats. You should encrypt sensitive data, such as user credentials and access logs, keep all software up to date, complete regular backups with separate storage, and if accessing your security system remotely, ensure you have a secure connection, such as through a VPN.
Lastly, if you’re using a video access control system, there are some surveillance system legal obligations that should also be considered.
Which Access Control System is Right for Me?
Multiple considerations are needed when deciding which access control system is right for your specific premises.
First up, you need to consider your premises’ security needs. Key to this is the value of the assets you’re protecting and the potential risks. If you’re protecting expensive machinery, or highly sensitive data, more thorough security solutions are suitable.
Access requirements are also important. Think about the purpose of controlling access, the number of users, access change frequency and visitor access requirements. For example, if you have lots of visitors entering your premises, a monitored system would work well. However, if you have a high frequency of authorised users, manually granting access could become cumbersome, so a stand-alone or integrated system would work more efficiently.
The level of monitoring that you could reasonably designate to your security system is a core factor. Considering who is monitoring the system, accessibility concerns and the level of training available may dictate whether a monitored system is appropriate.
Physical features of your premises are often a consideration left out. However, the accessibility of the premises for installation and maintenance, current security systems, light levels, background noise, power supply and network connection are all key for choosing the best access control system.
If your premises contain or are located near a highly sensitive area, such as government buildings or schools, it’s important to research the data security and image capture policy in that context.
Lastly, scalability is an important factor. Spending time thinking about the current system in place, potential future upgrades, integration needs, business size and business growth could save you some headaches if you need to make alterations at a later date.
In an era where security is paramount, door entry and access control systems are essential elements of every security strategy. These systems serve to control access, ensuring the safety of individuals and the protection of valuable assets.
All access control systems have varying benefits and limitations that need to be weighed up to help you choose the right one for your site.
Installation and maintenance of these systems can vary in complexity, but effectively managing this can provide you with a reliable system with optimal operation.
From the simplicity of stand-alone access control systems to the holistic integrated security solutions, the diversity of options allows you to tailor your security strategy to your premises.
In our digital age, data security should be a priority when implementing any security strategy. Keeping up to date with policy can help you safeguard sensitive information and keep your premises compliant.
For further advice on choosing the right door entry or access control solution for your premises, get in touch with our experienced team at Kestrel Electronic Security.