What Are Access Control Systems?
Access control systems refer to a system that is used to electronically restrict admittance to a designated area such as the entrance to a building, admittance to particular areas inside the building and so forth. The system does so as it authenticates and then permits entry once it has verified the individual.
Ideally, the access control systems will limit admittance to a space that is deemed as confidential and provide access to only the individuals who are privileged enough to get into the restricted premises. Access control systems provide you with the peace of mind as only people who have been granted prior permission can access the restricted areas. Typically access control systems consist of three functional elements which are the infrastructure, the administrative management dashboard and finally the user-facing component which includes access cards, badges, and even smartphones. These elements function synchronously to grant or deny access. There are three significant types of access control systems, i.e., Mandatory Access Control (MAC), Discretionary Access Control (DAC), and Role Based Access Control (RBAC).
- Mandatory Access Control (MAC); MAC systems refer to systems that do not allow for the individual resource owners to allow or restrict access in a facility. The access controls are managed by the custodian, and the system will then classify end users based on established security guidelines. This type of access system is popular with organizations that require multilevel security such as the military and hospitals.
- Discretionary Access Control (DAC); found in many business premises, DAC is the more common of the three systems, and it refers to a system where the owner has the sole responsibility of permitting digital or physical access to specific areas within the premise. With the DAC systems, end users have total control over security level settings and permissions granted to other users. While this is the least restrictive system of the three, it has the potential to result in malware intentionally being executed as the permission and security settings granted to users are passed on to other programs.
- Role Based Access Control (RBAC); refers to an access system where the system administrator gives access based on the role of an individual within the organization. It is one of the most sought-after access control systems for both businesses and households as access to restricted areas is defined by an individual’s role/job within the company. This system is stringent and preferred because rather than access being granted to multiple individuals, all the system administrator has to do pick out the specific role and assign access to it.
Choosing an Access Control System:
Access control systems heavily rely on technological advances, a landscape that is morphing rather quickly. Choosing an access control system can be daunting because if it is not done right, it can result in significant compromises being experienced in a premise. The number of access controls systems available in the market doesn’t make it any easier as each system has its weaknesses and strengths. The nature of business is the first step to determining the type of system that would work for your business or premise.
When it comes to deciding on the access control system that would best serve your purpose, there are several other factors that one has to consider. These include but are not limited to;
Security procedures within the company: if a business already has existing processes, it is sensible to choose a system that can be integrated to the current procedures, and if the business is new then the owner can decide on the access control system they would like to implement using a set of guidelines.
The error rate of a system: the rate at which a system experiences errors is important and cannot be ignored. When choosing an access control system to be sure to verify, the false reject rate, the equal error rate, and the false accept rate.
Features of the system: different access control systems have various characteristics, evaluate each as well as its strengths and weaknesses to see which one is aligned with the nature and needs of the business.
The internal and external threats that need to be avoided: Security is the main reason for installing access control systems and the system cannot mitigate internal/external risks then it beats logic to install it.
The number of users on the system: the selected system needs to be able to manage the user traffic without experiencing issues/delays of any kind.
Scalability and integration of the installed system. The selected system should allow room for growth for the business and should be easy to update in case of any digital or technological advances. Aside from giving you excellent long-life service, ideally you require a system that can also be integrated into other existing systems such as the HR database, IT network database and many more.
The cost of the system. Access control systems vary in cost, and your budget determines the kind of system that is within your reach. A good and robust access system is one that supports modern modes of communication like Internet of Things (IoT) and cloud/mobile access.
Availability of help and support: It is essential to ensure that you can efficiently and effectively receive customer service support should you need it. The response timeline of a company is extremely vital and should be a significant consideration for choosing the system. It is critical that the company customer support service is available to you throughout and that the support staff of the said company are transparent, knowledgeable and co-operative.
Anti-passback systems: this refers to a system that allows for exit and entry only after verifying credentials on both instances. Anti-passback systems are ideal for enhanced security since an individual’s credentials cannot be used again if they have already entered or exited the building. The system is an excellent way of avoiding card duplication or passcodes falling into the hands of unauthorized persons.
Advantages of Access Control Systems.
Access control systems have been designed to keep premises secure by mitigating security risks. While not all premises require access control systems those that do enjoy numerous benefits that are directly linked with the existence of a good system. These benefits include:
Increased security: as only approved individuals have access to the premise/ restricted areas, the chances of a security breach occurring are minimized. The fact that access control systems offer varying security levels means that individuals without access are kept out and security can be increased since there are different systems options that range from pin access to biometric access.
Prevention of data breaches: the increased security is not limited to buildings only. Thanks to access control systems, managing information database can be done efficiently and effectively thus preventing data breaches from occurring. A simple password or key card disallows unverified users and computers from accessing files and other confidential information within an organization’s network.
Prevent undetected and unfamiliar persons: Large businesses/ buildings often have high foot traffic, and some individuals can quickly go unnoticed and slip into the premise. Access control systems prevent this from happening by detecting phoneys. Only authorized individuals who have badges embedded with wireless technology or security codes are allowed into the premise. The access control systems provide a history of entry down to the time and location at which an individual gained access into the restricted area. This is ideal for tracking and gathering evidence should there ever be a circumstance such as a burglary or vandalism that would require for the evidence to be produced.
Environment control: Access control systems can save a premise owner time, money and energy as most of the technologically advanced systems can be integrated with pre-existing building systems. A building’s lighting, cooling/heating system can be adjusted and optimized for use depending on which part of the building needs the resources the most at any given time. This is made possible by access control systems which can tell this information by reading through its database and identifying which areas of the building have a larger population occupying it.
Versatility: Access control systems offer versatility in terms of the security hardware that they can be applied to. The systems can be applied to motorized fences, turnstiles, doors, barriers, parking gates and many more. This makes them very versatile as a company/premise can apply multiple levels of security using either single or multiple control access systems. Their versatility also enhances the application of multi-level security/restriction that can be applied based on schedules, devices, and even individual roles.
Ease of management: Access control systems can be easily managed from a single location with a lot of ease. Premises that have multiple locations would benefit from access control systems because individuals accessing the building premises can easily move from one location to the other without experiencing any problems or difficulties. It also makes it easier to identify the source of an incident should it occur and resolve the said incident efficiently. They also take away the cumbersome nature of keys especially since every single door requires its unique key. Imagine if you had to carry ten keys to go through ten locks to get to your destination. Finally, you can set/restrict protocols on access control systems such as allowing access at only specific times of the day or even specific days.
Problematic to duplicate: Physical keys can easily be duplicated, and this makes it easy for individuals with bad intentions to gain access to restricted areas. Access control key cards or pins are not as easy to duplicate, and in case of loss, an individual has to either change their code or cancel the access and replace the lost card. The chances of unauthorized individual gaining access to a restricted area are significantly reduced.
Installing an Access Control System
If the benefits listed above have convinced you about the advantages of access control systems, then you are likely considering purchasing and installing the system. When you buy your access control system, it is crucial that you have the system installed by a professional. It does not matter if the professional is from the company where you purchased the system or is a third-party dealer, the bottom line is that the installation has to be done professionally to avoid amateur mistakes and errors that would cost you a lot of money. You install different control panels for the access points if you so wish, but the majority of systems can host an unlimited number of access points. Ensure that the selected control system can accommodate firmware updates as soon as they are available.
Unless you are a business or premise with less than ten people, keeping the premise secure can pose a bit of a challenge. It is therefore wise to automate access and install access control systems that will not only curb insecurity, but it will also give you peace of mind. There are numerous access control systems available in the market, but you can always ask the company from which you are purchasing the system to provide you with options that allow you to customize the system to your needs. If you are unfamiliar with what best suits you and your premise/business, then conduct your research and consult both with the solution providers and your peers/colleagues who are familiar with access control systems. Most security professionals endorse reviewing your access control systems annually putting into consideration how the access control system served you throughout the year. Review the incidents that may have occurred to determine if any of them can be linked to the system. Once you have reviewed the events, it is possible to tell if the system was at fault and needs replacement or if the organization’s security protocols need some reviewing.
Finally, it is vital that business premises/building owners are mindful of the fact that access control systems do not guarantee security at 100%. While yes, access control systems to enhance security, they are systems like any other and a prone to failure caused by forces within and without the system. Setting security protocols that can be put in place in case the system experiences failure is an excellent way of planning not to fail.