Security is an important priority for organizations of all sizes and industries. If you work with pricey equipment or confidential data, safeguarding your company’s assets is crucial for success. Whether your employee roster has 10 people or 10,000 people on it, an access control system can facilitate their needs – and deny access to people who aren’t on the list.
Access control systems can save you money, making access easier for your employees, and secure your workplace. Whether you are an administrator or a business owner, read our guide to answer any questions you might have about access systems.
Access control is a method of security that can regulate who views or uses resources – thus, minimizing the potential risk of a business. There are two primary types of systems: logical and physical.
Physical access control systems limit people’s access to buildings, rooms, campuses, and other real areas. On the other hand, logical access control systems limit connections to system files, data, and computer networks.
Many organizations use e-systems that give or restrict access, dependent on whether the user has proper credentials. Some of these systems have card readers, auditing functions, access control panels to restrict entry, and even lockdown and alarm capabilities.
Access control systems authorize and authenticate users by evaluating credentials such as passwords, PINs, security tokens, and biometric scans – among others. Often, systems incorporate multi-factor authentication (MFA), which needs 2+ authentication factors.
Watch the video
Physical access control uses a set of policies to control who can enter a physical area. Some real-world kinds of physical access control include:
Logical (or informational) access control tools are used to restrict access to data and software. Some examples are:
Mechanical keys are the most rudimentary physical access control method – and many smaller companies use them. However, mechanical keys have limitations, especially as an organization grows. Here are the disadvantages that come with using keys instead of an access control system.
Any physical or logical access control system has five main parts:
A company may use an electronic system that uses access card readers, user credentials, auditing, and reporting, or an intercom. Or, it may use biometrics to authenticate a person’s identity and compare that to its integrated set of access policies.
Another solution may use MFA, where a user needs to be something (biometrics), know something (a password), and have something (a 2FA SMS authentication code).
Generally, access control solutions work by identifying a user, verifying that they are who they say they are, authorizing that they actually have access to the resource or location, and then associating their actions with their username or IP address for auditing purposes.
Access control management systems increase their convenience and reliability by combining various technologies. Here are some components they may have:
Access control systems must communicate with external security devices – and there are common methods of doing so. Systems can facilitate a connection between the server and the reader using smartphone-based, cloud-based, or IoT (Internet of Things) based methods.
Access control is important because it reduces the risk of unauthorized access to computer systems and physical areas – thus, it is the foundation of data, network, and information security. Access control is a compliance requirement for some organizations. Some regulatory requirements include:
Various features of access control systems can effectively mitigate many security risks. Some easily addressed risks include:
|Type of Access Control||Definition|
|Mandatory||Access rights are controlled by a central authority, and it uses multiple security levels. These are often used in military and government environments. Classifications are assigned to certain system resources.|
|Discretionary||The owners of the system can set access policies. Administrators are able to limit the sharing of access rights.|
|Role-Based||Groups are assigned access, rather than individuals (for instance, employees who are classified as engineer level 1).|
|Rule-Based||Conditions, such as the location or the time of day, are set. Often, this is used in combination with role-based access control.|
|Attribute-Based||Access rights are managed through the evaluation of policies, rules, and relationships using user attributes and environmental/system conditions.|
There are still challenges associated with access control – these are mainly due to modern IT’s highly-distributed nature. It can be tricky to keep track of moving and evolving assets when they are spread out. One example includes password fatigue – this is when a user struggles to remember a large number of passwords that are part of their daily routine. This is why access systems that are passwordless are growing in popularity.
As offices continue to offer more flexible working routines, businesses need to incorporate fast and reliable access control in their commercial building security systems. They also need to be able to connect to apps like Slack.
You can reduce shrinkage by utilizing a system that helps staff enter and exit the building, while also storing and reporting that information. Good retail access control should let employees be automatically added or removed from the directory, due to retail’s high turnover rate.
You’ll no longer need door buzzers or doormen – with a mobile access system, tenants can easily access common spaces. Plus, they can gain the ability to give temporary mobile passes to dog walkers, delivery services, and other visitors.
Protecting students and professors should be a top priority in any educational setting. With mobile credentials, schools can be both welcoming and safe. What’s more, an access control system can help with fulfilling attendance quotas.
Churches and other religious organizations often experience burglary, violence, and vandalism. However, too much protection can diminish these institutions’ welcoming feel. Access control systems can allow lockdown capabilities without being overwhelming to visitors. Furthermore, these systems can grant access to volunteers, parents, and other temporary visitors.
Ever since President Bush’s Homeland Security directive of 2004, all government access control systems are required to include Personal Identification Verification credentials. Rigorous security standards ensure that risks are mitigated, including unauthorized access and crisis management.
Stadiums can contain tens of thousands of spectators, which makes them a prime target for acts of violence. Access control systems can help security teams create a policy that doesn’t sacrifice the safety of fans. What’s more, media, vendors, and athletes can all gain access to different rooms – each one having its own security requirements.
IT positions are increasingly becoming more remote and flexible – thus, their departments require versatile, remote access control solutions. Such systems can ensure that only IT staff gain access to the server room.
A breached refinery could spark a global crisis – thus, sites need to be constantly monitored. Video surveillance is already in place at most sites, but access control will reduce how many operators are needed on-site. Readers could also check license plates and grant access to restricted areas.
Hotels need to keep up with HomeAway and Airbnb – thus, they are adding concerts, full bars, stores, and other amenities to retain customers. However, these all come with security concerns. Access control can help the hotel assign access privileges to vendors necessary for each amenity.
There are security challenges associated with bus and train stations, due to the influx of people and ever-changing traffic patterns. IoT systems can improve the safety of station employees without requiring a manual key or a badge. Plus, it can help with time and attendance tracking.
While TSA secures terminals, thus preventing criminal activity on a plane, there are still plenty of airport vulnerabilities. For instance, vehicle drop-off and pick-up locations are often unsecure. Access control systems can guarantee that those vehicles don’t enter restricted areas.
Physical banks are cutting down on personnel since many consumers are choosing to use mobile apps or online banks instead. However, this makes it more difficult to secure back offices, storage rooms, and other restricted areas. IoT systems can lock these areas without a physical guard.
Modern warehouses are more automated than ever – however, security has not yet caught up. Keypads and traditional locks are still prevalent, but lost keys can eat up a lot of money. Control systems can make sure that warehouse safety remains secure at all times.
Physical security solutions are typically used to protect cash and chips in a casino. Some facilities even store hundreds of keys – this is not efficient by any means. Mobile access control could manage a casino’s assets much better.
When you are ready to plan your model and its configurations, you must consider all factors that could eventually impact the functionality of the system. Here is a checklist that can help you pick a system that best fits the needs of your organization:
The need for excellent security has never been greater. Physical and virtual threats are ever-evolving, thus demanding advanced technology, in-depth analytics, and stringent safety measures. Keys and simple passwords no longer cut it. The right access control system can help you secure physical and informational assets, cut personnel costs, and keep your staff and employees safe.
Whether you have a small company or a global enterprise, a reliable and reputable access control system can help you meet security challenges head-on.
Want to save this article? Download our PDF version here.
Biometric access control uses physical and behavioral characteristics to identify and authorize a user.