What is an Access Control System?

Access control systems are a type of physical security that limits access to a building or space to only authorized individuals. In a commercial setting, access control systems are most often used for building and office entries, securing IT server rooms or storage closets, and to control elevator or parking garage access. A traditional lock and key system is the most basic form of physical access control. However, today’s access control systems are much more advanced, providing improved security for commercial buildings, and better user experiences.

There are many different types of access control systems for commercial buildings and businesses, but not all systems will be the right fit, depending on the size of the deployment, the number of users and entries, and the level of security required. For example, a single office inside a commercial building will need very different security controls than a hospital or large warehouse facility. So, how do you know which access control system is best for your space?

Criteria for choosing an access control system

Selecting the right access control system makes all the difference in your physical security strategy. Before installing a new system, consider the following questions:

  • How many and what types of entries need to be access controlled? The best access control system is one that easily accommodates all the doors and entry types of the building on the same system.
  • Does the system fit your budget? While the up-front cost of an access control system (hardware, installation, credentials) is a large portion of a security budget, don’t forget about recurring costs. Software licenses, maintenance, IT and administrative staff, updates, and replacing credentials are common costs of on-premise systems, while cloud-managed systems often have a software subscription fee to budget for.
  • Do you have the control and visibility you need? Access control should make managing security easier, not more complicated. Systems that offer remote, cloud-based access decentralize operations for more flexibility, and capabilities like zone-sharing, site and user-specific permissions, and instant credentialing are key to streamlining management.
  • Is the access control system future-proof? Technology changes quickly. The last thing you want is to install all-new hardware and software, only to find that it’s obsolete within a few years or that it can’t support your organization’s growth. Ensure your access control system is easily scalable, and offers automatic updates for new features and capabilities.
  • What security features does the system offer, both for physical access and protecting data? Look for providers that take precautions such as multi-factor authentication and offer end-to-end encryption to keep your data safe.
  • Can your access control solution connect to other security systems? Automation and IoT integration is a growing trend in commercial security. Open architecture and interoperability are sought-after features for access control systems, as they enable businesses to integrate with identity and visitor management, video surveillance cameras, alarms and sensors, building management systems, and business intelligence tools.
  • Is the system compliant? Security systems are a key part of meeting safety and compliance requirements, so always check that your access control system adheres to the standards of your industry. Look for features such as custom reporting, real-time visibility, and data encryption.