Choosing the correct access-control system for your facility depends on many factors: cost, appropriate technology, and how easy the system is to manage.
Consider one of the latest developments in access control - a network-ready system that can manage access readers, door switches, electronic locks, intrusion devices, and alarms with a standard Web browser. These systems can be easily used by small companies with fewer than 10 doors; they can also scale to large enterprises with many access points and their own security directors.
No matter what the size, compared with traditional systems, implementing a browser-based access-control system requires little additional capital in terms of computer hardware and personnel time devoted to training. Those familiar with a Web browser can easily handle processes such as adding and deleting names, changing time and day parameters for access to specific doors or areas, and generating reports.
A property manager might also want to consider a browser-based system for its scalability. As the company or institution grows, so can the browser-based access-control system (usually via controllers that allow users to add doors in groups of four, eight, 16, etc.). These controllers can be connected so that the information is monitored centrally, even if the sites are remote. Adding locations can also be accommodated through a browser-based system, but the system may require a computer on-site. If you don't want to invest in an extra computer for each site, you may want to look for a system that offers the ability for programming through a modem.
System management can be handled 24/7 from anywhere with access to the Internet. The system can also communicate alerts using e-mail or text messages to cell phones, PDAs, pagers, etc. Data from each entrant is recorded and stored on memory in the unit, on the network, or off-site at the alarm company's central office. If an organization does not have a reliable network, you should carefully consider the effects of network downtime on the access-control system and ensure that the one chosen can store events and make access decisions locally until the network is restored. This will ensure that the facility remains safe - even when the network is not functioning as intended.
The advantages of a network-ready system are also evident when tying in a browser-based access-control system with other building systems via relays that act as programmable logic controllers (PLCs). If a system has relays built in, facility personnel can manage non-security functions through access control. For example, a system could count cars in the parking lot and turn on access to the lot based on the number of cars that have entered and exited. Within a building, PLCs are typically used in conjunction with systems to turn on the heat or lights based on occupancy levels.
There are many access-control choices available today. Define the requirements for the system and then research the technology options, and consider a system that will grow with you as your needs and building portfolio expand.
David Heinen, product marketing manager for access systems at Fairport, NY-based Bosch Security Systems Inc. (www.boschsecurity.us), has worked in the security industry for 27 years. He can be reached at (email@example.com).