Access Control Systems

Access Control Systems

Preparing for an Electronic Access Control Purchase

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Choosing the right access control system does not have to be complicated. The time spent doing due diligence nets a return hard to measure in dollars and cents, but is still well-worth the time.


Start by considering where your access points are and what will be needed to secure each checkpoint or access point. Doing so requires an intimate knowledge of your property and its needs. For example, for a parking area, a simple gate might be needed, will a swipe card work or could a proximity card or security guard solution be used?

Doors are another major consideration. Typically door access can be broken down into two distinct categories:

Free exit. In a free exit system, a card, fob or other security device is used for entering, but there is no requirement for passing out of the secure area. The electronic access control system either detects someone approaching an exit (usually through motion sensors) and unlocks the door, or has a release button or bar that allows people to leave.

Controlled exit. A controlled exit system will use the same security for travel in both directions: Employees have to enter the code or wave their card to get in or out of the secure area. By law, a system must be set up to allow people to exit in the event of system failure or a power outage. Controlled exit systems increase both security and overall installation costs.

Software options

Once you have a count of your access points and an idea of what kind of access you will be granting for each, it's time to figure out what type of security access software you will be using. Software can have a positive impact on your business beyond simply allowing access to an area.

An automated time and attendance program will collect employee clock-in and clock-out times, record absences, and provide data for payroll. If your business already has monitored alarm and time and attendance systems, these programs must be connected directly to an access control system. Many security and time and attendance software programs can be used seamlessly with access control, providing potential upgrades for a biometric or bar code time clock at an access point.

Automated software can only take you so far however. You have to consider data base and card management and how this will tie into your existing computer network. Often, security companies will provide an online solution to managing your cards, employees, hours of access, etc.

Still, with enough employees, managing these tasks will require some attention by an employee. This is not to say someone will have to be hired full-time to manage your system - far from it. However, having a responsibility plan in place is always a good idea.

Standout electronic access control features

Before making your final decision, here are some beneficial security features to look for:

Costs and considerations

Costs can vary between $5,000 and upwards of $20,000 and beyond for parts and installation. Finding an installer who is also a dealer is not always the best option either. While smaller installers might specialize in a particular alarm type or brand, they are by no mean dealers and will often mark up the price of equipment.

Conversely, a large installation outfit might rate a discount from the sellers. The third option is to get an estimate or evaluation from several sellers. This will also give you an opportunity to price what you will need for your facility separately from the cost of installation.

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