Selecting an Access Control System

Consider the needs of the user population and facilitator of the system, what type of openings need to be secured, and local codes that must be met


Controlling the Where
Think of all the openings you have in your facility — general manager’s office, outside doors, laboratories and more. Bottom line — you have a variety of openings needing different levels of security, some not so obvious at first glance. And do not lose site of the need for exit devices or panic bars. Egress control is equally important as access control.

Then, there is the question of an online system vs. offline or standalone systems. Do you have the budget or, if building a new structure, does the facility’s construction allow for online, hardwired systems? If not, software managed offline locking systems provide most of the benefits of an online system at a fraction of the material and install cost. Depending on the building, you may want to consider wireless access control, which eliminates the needs for drilling, trenching or pulling wire. You might want a mixed facility, one where the perimeters are managed by online systems and internal openings are managed by offline systems to meet budget and performance targets.

If the door has high-frequency use, you automatically will need to review magnetic locking systems which can handle the constant locking and unlocking it will experience.

Controlling the When
Most facilities have schedules. For your employees, perhaps, the front door will automatically unlock at 7:15 a.m. You may want it to automatically lock at 5:30 p.m. For managers, though, you may want to establish time zones, allowing entry weekdays between 6:30 a.m. and 7:00 p.m.; however, maintenance workers can be allowed in two hours earlier and two hours later plus Saturdays. The C-level managers can enter at any time.

Yet, what if you want to perform an inventory on a Saturday, undertaken by staff members? In that case, your system must provide on override period. And, of course, you are always employing temporaries. For them, you will want to establish a time activation and expiration, perhaps this Monday through Friday at employees’ hours only.

Getting Down to Specifics
At this point, you have identified the issues associated with controlling the who, where and when. Here are some other issues to consider:

• Are there other access control systems already installed in your facility? Will complementary systems work with active credentials for your user population such as proximity credentials or magnetic stripe cards?
• If you are considering electronic hardware, does it meet ANSI/BHMA Grade 1 requirements?
• Does the product adhere to FCC regulations where applicable?
• How many users will the system monitor?
• Do you need to audit or monitor events that occur at the controlled openings? If so, such as in the personnel files area, your system must provide information on who was there and when.
• Do not forget about architectural finishes and levers. Upgrading to electronic access control does not mean having to compromise on aesthetics.
• If standalone, battery-powered products are to be used, what are the number of daily cycles you expect at each opening? Can the battery-powered unit handle the duty cycle or will frequent battery changing be required?
• Are you selecting a hardwired access control system and can users still get out in an emergency when there is no power, as in a fire alarm?

Management Software
In today’s environment, it is most likely that your access control system will be governed by management software. The features and benefits of the particular software are equally as important as the hardware that it will manage.

Your software must be secure from access by unauthorized operators. At the very least, it must be password protected. It must also be flexible enough to manage the various user groups within your facility, such as the managers, staff, janitors and others. As such, it must be user-friendly and easy to learn because even you need a back-up. And, in today’s world, it must be Windows-based, simply because everything else is.

Lastly, your software must provide a management hierarchy, perhaps allowing others to manage certain elements, such as adding or eliminating a user. The C-level managers must be at the top — able to approve and/or cancel what others have modified.
If you begin by looking at the overall picture of what you are attempting to accomplish and then apply this macro view to each individual opening, asking the questions raised, it will not take long for you and your security installer to come up with a solution that enhances security and is cost-effective. You will be able to provide the exact balance needed between employee/customer convenience and theft reduction, vandalism impairment, privacy invasion and protecting people and assets.

Jennifer Toscano is marketing manager of electronic locks and open architecture for Ingersoll Rand Security Technologies, which features Schlage, Von Duprin and LCN brands.