As companies expand through financial growth, acquisitions and mergers, they often add facilities in other locations to enhance their market position. Because our business environment is expanding beyond the United States into the global market, new company locations can be farther apart and more disjointed than ever before. For these reasons, many large companies today share one common access control problem: the lack of a common employee badging system.
Without a badge that is standard in appearance and somewhat standard in access control technology, employees traveling to any of the added locations would have to carry a ridiculous number of badges to gain entry to secured areas or the buildings themselves.
A multi-site company needs a standard badge to allow access to the different domestic and international company locations. In order to ascertain the best solution, upper management should assign a team of individuals from the different business groups to investigate.
The first thing the team must do is gather data on the current state of access control and identification in each of the sites. They can do this by sending Request for Information forms to each of the sites. The forms should include at least the following questions:
- Badge technology used
- Number of badge readers
- Bit patterns in the badge technology (Protocol)
- Planned access control system upgrade in present year (Yes or No)
- Planned access control system upgrade next year (Yes or No)
- Cost per badge/card
- Manufacturer of access control system
- Badges coded/manufactured on site (Yes or No)
Take care to ask for only as much information as needed to set a direction in standardization. The more information requested, the more difficulty each site will have gathering the data.
Depending upon the manner in which the sites support their access control system, they may or may not know the answers to all these questions. For example, often a local alarm company handles a company's access control system, so the site security department knows nothing technical about protocols. To minimize the gaps in information, the Request for Information form should include a blank that requires a contact for each site. This way when the information is returned and it is not complete, the team can call the site contact directly.
Once the team receives the requested information from each site, it can organize this data into a spreadsheet covering each location by business unit. The spreadsheet should list the sites on a vertical column clumped in business units. The horizontal axis of the spreadsheet should contain the variables of interest.
Choosing the Technology and Protocol
After studying the data, the team must decide which technology the access card should use. They can take one of three approaches in making this decision. One: Look at the technology's cost as the primary factor. Two: Focus on minimizing costs. For example, if 40 percent of the badge readers across all facilities currently use the same technology, then using that technology as the standard reduces badge reader replacement by 40 percent. Three: Select a technology based upon the benefits of that technology.
One option would be a multi-technology badge that encompasses the technologies already in use across the company as well as the desired technology. This approach requires every technology to utilize a standardized protocol. It is cost effective but would create many unique problems. The transition to a single technology and protocol with this approach will take longer. The advantage is an easier transition at the site level and minimal cost at a company level.
No matter what approach the team takes, there will be cost impact. Even when the desired technology already exists at various sites, it is unlikely the badge protocols are the same. A standardized badge protocol must also be selected. The team may decide that the protocol currently most prevalent in the company should become the standard, or the company may want a proprietary protocol to be developed by the manufacturer of the chosen technology. This option provides a higher level of security.