IP Access Down to the Wire

Intelligent single-door controllers have recently increased their presence in the market, as more users opt to connect these networked-enabled, power-over-Ethernet (PoE) devices directly to a network. The approach provides simplicity and adds value but...

If potential network downtime and the resulting degraded operation of a security system is a concern, users should consider the merits of hardwiring clusters of their door controllers and intrusion alarm points back to a common IP. An area controller provides added intelligence to allow an access control system to continue performing multi-device security functions even during network outages. Intelligent area controllers are then connected via IP to the network.

The use of hardwired subcomponent architecture can offset the limitations of using IP door controllers connected directly to the network. Specifically, in the case of a network outage or loss of network connectivity, the hardwired configuration preserves comprehensive access control functionality. Even with the network down, an area controller can maintain functional features including arm/disarm zones, mantrap configurations and global input/outputs (I/O).


Cost Concerns

Clearly, such a configuration provides a meaningful advantage, but what about cost? At first glance, adding a level of hardwired subcomponents to an IP system would appear to make the system more expensive and complex; however, there are factors that offset the added cost.

For example, a configuration that clusters groups of door controllers hardwired to an intelligent area controller decreases the number of required PoE switches at the network. If IP door controllers are used, each homerun Cat-5 cable running from each door controller requires its own network PoE switch to provide connectivity and power. The additional PoE switches represent extra costs.

In contrast, hardwiring several door controllers to an area controller means only one PoE switch port is required to connect that area controller to the network. End users may find that, once they run the numbers, the cost for multi-drop wiring and the addition of area controllers compares reasonably to the cost of Cat-5 homeruns and the added PoE switch ports required for each individual IP/PoE door controller.


Choosing the Best Solution

All networks are not created equally, so concerns about network dependability may vary from one installation to another. Clearly, dependable network operation is important to an enterprise for many reasons above and beyond operation of the access control system. Technologies to boost an end user’s confidence in the network include fault-tolerant and redundant servers, used with uninterruptible power supplies (UPS) and emergency generators as basic defenses against the unexpected. In some situations, the use of IP/PoE door controllers in a pure IP security solution fits a wide range of needs.

However, hardwired edge devices and intelligent area controllers still have a place in the industry, providing a robust and cost-effective alternative that preserves high-level access control functionality, even in the event of a network outage. The tried-and-true approach of hardwiring door controllers to an area controller can provide end users with peace of mind regardless of what happens to the network.

The right configuration for any access control or security system is determined by the needs and the operating environment of the application. Security practitioners in critical enterprise environments need to know their systems are operating dependably and at full capabilities at all times. Higher-level access control functionality depends on multiple door controllers being connected — whether by hardwiring or by networking. If network connectivity is a concern, especially if complete access control functionality is critical to an application, a hardwired alternative is available. It’s a time-proven solution that still has a place, even in the IP networked world.


Walter Helms serves as Chief Technology Officer at Matrix Systems. He is responsible for all software development, including migration to new platforms, and for supervising all ongoing technical customer support.Request more info on Matrix at www.securityinfowatch.com/10214324.