Access Control brings global benefits
Access control is the way in which we allow (or prevent) access to a place or other resource. Just as human beings have always had a fundamental need for shelter and to protect their physical environment, organisations have always needed a way to mitigate risk, keep their assets safe and control who can enter their property.
Of course, access control (or AC as it’s known) has come a long way from prehistoric man lighting fires at the front of a cave to keep out those trying to steal his flints. Today, we talk about two main types of AC – physical and electronic.
Physical access control uses locks, doors, barriers and other equipment to facilitate or deny entry. Electronic access control allows or prevents access to a building or other private area by using IT to facilitate selective access. We usually talk about access control as a system or solution, because today’s electronic AC does more than just guard an entry point – it commonly also allows for ongoing monitoring of personnel and their movements, and can be integrated with other third party security and building management systems.
Users of electronic access control include offices, residential units, and retailers, as well as schools, universities, hospitals, local authorities and even museums and libraries. Electronic access control systems range from a simple card reader to extremely complex software that can control multi-tenanted buildings, or protect an international estate.
Access control has very real benefits for most businesses across the globe; and it is a cost-effective solution to security issues for most. Cost savings range from having to employ fewer security staff, through to smart energy saving systems that, for example, turn off lighting and heating once all personnel have left an area of the building.
Specialist security companies are continually investing in making AC even more sophisticated – leading systems can also act as virtual human resources departments, and can even enforce Health & Safety policy or input into corporate social responsibility programmes.
Security providers have also taken on board the increasingly global nature of commercial and service business – by designing systems that can seamlessly integrate across different territories. Innovations include browser/cloud-based solutions which administrators can control and access from anywhere around the world, without needing to involve organisations’ IT departments. Leading AC systems are also multilingual and can dynamically switch to each individual user’s first language – and the most sophisticated can also be programmed to work across different time zones.
The ability to switch between time zones has benefitted Cambridge Consultants, who needed to control access to two high security research labs – one in Cambridge, UK and the other in Boston, Massachusetts. The browser- based system they purchased is sophisticated enough to be controlled remotely from either office, and the comprehensive reporting tools ensure that access authorisation and monitoring can take place in real time on both sides of the Atlantic.
Access control systems can also integrate smoothly with third party databases. This allows global businesses with centralised HR departments to co-ordinate training and health and safety across their estate. For example, a UK-based business may have an outsourced HR team in Hong Kong, and a distribution centre in Timbuktu, Mali. When a forklift truck driver in Timbuktu swipes his card at the start of his shift, it alerts the HR team in Hong Kong to the fact that in Mali statutory training is needed every three years to renew a forklift licence and that the driver’s next training session is due imminently. The access control system automatically alerts Human Resources that training for that driver should be booked immediately, and informs the driver that his training session has been processed – with no loss of business continuity.
Choosing a provider
While most businesses and employers are convinced of the benefits of electronic security, the process of choosing a provider and a suitable access control solution can be daunting. Smaller businesses need to be certain that electronic AC can offer more benefits than employing a security guard, while larger businesses need to think carefully about choosing their security partner – to ensure that they work with someone who really understands their particular security issues and can develop a bespoke system that best meets their needs now and in the future.
Items to discuss with potential providers include:
- Future proofing – how will the system evolve as needs develop in the future?
- Ease of installation – will an IT department / consultant need to be involved? Will AC integrate with fire and other security systems? Can existing cabling/Ethernet be used to reduce installation time and costs?
- Ease of use – can it be accessed/managed remotely? Is it intuitive to use? Will it take up valuable personnel time?
- Reassurance – Does the provider hold any external verification, such as NSI [National Security Inspectorate] or SSAIB [Security Systems & Alarms Inspection Board]? Is comprehensive after-sales support available?
Reputable and innovative electronic security companies can ultimately find a solution to any access control need. AC can benefit most businesses; from a new business start-up in China with just two members of staff, to a multi-national retailer who needs to control both shop floor and back office staff via one easy to use browser-based system. When it comes to protecting an organisation’s premises – the sky’s the limit.
Andy Rainforth Sales & Marketing Director