Physical access control acts as a barrier to prevent unauthorized persons from entering the area and is the backbone of physical security enforcement. Some physical access control systems include locks, fences, access cards, biometric readers, key fobs, etc. They can be classified into two types:
1. Traditional systems
- Advantages :
- Location specific
- Requires a lot for installation
2. IP or cloud-based systems, which have two categories:
a. Network based system
b. Web based system
- Advantages :
- Great security
- Network dependent
- Subject to hacking
- Advantages :
Types of access control systems
Now, let’s get into the details and discuss the two categories, along with their pros and cons.
Manufacturers install an ID scanner at the door or access point and a control box above the door. The control box interfaces with the ID scanner, door locks, the system computer and sometimes with cameras. Therefore, everything is connected to each other.
- Sure. These systems, which are often referred to as legacy systems, have been operating for years. They have established themselves as efficient and rarely encounter difficulties.
- Safer. The dispute over whether traditional systems are more secure than IP systems continues. In addition, proprietary wired systems are less prone to hackers and therefore perceived as more secure by some.
- Dear. Private systems require specialized hardware and, in most cases, multiple control boxes. Due to the need to be near the entrances, most control boxes limit themselves to controlling a few. A control box may be required for each input.
- Location specific. The layout of the control boxes indicates that each is designed precisely for that area. Transferring a control box involves extra effort to make it functional in a new location.
- Requires a lot for installation. Many systems require a power supply as well as system specific wiring.
- Autonomous. Due to the nature of many of these systems, integration with other systems and functions is difficult.
IP or Cloud systems
Modern workplace access systems are now internet based and do not require a control box. Instead, verification occurs at the credential scanner, connecting to a network that stores all important data. Obviously, the credential scanner needs a power supply and a network connection, which can be provided through the same wires.
IP-based systems can be classified into two sub-categories:
- Network based systems – Connected to the organization’s network via a wired or wireless connection. It is controlled by software stored on the organization’s servers and computers.
- Web Systems – Administered, updated and stored on the manufacturer’s servers and accessible via the Internet.
- Affordable. For most organizations, fewer pieces of equipment to acquire per entry equals lower cost. The elimination of control boxes has a noticeable effect.
- Scalable. Lower installation costs mean scaling is considerably easier as the organization grows.
- Functional. Since the system is network based, it is much easier to upgrade, add functionality, and interact with other software than a traditional system.
- Great security. It is difficult to determine whether IP systems are more or less secure than older systems. A breach in an IP system leaves the rest of the doors intact, whereas in a traditional system, if a multi-door controller fails, all the inputs it controls fail.
- Mobility. Web-based systems, for example, allow users to change settings and lock and unlock doors from any location with an Internet connection. Even network-based systems have this functionality, as long as the user has network, on-premises or VPN access.
- Network dependent. Many critics fear that if the network goes down, the security system will also fail. Given the current reliance of organizations on their networks, it is essential to prevent or resolve disruptions quickly. Although downtime does occur, most control systems are intended to record data in the event of a failure.
- Subject to hacking. As with network downtime issues, an access control system is only as secure as the network to which it is connected. If a hacker gains access to the network, he or she will most likely gain access to the door locking system as well. This can be of particular concern for web systems, as information theoretically travels in chunks across the Internet.
For more information on physical security, see the rest of SIA Online.
Desiree Macy is the Editorial Director of the online magazine SIA, frequented monthly by security officials, corporate security officials and private protection professionals. Desiree’s interests revolve around cyber security and business continuity.