The Advantages of Switching to an Access Control System

Traditional locks are pretty simple—either they’re open, allowing access for anyone and everyone, or they’re closed. But access control systems offer an intriguing option for home and business owners: the ability to let some people in, while keeping others out.

Keeping your property off-limits to everyone except the people you’ve authorized can definitely give you a sense of power and security (honestly, who doesn’t want to feel like a Bond villain sometimes?). But how much safer do these systems really make you, and are they worth the investment? Read on as we bring our considerable locksmithing experience to this problem and let you know when to consider purchasing one of these systems.

What Is an Access Control Lock System?

Don’t start imagining retinal scanners and laser grids just yet—most access control lock systems are far less elaborate. In the majority of cases, authorized personnel simply receive physical or virtual keycards that are digitally linked to a programmable lock.

Simple access control systems use standalone locks, but these aren’t functionally much different than a traditional lock—you’re just switching keys for cards or codes. In fact, standalone locks can be less secure, since they rely on technology that can be made obsolete but which can’t often be upgraded without replacing the lock entirely.

Most sophisticated access control systems are linked to a network and store permissions for the system online using third-party servers. You’ll probably control these systems using an app, allowing you to manage permissions with a few easy clicks or taps.

These web-based (or cloud-based) systems are popular because they’re user-friendly and easily scalable—plus, updates usually get rolled out automatically, ensuring that your system doesn’t become obsolete.

Access Control Systems Vs. Traditional Locks

Access control systems can seem like a lot of unnecessary bells and whistles to people who haven’t used them before. After all, traditional locks have worked for centuries—why mess with technology that isn’t broken?

Access control systems do offer a few key advantages (pun intended) over traditional locks. For example, when they’re connected to a network, you get a digital record of who is using the system and when.

Here’s an example of how that technology can be useful: in a business protected by traditional locks, a disgruntled employee could simply use their key to get inside after hours and steal property. With access control, you’d be able to identify the culprit. Some systems can even allow you to control when certain users have access so you can make sure they’re only getting in during business hours.

Keys can also be lost, stolen, or given to other people—but many types of access control eliminate those possibilities. We’ll discuss different kinds of access control systems in the next section.

What Do You Need to Install an Access Control System?

Access Control Hardware

If you’re in the market for an access control system, you’ll need to choose the type of hardware it relies on to authorize users. Here’s a breakdown of a few common varieties, each of which can communicate with a network to register comings and goings:

    • Proximity readers: These access control systems are popular with many commercial businesses. Authorized users simply hold a card up near the reader, which authenticates them and opens the lock.
    • Key switches: These systems appear to use traditional keys, but send an electronic signal to your network whenever they are opened or closed.
    • Keypads: These systems require users to punch a code in on a pad before unlocking.
  • Intercom systems: Commonly seen in residential apartments, these systems provide an audio link between users. Visitors generally must identify themselves before the person inside the building lets them in manually by pressing a button.
  • Biometric systems: Here’s where you get your retinal and fingerprint scanners. Biometric systems are by far the most reliable type of access control hardware, but they’re also the most expensive.

Access Control Software

Assuming you want an access control system that’s connected to a network, you’ll want to consider the software it uses carefully. Here are a couple of tips to keep in mind:

    • Make sure your system’s software is compatible with your devices. For example, some mobile apps work for both Apple and Android smartphones, but don’t take that for granted.
  • Make sure your software is easy to use. There’s not much point in having a system so complicated that you get confused trying to set permissions for users. Purchasing your access control system through a locksmith that routinely works with home and business owners is a great way to find user-friendly products.

Access Control Exit Devices

Unless your door requires access to exit as well as to enter, you’ll need to ensure that people inside the building have an easy way to leave. That probably means you’ll need to install one of the following devices:

  • Wall-mounted buttons: These simple devices are typically located on the inside wall nearest the door, and can be pressed to unlock the entire system for a few seconds.
  • Push bars: These devices are mounted directly on the inside of doors, and bypass the security system to automatically unlock the door when pushed.
  • Motion sensors: More common in garages and parking lots where people won’t want to exit their vehicles, these devices sense objects moving towards the exit and send an electronic signal to open the door.
  • Emergency exit switches: Used to unlock doors during emergencies, these panels activate when their glass panels are broken or their levers are pulled (fire alarms are perfect examples).

Is an Access Control System Worth It?

The cost of an access control system depends on how elaborate your needs are. The hardware usually starts out at about $1,225 per door—but the average setup for a 150 person office costs $3,070.

Before you balk at the price, though, it’s worth considering what you stand to lose in a break-in. The average home break-in costs nearly $2,000 in stolen property and damages—almost twice the cost of putting an access control system on the front door. The average burglary and theft claim for a small business is $8,000—still more than double the costs of access control for the office.

Once you do the math, it becomes pretty clear that access control systems are capable of saving much more money than they cost. Yes, they’re more expensive than traditional locks, but they also make your property more secure. To learn more about this technology or speak to someone who can install an access control system for you, reach out and contact a member of our team.