Access control is becoming the go-to digital security system for businesses of all types – such as office buildings and hotels – to secure the building and premises, employees and guests, and valuable assets. For many companies – its not a matter of whether or not they should implement an access control system. It’s more about what type of system is the best fit, and which questions they should be asking when looking to buy.
When reaching out to suppliers, there are several questions they will want to know when giving you a quote on an access control system. Understanding and reviewing these questions will best prepare you to have an efficient call with suppliers and get ready for installation. To make sure you are finding the best supplier and security system for your business’s needs, we have prepared a checklist for you to review prior to looking for a supplier.
Note: Before reviewing this checklist, we recommend learning more about how an access control system works!
Plan for your Needs
1. How many doors or locations do you need to secure?
Think about the layout of your building. Where do your employees and guests enter? Where do they leave? Are there any other doors you need to keep secured?
While some businesses only see a need to control access to their front/main door, others may want to secure a back door, side door, or even doors within the office. For example, there may be an area within your office that contains sensitive materials, such as client records or computer systems. You may need to restrict access in these areas to certain employees, guests, or other unqualified personnel.
2. How many people will have access to each location?
Once you’ve decided how many locations you will need to secure, next you will need to decide how many people will have access to enter each. This may be as simple as deciding you have just 1 main location where every employee will enter, and you have 20 employees. Therefore, you will need to grant access to 20 people.
However, many businesses have different access control needs for each location. While you may want to grant access to those 20 employees through the main door, you may need to restrict access to a tech room or admin room to certain employees. Once you’ve noted how many doors or locations will be secured, record how many people will be granted access to each.
3. What kind of access control technology do you want to use?
There are a variety of ways you can allow access to certain users. Access control manufacturers design many different forms of hardware and software to choose from. Some businesses choose based on convenience. Others may choose based on the level of security, as some forms are more advanced than others. Still others may choose based on their budget for security needs.
Software options will include swipe cards, key fobs, proximity cards, mobile apps, and web apps. For businesses who want a convenient, easy-to-use, budget-friendly method – swipe cards, proximity cards, key fobs, and mobile apps are likely the best security solution. For companies with highly sensitive assets or larger security budgets, a biometric reader may be the wiser choice.
In terms of hardware, your supplier will present several different readers to you. There are biometric readers, card scanners, and more. To read more about access control methods, take a look at our comprehensive guide to access control.
4. Is your building code-compliant to handle access control installation?
Keep in mind that U.S. states have different codes and compliance standards for security systems like access control. For instance, most states will have restrictions on where access control systems can be installed – such as fire exit doors. There are also various laws on the use of locking mechanisms and electronic hook-ups. Make sure you research your state’s laws as well as talk to your supplier about compliance.
Integrate with Business Systems
5. Which kinds of integrations would be useful for your business?
Technology is now allowing access control systems to be integrated with other technology platforms, such as time and attendance systems, payroll management software, and even video surveillance systems. Many access control systems also have mobile compatibility – meaning they can be managed online or remotely. Before speaking with access control suppliers, think about back-end systems that you may want to streamline with your access control system. That way, you can ask suppliers what their options for integrations are.
6. Do you need an open application programming interface (API)?
Some businesses choose to set up their system with an open application programming interface (API). This gives them flexibility in how their employees access different entryways. For instance, an API may allow employees to enter different locations through their swipe card, mobile app, or something else. This can add a convenience factor for the business’s security system. However, not every supplier offers systems with API. if you are interested, make sure you ask about the option when getting a quote.
7. Do you have a plan for backing up electronic data?
Do you plan to keep electronic records of your access control activity? This is important for some businesses while it may not be a priority for others. For instance, if you are using your access control system to also monitor employee shifts, you will likely want to keep electronic records. If you are only using the system to allow entry, you may not need electronic records.
If you do plan on needing electronic records, you will need to integrate your system with an electronic platform, and find a way to back up data on a schedule. Your supplier or IT team will likely have more information on this electronic back-up process.
Monitor & Maintain Moving Forward
8. Who has administrative rights over the system?
Access control systems - like most forms of software - are designed to cater to users vs. administrators. Users are able to use the system regularly, but they are unable to edit preferences - meaning, they do not have control over who has access where and when. However, administrative users are able to make changes to access permissions. Admins can change the system preferences as often or as little as they like. Additionally, admins usually have oversight over tools like analytics and employee reports, failed access attempts, and more. You may want to designate the same admins to each location, or you may want to designate admins by location. It all depends on your needs.
9. Do you have any need for time/date restrictions?
It makes sense for some companies to grant access during certain hours and days, while restricting other dates and times. Additionally, they may have a different “operational schedule” per controlled location.
For instance, do you want to restrict access to your building on the weekends, when employees are not working? Or maybe you want to restrict access to the building after 6pm, after employees have gone home for the day. In hotels, restaurants, and other service industries, some owners want to grant access to certain areas - for instance, the gym, pool, or bar area - to guests only during certain hours.
When admins restrict access to certain locations, they can choose which dates, times, and/or holidays will be off-limits. They can also grant access to only certain users during those hours.
10. Do you prefer to use an on-premise or a cloud-based system?
Businesses also must choose between an on-premise vs. cloud-based access control solution. Your choice between the two will have an impact on day-to-day management over the system.
On-premise access control involves hosting the data center on-site at your building. The server is then managed by your internal IT staff or other security management team. While this option gives businesses more oversight over the system, it also requires them to spend the time to update and manage it themselves. It also requires a larger upfront capital investment.
On the other hand, a cloud-based access control system typically has its data stored and managed off-site, at the provider’s location. The provider will perform updates and maintenance, so you don’t have to worry about it internally. However, there is less direct control in terms of day-to-day change management, which may be a non-issue for some companies.
Advantages of cloud-based system include cost benefits, high-level security, and mobile flexibility. A cloud-based system usually costs less than on-premise, overall. In addition, they are more difficult to hack and allow for various forms of entry, including mobile apps.
11. Do you have a plan for maintenance and system updates?
Like any technology that is integral to your business’s operations, you will need to perform regular maintenance and updates on the system to assure its functionality. Many suppliers have maintenance and service plans built into their agreements. Others may require you to handle maintenance on your own.
If you have an IT team and are using an on-premise system, your team can likely handle maintenance internally. However, if you do not have an IT team that can handle maintenance, you will want to ask your supplier about their maintenance options. Then, decide whether you want to add a maintenance plan with the supplier, or find a maintenance plan separately.
12. Do you have a procedure in place for disabling user access?
When an employee is terminated or moves on from your company, you will want to have a system in place. You will need to deactivate their account and access keys, as well as come up with a way to activate new accounts and turnover keys. Your administrator will likely 12 be in charge of these duties, so make sure you come up with a consistent plan for employee access deactivation and stick to it.
To make sure you are fulfilling all your business security needs, make sure to look into why businesses need security cameras as well as access control. If you want to get started comparing prices for access control systems, we're here to help with our complimentary service that lets you compare options!