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How Does an Access Control System Work?

Tons of businesses today are using access control systems for their security needs. Compared to traditional security methods, such as standard locks and keys, access control systems are more convenient and maintain a higher degree of security. They can also conveniently be integrated with back-end business systems, like time and attendance. But just how do they work? 360Connect is here to help by explaining just how an access control system works so you can get a better understanding about these digital security systems.

What does an Access Control system include?

The first thing you need to know to determine how an access control system works is the system’s parts. An access control system is a digital, multi-system infrastructure that works thanks to several different parts. There are 4 main parts that make up a door access control system:

  • Door reader: The door reader is a computerized reader that uses a broadcast signal and credential antenna. The reader will “read” the user credentials using an electronic signal. Then, it will either grant or deny access to the user based on programmed software. 
  • User credential: This is the item that authorized users will use to gain access to the entryway. Some examples of user credentials are key fobs, card keys, fingerprints, passcodes, etc.
  • Lock: The lock for an access control system is usually a digital locking mechanism. It is locked or unlocked depending on the user credentials presented.
  • Software: Access control software can be installed and managed remotely by a business. This is where administrators can program to determine users that have/do not have authorized access to each entryway.

Learn more about access control systems, including authentication methods and types of systems. You can also explore different access control manufacturers to get a sense for the different technology options on the market today.

How does an Access Control System Work?

For users, gaining access to an entry point using an access control system is a quick and easy process. But there are several steps that go into it. Here, we break down exactly how the access control system process works, from start to finish, so you can better understand this technology.

1. Administrators authorize access to certain personnel.

First thing’s first when a business implements an access control system: they assign “access” to certain entryways to certain personnel. A business may have 1 door to assign authorized personnel, or they may have several. Additionally, each door at a business might have different “authorized” personnel allowed to enter. For instance, a lab at a hospital might only allow certain users to enter. 

Administrators of the access control system can assign which users can access which door using the access control system’s software. Then, the software will help administrators create user credentials (ie. key fobs or cards) based on these access rules. Note that access control providers will often provide all these assets for you – software, authentication methods, and more. They can also help you install and train you with the system when first getting started.

2. Door readers allow or disallow access.

After administrators program the system to authorize certain personnel, users can approach each entryway with their “user credential” (ie. badge, card, key fob, fingerprint) to unlock doors. Users will present their credentials to the system’s door reader. Then, the door reader will send a signal to the server to determine whether or not the particular user has authorized access. The system will automatically and instantaneously inform the user whether or not they have gained access.

3. Door locks are released if access is granted.

Once the door reader sends a signal to the access control system’s server, the doors will either unlock or stay locked. When there is only one door, this “unlock” usually happens automatically upon authentication. But there are some access control systems that require another “unlock” trigger, such as a button, when there are several doors or other areas to access. 

Also note that some systems include extra measures during this step to ensure security. For instance, if a user presents the incorrect credentials 3x in a row, the access control system will remain locked and notify the administrator of a security issue.

4. Administrators continue to manage the system remotely.

On a regular basis, administrators can utilize access control software to program settings remotely. This is especially easy and convenient when using a cloud-based access control system, which allows you to oversee the system using multiple devices.

This is useful for many reasons. For instance, if a business hires a new employee, they will need to assign that employee access to certain entryways and areas. This can easily be done using access control software. Likewise, if an employee leaves a business, administrators can use the software to disable their access control credentials or “unassign” access.

Other functions that administrators can manage using software are scaling (adding new doors or offices to the system), monitoring (overseeing potential security issues or threats), reprogramming settings, and troubleshooting if they are experiencing any issues.

5. Businesses can review data to get valuable access control insights.

Using access control software, administrators can regularly pull reports, data, and analytics to view trends about their business’s security. This can help businesses ensure everything is working properly and their access control system is accomplishing their security goals. Additionally, administrators can view security patterns, which can be especially useful if there are security issues or suspicious activity. This information can help businesses change their settings or prevent suspicious activity moving forward.

Lastly, reports can help businesses maintain compliance with their access control system, depending on their industry. For example, healthcare facilities need to remain HIPAA-compliant, so they can use their software’s analytics to ensure they are remaining privy to these requirements.

If you are looking into an access control system for your business’s security needs, you might also want to consider video surveillance systems. Also be sure to check out these related articles about access control systems: 

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