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What is an Access Control System?

Access control systems are becoming more and more of a necessity every year for businesses of all sizes. Just this year, security threats to businesses has risen by 25%. With access control providers innovating new solutions, a projected 20% of American businesses will go mobile with their security system by 2020. If you’re a business owner, access control is a security measure to consider to keep your building and employees secure.

What is an Access Control System?

An access control system is a security system that protects a business’s assets and employees. It allows you to control access to your building or computer network electronically, as opposed to a lock and key system. They are traditionally installed at doors or entryways in your building. This way, you can make sure only authorized persons can access your property and digital networks, data and files. They also allow businesses to assess security risks and take higher level security measures if needed.

Besides high-level security, there are several other reasons to choose an access control system. They prevent lost, stolen, and duplicate key sets. Additionally, they help you streamline your digital workplace tools all in one place. Take a look at cloud-based access control systems to learn how you can manage your security system remotely.

Common Uses

More workplaces are doing away with analog business tools and choosing to go digital than ever before. That’s why access control systems make sense for a majority of businesses, regardless of industry or field!

However, access control systems are a must-have for businesses that need to implement high-security areas. These companies may have sensitive information or work spaces that they must monitor closely. Businesses that most frequently require an access control system include:

Some of these businesses are required to have high security in their building, due to laws and regulations. Others can benefit from access control as a solution to their security needs across the board.

Types of Access Control

It’s helpful to understand the different types of access control and how they’re categorized. This way, you can best decide which is the best fit for you business needs. The main types of access control include:

Mandatory Access Control (MAC)

This is the highest security option for access control systems. Government and military facilities usually use this type of system. A centralized operating system – usually located off-premise – controls access to every entry point in a building, based on settings created by the system’s administrator. The system will grant access to individuals that the administrator determines can access the room or resource. With a MAC system, it’s impossible for users besides the administrator to change or alter access permits.

Discretionary Access Control (DAC)

DAC is the most common option for access control systems. Instead of having a centralized, off-premise controller, the business can make its own decisions about access permissions on-site. DAC systems usually have a “list” for each entry point that grants or denies access to certain users. Usually, the business administrator can update the list as needed – for instance, when hiring a new employee.

Role-Based Access Control (RBAC)

This type of access control grants access to individuals based on their role within the company. In general, access is assigned based on job titles rather than identity. For instance, if a person gets promoted to a different position that requires them to access certain business assets, that person would be added to the “list” to access that particular entry point.

Rule-Based Access Control

This type is different than role-based access control. Instead of granting access to a person based on their role in the company, access is granted based on a “rule” that the administrator sets. Most often, this rule applies to time of day or weekday. For instance, your building may be inaccessible on Saturdays and Sundays.

If you’re not sure about which type will be best for your business, that’s okay! Your access control supplier can help you come up with a plan to best serve your business’s security needs. By the way, if you want to learn more about how an access control system works, we can help!

Access Control Authentication Methods

There are many different ways your access control system can grant permission to appropriate users. When deciding on a method, you will want to consider convenience, security locations, and security necessities. 


This is one of the simplest access control methods. Your administrator sets a password based on a set of letters, numbers, and/or symbols, which users can type onto a keypad at the door entryway. 

Access card

Card readers are very popular forms of access control. With an access card, you can use the card’s magnetic strip to swipe to gain access. Alternatively, you can use the card’s computer chip to hold close to the card reader to gain access.

Security fob

This is a small device, similar to a key, that has a security chip inside. A user holds it next to the security fob reader to gain access.

Mobile app

Many access control systems now include mobile apps that each user can download to get access permission. Usually, the user downloads the app and enters the permission password. Then, the app displays a bar code, which employees use to gain access.

Voice recognition

This type of access control requires a person to say a designated word (usually, the person’s name). Then, the system verifies voice patterns and either grants or denies access.

Biometric readers

These include fingerprint, palm, face, retina, and DNA readers. 

  • Fingerprint, Palm, and Face Readers: When setting up your access to the system, the administrator will ask you to initially record your fingerprint, palm print, or face scan, so the system can store the data. Then, the reader will scan your fingerprint, palm, or face, and match it to the data to grant permission to enter. Interestingly, Apple has implemented face recognition to newer iPhone products!
  • Retina and DNA readers: These are used in much more high security facilities, compared to fingerprint and palm readers. A retina reader will take a scan of your eye to allow entry. A DNA reader will take a saliva or blood sample to verify a person’s DNA before entry. 

Different methods of access control authentication make sense for different companies. While most businesses won’t see a need for high security measures like biometric readers, some businesses will require them. If you want to take an extra step toward security, many systems also allow Multi-Factor Authentication using simpler methods. For instance, you may have to both enter a password and scan your fingerprint to enter a room. This way, the business is able to be extra sure the designated person is entering.

Installing Access Control

You have a few different ways to install and implement your access control system. When starting up your access control system, you should decide where you want the system to be hosted. Additionally, you should decide who you want to oversee it. You can either have your IT team control it internally, an outside controller manage it, or host it within your company’s network.

On-site hosting

Most companies choose to host their access control system on-site. This allows them to have internal access to monitoring it at all times. When hosting on-site, your access control manufacturer will come to your property and install a server. The server will hold important data about access rules and permissions. Usually, your company’s IT team can operate and oversee the system, and make any changes to access permissions as necessary. You will need to have your system maintenance every so often. When the time comes, you can either have your IT team handle it or ask your supplier to perform regular maintenance. 

Managed hosting

You also have the option of having your service provider store and manage all data for your system. One upside to this option is not having to spend time and money to maintain and operate the system internally. You’re also able to obtain detailed reports about activity from your provider. The downside is that you have to contact the service provider to make changes to the system’s data. The provider will charge a fee to maintain the system.

Web-based hosting

When you choose web-based hosting, your access control system is connected with your Internet network. Since the access control system is web-based, verified persons can manage and update the system from anywhere in the world, as long as they're connected to the Internet. Oftentimes, web-based systems also allow flexible methods for entry, including smartphone options. Businesses enjoy this type of installation because they can streamline their security needs with other business needs - all in one easy-to-use place.

If you’re ready to take a look at your options for security systems and want to compare price quotes, we can help! 360Connect has a trusted, reliable network of top access control suppliers that offer different types of systems to suit any kind of business. To get free price quotes with zero obligation to buy, get started here.

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