Which Access Control System Is Right For You?

When you’re installing an access control system for your home or business, there are a number of factors you’ll need to consider. You have to weigh your need for absolute security with the day-to-day realities of convenient access to your premises for those who need it. High-traffic areas won’t be as efficiently protected by the same access control systems that guard less frequently accessed parts of your facilities.

Proximity Card Readers

There are two types of card readers – magnetic strip and proximity readers. Mag-strip cards are a lot like your credit card – you swipe them in a physical reader – and prox cards use an RFID signal from a distance to communicate with the prox reader.

In terms of basic function, though, they work more or less the same way: they read the card and grant access according to the programmed rules. They also log a history of which cards have been used when, which can be downloaded by a companion system that’s also used to update the programming on the device itself.

If you decide to use card readers for access control, you need to consider whether to install standalone readers – usually battery powered and not interconnected – or wired card readers that connect to a central hub.

Wireless Card Readers

The standalone readers are convenient for small-scale implementation or for use in situations that would make wiring your card readers prohibitive, like preserving historical architecture. If you want to update the software or access rules, however, you’ll have to program each one manually.

Wired Card Readers

Beyond the obvious advantage of a constant power supply, wired card readers are connected directly to a central control panel or door controller. This allows you to update your security patterns, make changes to the approved whitelist, or lock down the site in real-time.

PIN Code Readers

You’re probably familiar with the basics of a PIN code reader. It’s a keypad you enter a personal code into to unlock a door. The same basic differences between wired or isolated systems apply to code readers as to card readers, but there’s something more to consider – which is more secure?

The short answer is neither – the pros and cons mean they pretty much break even. PINs and cards are only as secure as the people they’re given to. A card can be pickpocketed or copied with the right hardware, and you can be observed entering a PIN or coerced into giving it up – and either can simply be given out by the person holding them. Both are only useful if you remember them – leave your card at home or forget your PIN and you’re locked out.

Two-Factor Authentication

Prox card reader

Using two access control protocols together, known as a two-factor authentication system, is significantly more secure than using either option alone. While you can theoretically wire two separate readers to each access point, there are many readers that accept card-and-code combinations, doubling the security measures without doubling the amount of work.

But if cards can be stolen and PINs can be learned, is there an authenticator with access credentials that can’t be spoofed?

Biometric Fingerprint Scanners

Enter biometrics – literally, the measuring of the living – which are a lot harder to fool. Fingerprints are quite distinctive, and fingerprint readers are a proven technology for biometric security. They’re a little more expensive than card and PIN readers, but if security is your top concern and your business needs the best, biometric fingerprint scanners are the safest option. Pairing them with card or PIN readers for two- or three-factor authentication is safer still.

Server-based vs Cloud-based Controllers

Any access control system opens your doors in one of two ways: through a traditional on-site server or through an IP door controller.

Server-based control

The traditional method requires physically wiring the reader to a door controller, which checks your credentials and decides whether or not it should allow you through. These systems require an on-site server to store and control your approved whitelist and interface with your readers. While this method is highly secure, it can be costly to install, maintain, and update these servers.

Cloud-based control

A more modern method relies entirely on the cloud to verify your credentials and unlock your doors. Brivo is an excellent example of this kind of service. There are no on-site servers or even readers, since the Brivo OnAir app makes your smartphone the credentials – push a button and the door is unlocked for you.

Let Safe and Sound Help You Choose an Access Control System

Safe and Sound are California’s access control systems experts. We’re the best around when it comes to installing access control systems, and we fully guarantee all our work for ongoing maintenance and upkeep. Give us a call today for a site audit and a no-obligation quote.


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