Access Control Systems generally come in two configurations: network-based (or server-based) and cloud-based.
Network Door Controllers
Network door controllers and network access control systems refers to systems hosted and run on the IP network present building, powered physical network server on-site. Together, the door controllers and server – which hosts all the necessary databases for whitelists and credentials – form a self-contained network. When a user enters credentials into the reader, the door controller communicates with the server to compare those credentials to a list of whitelisted and blacklisted credentials, before determining access.
Traditionally, the server and access control system could only be managed from a dedicated terminal, but most IP-based systems can now be modified and managed remotely from a mobile app or from virtually any web client.
With legacy access control systems, traditionally, each component (card reader, handle, door, etc.) must all be wired directly and individually to the central server. This would usually lead to very complex installation with intricate wiring. Network systems, on the other hand, simply connect to the IP network where all data and permissions are communicated.
Benefits of using Network Door Controllers
Switching to network controllers allows for unmatched flexibility and scalability that legacy systems can’t equal. Network door controllers can be quickly and easily connected to your existing IP network wired or wirelessly. Since many network controllers, like those from Axis, are entirely open, they can integrate with any open-standard hardware or software from other manufacturers (ONVIF compliance is standard with all major access control providers).
The result: bigger and more powerful systems than would be possible with legacy access control. Systems can be built upon and added to, one door and reader at a time, instead of in predetermined increments, reducing the need for much wiring.
Network systems also allow for edge solutions, where each door has its own controller that is wired to the Ethernet through a single network switch. This lends the same scalability and flexibility, and since most businesses already have IP networks throughout, eliminates the need to install proprietary wiring. With the addition of a PoE switch, door controllers, card readers, and locks can be run off a single cable, further eliminating additional wiring.
Finally, running off an IP network also lets access control systems be integrated with other systems and devices such as IP cameras. The result: complete and comprehensive systems covering all aspects of good security.
Cloud Door Controllers: Features and Benefits
Cloud door controllers are part of a cloud-based access system, which aren’t run from a single on-site server. Instead, the door controller uses an internet connection to connect to the cloud where all necessary data, credentials, and access logs are hosted and managed by the cloud service provider on their own servers.
Cloud-based systems provide a multitude of benefits. Offloading data management and management of the system to the cloud can save businesses thousands of dollars a year. Without the need for a physical server on premises, maintenance and IT costs (an average of $691 a year, according to Brivo) can be eliminated. There is also no need to pay for periodical costs that really add up over time such as licensing fees or software upgrades.
Instead, the cloud service handles all updates and hosting costs, and businesses simply pay a monthly subscription. This ends up saving them hundreds if not thousands of dollars a year.
Security and Redundant Data Backups
Reservations about the security and reliability of cloud-based systems are common, but they’ve established themselves as being more reliable than most network systems.
Instead of storing data such as whitelists and credentials on a single on-site server, true cloud-based access systems are backed up on several different servers at many different locations, spread out geographically for safety. If one server location goes out or is damaged by any kind of event or disaster, the access control system and door controllers keep functioning without so much as a blip in service.
How Do They Stack Up When It Comes To Mobile Access?
Cloud-based access control systems are generally regarded as the more feature-rich of the two types, as well as the more mobile. The cloud-hosted data makes for seamless access from both phone and web client, and many are built off customized APIs, allowing them to be easily integrated with a variety of other devices and systems such as security cameras.
Cloud systems aren’t the only ones that can be accessed remotely. Most network-based systems, such as those from AXIS, work with mobile access too. Axis’ network-based systems have mobile apps and programs for accessing them at any time from a smartphone or web client, and some of their door controllers even connect and integrate with access control systems. Remote access is one area where cloud systems may work more natively, but the right network system can be just as powerful.