Types of Access Control Readers

When you’re installing an access control reader for your 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 reader that guard less frequently accessed parts of your facilities.

The most common types of access control readers are:

  • Key card readers
  • Keypad readers
  • Two-factor authentication readers
  • Biometric fingerprint readers

We’ve got lots to cover, so let’s dive in!

Key Card Readers

HID Card Access Control

There are two types of key card readers – magnetic strip key card readers and proximity card readers.

  • Magnetic strip key cards are a lot like your credit card – you swipe them in a physical reader
  • Proximity cards use an RFID signal from a distance to communicate with the proximity card 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 key card readers for access control, you need to consider whether to install wireless key card readers – usually battery powered and not interconnected – or wired key card readers that connect to a central hub.

Wireless Key Card Readers

The standalone wireless key card readers are convenient for small-scale implementation. They are usually battery powered and are best for use in situations that would make wiring your key 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 Key Card Readers

Beyond the obvious advantage of a constant power supply, wired key 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.

Keypad Readers

You’re probably familiar with the basics of a keypad 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 keypad readers as to key 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. Access control PINs and key cards are only as secure as the people they’re given to. A key 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

person holding proximity card to 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 access control 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 Readers

biometric access control

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 access control. They’re a little more expensive than key card and keypad readers, but if security is your top concern and your business needs the best, biometric fingerprint readers are the safest option. Pairing them with key card or keypad readers for two- or three-factor authentication is safer still.

Let Safe and Sound Security Help You Choose an Access Control Reader

Safe and Sound Security is California’s access control reader expert. We’re the best around when it comes to planning and 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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