Access Control System Overview: Understanding the Basics and Types

Physical security is a paramount concern for businesses, institutions, and individuals alike. Access control systems play a crucial role in enhancing the protection of premises and valuable assets. This comprehensive access control system overview aims to provide you with a clear understanding of what access control systems are, how they work, and the various types of access control systems available.

Access Control System

Introduction to Access Control Systems

An access control system is a comprehensive security solution designed to regulate, manage, and monitor the entry and exit of individuals within a specific area. The defined area can be a building, room, facility, or even an entire campus. By implementing an access control system, you can restrict unauthorized access and monitor personnel movement. This creates a safer environment for your property and its occupants while maintaining control over the accessibility of sensitive areas.

Access control systems offer numerous benefits for businesses, organizations, and residential communities to maintain a secure environment, such as:

Enhanced security: Limiting access to authorized individuals protects your property, assets, and personnel, especially in high-risk or sensitive areas.

Simplified management: Centralized control over multiple access points streamlines security management across your organization for easier monitoring and updates.

Customizable access levels: Assign different levels of access based on roles, responsibilities, and clearance, ensuring secure access to restricted areas.

Real-time monitoring: Enable prompt responses to unauthorized access attempts or breaches, maintaining security and providing valuable data for audits and investigations.

Improved accountability: Access control systems track and record personnel movements, useful for identifying security risks, monitoring attendance, and investigating incidents.

Cost reduction: Automating access management reduces manual security measures like manned checkpoints, saving operational costs.

Increased convenience and efficiency: Integrating access control systems with other security and building management systems enhances user experience and overall security.

Access control system 2

How Access Control Systems Work

An access control system is built upon three primary components, with each playing a crucial role in managing and securing access to a specific area. Understanding the function of each component is essential to appreciate how access control systems work:

Access Control Point (ACP): These are entry and exit points, such as doors, gates, or barriers, that are secured and monitored by the system. ACPs are crucial for maintaining the physical security of a location and controlling the flow of people in and out of the area.

Access Control Readers: These devices authenticate the credentials presented by individuals seeking entry. Readers can include keypads, card readers, or biometric scanners. Credentials can be physical objects, like access cards or key fobs, or digital credentials, such as biometric data (fingerprints, facial recognition, etc.) or personal identification numbers (PINs). They serve as proof of an individual’s authorization to access a specific area or resource.

Access Control Server: This is the central system that stores and processes access data, manages permissions and controls the overall functioning of the access control system. The server maintains a database of authorized users, their credentials, and the access permissions assigned to each individual.

When an individual presents their credentials to the access control reader, the system checks the information against its database. If the presented credentials match the stored data and the individual has the necessary permissions, the system grants access by unlocking the door or barrier. In case of a mismatch or if the individual lacks the required permissions access is denied. It ensures that only authorized persons can enter the secured area.

how ip access control works

Types of Access Control Systems

In the following sections, you will learn about the various types of access control systems available, each offering unique features and benefits.

Types of Access Control Systems

Discretionary Access Control (DAC)

Discretionary Access Control systems allow the owner or administrator to determine and set access permissions for other users. In a DAC system, the person in charge can grant or revoke access rights based on their discretion.


  • Flexibility in assigning permissions
  • Suitable for small businesses with simple security needs


  • Can be prone to human error
  • Insufficient for high-security environments

Mandatory Access Control (MAC)

Mandatory Access Control systems use predefined policies and rules to determine access permissions. In a MAC system, users cannot modify permissions or grant access to others. This type of system is commonly used in government or military settings where data classification and strict access control are crucial.


  • High level of security
  • Reduced risk of unauthorized access


  • Rigidity in permissions management
  • Complex implementation and management

Role-Based Access Control (RBAC)

Role-Based Access Control systems assign permissions based on the role or job function of the user within the organization. This means that individuals with the same role have identical access rights, making it easier to manage permissions as employees join or leave the organization.


  • Streamlined permissions management
  • Scalable for businesses of any size


  • May not account for unique access requirements
  • Potential for unauthorized access if roles are not accurately defined

Attribute-Based Access Control (ABAC)

Attribute-Based Access Control systems use various attributes, such as user role, location, time, and device, to determine access permissions. This dynamic approach to access control allows for more granular and context-aware security management.


  • Highly customizable and flexible
  • Offers fine-grained access control


  • More complex to implement and manage
  • Higher upfront costs

Selecting the Right Access Control System

To choose the ideal access control system for your organization, consider the following factors:

  1. Size of your organization: The number of employees, facilities, and access points plays a significant role in determining the complexity and scalability of your access control system.
  2. Security requirements: Evaluate the level of security needed for your organization. High-security environments may require more stringent access control systems, such as MAC or ABAC.
  3. Budget: Consider the initial investment and ongoing maintenance costs of the access control system. While some systems may be more affordable upfront, they may not offer the features or flexibility needed for your organization in the long run.
  4. Integration capabilities: Your access control system should integrate seamlessly with your existing security infrastructure, such as surveillance cameras, alarms, and building management systems. Check for such ability before making the final call.
  5. Future-proofing: As technology advances, your access control system should be able to adapt to new developments and requirements. Opt for a system that supports regular updates and upgrades.

By keeping these factors in mind and learning more about access control systems, you can select the most suitable solution to safeguard your organization’s assets and maintain a secure environment.

Enhance Security with Access Control Systems

After going through this article, you are now equipped to evaluate different systems and make informed decisions regarding your security needs. The ultimate goal is to find a balance between security and convenience. This ensures that your chosen access control system provides the necessary protection without hindering your organization’s day-to-day operations. By investing in the right access control system, you can protect your property, assets, and people while ensuring smooth operations and peace of mind for everyone involved.

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