When we talk about a physical access control system, we usually refer to electronic security systems. They typically use an access card to grant people access to certain areas. This cards report to a log to keep track of who entered and when.
Mechanical keys are the simplest form of physical access control and the method many smaller organizations use. Even for a small company, however, using mechanical keys has several flaws and limitations – especially as an organization gets bigger. Below are just some of the problems presented by using keys.
People lose keys
If someone loses a key, you need to replace the lock to make sure the lost key can’t be misused. You then need to distribute new keys to everyone who needs access to that door.
Keys don’t leave an audit trail
You can’t see if and when someone’s used a key, so you don’t know who’s entered or at what time.
Keys are difficult to manage
If someone needs to enter many different buildings and rooms, they’ll need a large number of keys, which are inconvenient to carry and use. It can be difficult to remember which key is for which door, but it’s too much of a security risk to label them.
By using an electronic access control system, you can avoid the downsides of using mechanical keys and also gain much more control.
It will manage:
Who has access
You may, for example, only want to allow automatic access to employees. Whereas you’d like visitors and contractors to report to the reception desk on arrival.
Which doors they have access to
You may want only some people to enter certain areas. For example, you only want technicians to be allowed in your labs.
What times they can gain access
Contractors and junior staff may only be allowed access during their standard shift pattern, whereas senior staff can enter the building at any time.
Under which conditions they’re allowed access
For example, you may set your system so contractors are only allowed access if it shows they’ve presented their certification.
What gives you even more control is that a good access control system lets you set these parameters for each individual. And you can quickly and easily update them whenever you need to.
It will also show you who’s accessed where and when so that, if there’s an incident, it’s easier to determine who might have been involved.
Access cards are still the most common identifiers used in access control systems. You present your card to a reader and, if all the conditions stored in the system are met, you’re allowed to enter.
There are other options to cards, however, and some offer higher levels of security.
The key identification methods are:
Something you have – such as an access card or badge or another type of identification tag.
Something you know – for example a PIN or password.
Something you are – biometric identifiers such as your fingerprint.
Each identification method has pros and cons, so the method to choose depends on the situation. You might choose one method for external doors, for example, and another method for internal doors.