The Importance Of Physical Access Control

Access control systems regulate who and when people are allowed to enter a building, site or restricted area.

Businesses of all sizes should prioritise security, and an access control system may make life easier for your staff while also keeping your office safe and saving money.

Read on to learn more about access control systems in the UK, their benefits, and why it’s really important to keep your security system up to date.

Door handle

What Is An Access Control System?

We commonly refer to an electronic security system when we talk about a physical access control system. They often employ an identifier, such as an access card, to authorise users to enter specific areas.

They also provide vital data to help you track how your buildings and sites are used so they can register who accessed where and when.

How Does An Access Control System Work?

Electronic access control systems rely on user credentials, access card readers, auditing, and reports to track user access to restricted locations and areas.
Someone who wants to enter an access-controlled location presents their credentials, which can be physical, like a key card, or digital, like a mobile device.

When you unlock an access point, the reader sends information to the access control unit, which authorises and triggers the access point to unlock and grant access.

Access control door systems have access management portals or dashboards. These control portals allow security officers, office administrators, or IT managers to appoint who can access the premises and under what conditions.

They can create settings based on time of day, attendance system shifts, security level, the employee’s job title, or rank.

Types of Access Control Solutions

Depending on the type of organisation, the number of zones, and authorised persons, various options are available to suit any security requirements.
These include:

Manual Access Control

In manual access control, people are used to securing specific access points. These can be security guards, stewards, doorkeepers, or customer service agents who identify people entering the premises and decide whether they can be let in based on predefined criteria, for example, by presenting a ticket before entering a concert venue.

Manual access control is often used at highly frequented access points where getting information from people beforehand can be challenging, and identification isn’t necessary. These can include theatres, cinemas, theme parks, and zoos.

Mechanical Access Control

Mechanical access control uses mechanical technology to secure an access point. A cylinder lock with a suitable key is a typical example of mechanical access control and is usually used in homes or garages.

Key card access

Electronic Access Systems

Electronic access control can help secure access points for areas or buildings with advanced security requirements.

A chip or card with the correct credentials is presented to readers for people to pass through. It also keeps a record of who passed where and when.
Electronic access systems can include:

  • Standalone Systems

These are used for single access points, and the access decision is made based on local access permissions in a standalone component. The systems aren’t wired, meaning they require fewer installation requirements, saving time on-site and allowing easy retrofitting of components.
Standalone components can help implement an access control system where it would traditionally be impossible because of location or existing site infrastructure. It’s easy to integrate offsite access points with a more extensive access control system, a combination of both online and standalone components

  • Online Systems

Online systems are wired and connected to the host system’s access control software. They feature real-time message exchange between components and software and have interfaces to many other systems that can be incorporated, including elevator controls or alarm systems. You can achieve high-security levels with online systems and use them for more significant sites with high access rates.

Mechatronic Access Control

Mechatronic access control combines mechanical and electronic access control to offer a more layered form of security.

The electronic system first checks the code, card, or other media used, and only after passing this can a key be used on the mechanical lock to open the door.
Mechatronic door access control systems are usually used in offices with high-security requirements, server rooms, or private residential buildings.

Physical Access Systems

No matter how high-quality your access control system or door entry system is, physical access control has a vital role in access control and security.

Examples of physical access systems include sensor barriers, turnstiles, security interlocks, or revolving doors.

Why Use An Access Control System Instead Of Keys?

The simplest form of physical access control is mechanical keys. Mechanical keys are used by many organisations, particularly small businesses. However, they have a number of limitations and flaws.

Flaws presented by using keys include:

  • Key Loses

People easily misplace keys. When someone loses a key, it needs to be replaced, and the lock may need to be changed depending on the level of security required. The distribution of new keys is another unnecessary cost.

  • No Audit Trail

Mechanical keys don’t leave an audit trail, and you are unable to trace someone using a key, making it difficult to know who gained access and at what time.

  • Difficult To Manage

Keys can be cumbersome, especially if someone needs to enter many different rooms and buildings. You may need a large number of keys that are inconvenient to carry and use. Labelling the keys can be a security risk, making it challenging to remember which key is for which door.

How Does an Electronic Access System Increase Control and Security?

When you use electronic access control, you avoid the drawbacks of using mechanical keys while also increasing security.

It can manage:

  • Who has access – for example, you may only want to allow automatic employee access but have visitors, customers, or others report to the reception desk on arrival.
  • The doors they have access to – For example, you may only want specific people to enter certain areas, like technicians only having access to the lab.
  • When they gain access – For example, junior staff or contractors can only have access during their standard shift. In contrast, the senior staff can enter the building or premises at any time.
  • Under which conditions access is granted – For example, you may set your system to only grant contractors access if they’ve presented proof of identification.

An access control system gives you more control by letting you set these parameters for each individual.

You can also easily and quickly update them whenever you need to. When there’s a security issue, it’s important to determine who might be involved, as login credentials log the details of who has access to different areas.

Security camera

Access Control System Components

You can find different components depending on the type of access control system, including:

Door readers: Readers can be biometric or card readers. Card readers permit entrance using a fob or card, while biometric readers can include RFID. Such RFID access cards are reserved for high-security areas, ensuring only the right people can access sensitive areas.

Keypads: You must input a specific code to gain entrance, and they’re most secure when used with readers.

Credentials: These refer to identity authentication methods like passwords or PIN codes typed into the keypad. It can also include a radio frequency identification card (RFID), smartphone, or smart card. Biometric credentials can include a fingerprint, retinal scan, voice recognition, palm geometry, or facial recognition.

Sensors: Some electronic access control systems can include sensors for fire or temperature control, infrared, smoke, carbon monoxide, motion, occupancy, or door sensors to trigger alarms when the door is forced open or left open.

Electric lock hardware: It works with the electronic access system to lock and unlock the door. The type needed can depend on the door construction and can include electric exit devices, electric locks, electric strikes, or switches.

Control panels: The controller is usually out of sight, connected to the electric locks, and will trigger the door to unlock when a credential is recognised.

Management software: The access control management software uses an internet network to record activity, generate reports, and give users options to manage visitors, date and time restrictions, or quickly add and remove access rights to staff members from a single computer or smartphone mobile app.

Main Benefits of Access Control Systems

Simplified Management

An access control system provides an effective way to handle the authorization of users and prevent unauthorised access to various areas like office doors, business premises, sensitive data, or system files. You can track and monitor all entryway activity on a single door or the entire site depending on your privacy policy or security technique.

Require Specific Credentials For Access

You can require specific credentials for access when using an access control system. You gain complete control and can grant selective restrictions of access depending on the level of security. Using badges that indicate specific credentials will help you keep track of who is granted access to what locations at what time.

Such time-usage trends help eliminate physical access control limits and logical access control limit connections. They provide protection and help reduce crime by restricting unauthorised access to important data like financial records, expensive physical IT assets, or products like hazardous materials.

Reduced Risk Of Traditional Keys

Losing physical keys can disrupt specific areas of larger businesses or the entire place. You can easily eliminate this with an access control system and prevent threats of people copying keys for unauthorised access or high-profile breaches. Traditional keys can be easily duplicated, but it can be impossible to duplicate features for authentication credentials like face recognition.

Easier Access

Easy access and functionality are important aspects of any security strategy. With an access control system, you have the ability to allow and deny people access to areas of your business.

Remote Access

Online access control systems feature mobile compatibility and allow a user to connect to the cloud and log in from anywhere to control and monitor access.
A fundamental concept of the best access control systems is open standards that allow them to integrate with third-party systems.


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