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Access Control System Design: The Expert Guide

access control pad

Access control system design is crucial to preserving the ongoing security of any physical location. It’s how you control who enters an area and when. However, designing the right access control system is often more complex than it appears. 

Access control solutions and security systems come in many forms, from simple door intercom systems and gate and barrier solutions to the latest smart locks. Innovations in AI are even paving the way for next-level physical access control systems that implement machine learning algorithms for threat detection and risk prevention. 

It’s not just the latest technology that needs to be considered either. Companies must also ensure they’re configuring their access control systems correctly, installing the right tools, and adhering to their specific budgetary requirements. 

Here’s everything you need to consider when investing in access control system design. 

A Quick Look at 4 Types of Access Control

Before we examine the various factors you’ll need to consider during access control system design, it’s worth taking a moment to review the most common types of access control. The type you choose will likely have an impact on the decisions you make. 

Common options include:

  • Mandatory access control: A system that empowers a single administrator to add, edit, and remove access permissions for other users. If your property is smaller with a handful of tenants and visitors, mandatory access control may be the most secure option.
  • Discretionary access control: A discretionary plan allows various administrators to change aspects of the same system. For a company with a number of visitors and staff members, as well as various locations, this could allow for a more flexible approach to access control design. 
  • Role-based access control: With role-based access control, access is given to individuals based on their categorized roles. For instance, a person with an IT role might have access to server rooms, while a standard staff member has access to storage closets. The RBAC system is often best for properties where different employees need access to different environments.
  • Attribute-based access control: With attribute-based access control, or ABAC, the system monitors people’s attributes and changes their access permissions automatically, without the support of an administrator. For example, a system could automatically grant access to higher security areas to individuals who receive a promotion. 

If you’re not sure which access control system is best suited to your business, it helps to speak to a security professional or team with experience in access control system design. 

The Key Factors to Consider in Access Control System Design

An effective access control plan involves selecting, configuring, and implementing hardware and software solutions that support your building’s security needs. There’s more to securely controlling access to your building than purchasing a keypad or intercom. 

Business leaders and facility managers need to consider various factors, from how convenient their technology should be to use to how systems should be powered and even how many forms of identity authentication they should use. Here are some of the most important points to consider when designing an access control solution. 

Your Overall Budget

The security of a building and its assets isn’t something any organization can afford to cut corners on, even with strict budget restrictions. However, every business will have a budget they need to consider. This budget will determine exactly what kind of technology you can implement. 

A good way to begin is to consider the scope of your project, the number of access points you need to secure, and the security policies that you need to implement. Based on that, think about how much you can afford to spend on a practical, sustainable investment. 

Convenience

An access management system should effectively keep unauthorized people out of your business premises. However, that doesn’t mean it should make it difficult for crucial staff members and personnel to navigate your building. 

If you’re operating in a fast-paced industry like healthcare, it may be particularly important to ensure authorized people can enter an environment quickly, with minimal effort. In this instance, intelligent tools like biometric authentication systems powered by AI could create a more convenient experience for your users, without compromising on security.  

The Number of Users that Need Access

The number of users accessing your building will also have an impact on your access control planning. For instance, if you have fewer people who need to enter your facility at any given time, you may be able to use more comprehensive, and sometimes more secure authentication methods. 

Alternatively, if your building encounters higher levels of foot traffic, then you may need to invest in high-speed authentication methods, and tools that allow for the quicker opening of barriers and doors. Remember, the type of users you’re catering to will also affect your choice of system. Are all of your users registered individuals or staff members, or are some also unregistered?

The Type of Identity Authentication Needed

Next, you’ll need to think about how you’ll authenticate the identity of every user who wants to access a building. There are many different options to consider here. In industries like hospitality, PIN codes, RFID cards and keyfobs, and NFC chips are common for identity authentication.

In other industries that require higher levels of security to comply with regulatory standards, advanced authentication methods may be necessary, such as AI-driven face recognition tools, fingerprint readers, iris recognition, or automatic number plate recognition tools for cars. 

As well as determining what forms of identification are necessary, you may also need to consider whether multiple identification methods should be used. Multi Factor authentication, such as using a PIN and password, along with a QR code, can increase building security.

Number of Locations and Access Points

The number of locations in your business will have an impact on the number of access points you need to protect with your access control design strategy. Larger facilities will have higher numbers of locations where staff, vehicles, and visitors can access the business. 

Before investing in any new technology or seeking the assistance of an access control system expert, conduct a detailed site review. Outline each access point (entry and exit) around your location, from internal locked doors to gates for parking lots or garages. 

Consider whether every access point requires access control, or whether there are certain doors and locations where access controls would become a hindrance. For instance, in high-foot traffic environments like a hospital, authentication points at every internal door would slow down the flow of movement, and hamper productivity. 

Internal and External Access Points

The location of your access control devices and technology will dictate what kind of solutions you can choose. In outdoor, harsher environments, you will need to look for tools that offer IP (ingress protection) as well as IK (impact protection) ratings for outdoor conditions and weather. 

Additionally, the consideration of changing light and temperature conditions in both indoor and outdoor locations may be necessary. Some door intercom systems feature built-in cameras for identification, and low light levels can greatly affect picture quality. 

If you’re operating in low-light environments regularly, you may need to invest in cameras with night-vision or infrared capabilities. 

Communication Features

Certain access control systems won’t require communication methods such as video and audio systems to be in place for interactions between internal staff and external visitors. Others, however, will require these features to ensure visitors can be identified properly. 

If your location receives a lot of visitors for different purposes who may not be recognized by your system or have their own identity and access cards, then you may need to interact with them to determine why they want access into your building.

Keep this in mind when choosing your access control systems, and ensure you’re selecting tools with the potential for video surveillance and audio interaction when necessary. 

Locking Technology

Just as there are various types of identity authentication methods available for access control systems, there are also numerous door and gate locking options. Electronic lock systems, used in conjunction with your access control technology, can include everything from magnetic locks to electric strike locks, and solenoid locks. You could also invest in automatic door and gate controllers.

The types of locks required for your system, and their features will depend on a number of factors, including the security standards in your chosen industry. When selecting locking systems, you should also consider egress options, or how people can exit the building.

Some locking solutions will make it easy to exit a building using a “request to exit” button, or an exit buzzer. Other options may be more complex, which could have an impact on how easy it is for staff members and visitors to navigate your building. 

Power Supply for Access Control (and Backup)

Today’s access control systems are typically electronic and may connect to your internet protocol via a standard LAN infrastructure. To ensure your system continues to work seamlessly, you’ll need to determine what form of power supply is necessary for your solution. 

Some solutions will support Power over Ethernet, or PoE, so you can use the same cable for data and power connectivity. Other systems can be powered by an external power supply or battery system. 

When selecting your power supply, you’ll also need to ensure you have a backup in place, in case of a power cut. Backup power generators or power supplies are necessary to adhere to fire and safety standards in any industry. You can consult with professional access control and security teams to determine where and when to apply fail-safe mechanisms. 

Device Installation

Whether you’re installing your access control devices yourself, or working with a professional, it’s important to carefully consider the mounting and installation options available. Some devices come with a choice of flush mount or surface-mount back boxes and plates. 

When selecting your solution, you’ll need to consider the walls or locations where devices will be mounted, and how easy it will be to adapt them to your needs. Surface mount installation, for instance, will often be easier than flush mounting if your walls are particularly thick. 

It’s also important to consider how you can protect your devices against the elements if they’re going to be mounted outside. Flush mounting can provide greater protection against damage from malicious individuals, as well as various weather conditions.

Remote and Emergency Monitoring

Remote monitoring solutions can provide insights from any location about the people attempting to gain access to your business. This is valuable in a fast-paced environment where security professionals may not be able to spend a lot of time standing at a door or gate. 

A remote monitoring system will need to be connected to the internet, and offer a reliable, real-time view of what’s happening around your facility. When you’re implementing remote monitoring solutions, with the help of an access control expert, it’s also worth considering emergency monitoring options. Emergency monitoring features, such as lockdown capabilities, will ensure the system is prepared to handle critical situations. 

Scalability

Over time, the access control and security needs of any environment can change. The number of staff members and visitors you need to accommodate may grow. Additionally, you may find you need to implement additional monitoring tools and features to prevent unauthorized access and improve your safety. 

When selecting your access control solutions, it’s important to ensure your technology can scale and adapt to your changing requirements. The right system will be able to evolve alongside your business, allowing you to add new users, locations, and access points whenever necessary. 

Check to see how easy it will be to implement updates, new technology, and advanced capabilities once you’ve installed your access control technology and devices. 

Mastering Access Control Design

Ultimately, there are a number of crucial factors to consider to ensure the success of your security system. From the number of locations you need to secure, to the technology you should use to authenticate your visitors and staff members, all of the various components in play can be overwhelming. That’s why it’s helpful to get the guidance and support of an expert. 

At Infassure, we offer end-to-end expertise on everything from integrated AV systems to structured wiring and access control design. We can help you transform your security strategy, update your access control technology, and stay compliant with the latest industry regulations.

Contact the Infassure team today for step-by-step support and guidance on comprehensive access control system design. We’ll provide a personalized quote, tailored to your needs. 

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