How to Choose an Electronic Access Control (EAC) System

Everyone is familiar with the experience of being buzzed into an office. Typically, a receptionist sees the visitor then decides whether or not to press a button to release the lock and allow the guest to enter. This everyday experience represents the simplest form of an electronic access control (EAC) system, which even in their most complicated form still consist of three basic things: an electronic door lock, a reader and a controller. In the example of an office receptionist, the eyes are the reader that upon recognizing the guest sends a signal to the brain, which acts as the controller that tells the receptionist to press the button and unlock the door. The famous “buzzing” noise comes from the current for the power source that makes the lock vibrate.

EAC systems may be common, but not every business needs this security solution. Knowing the basic parts of an EAC system helps business owners and security managers decide whether such an investment makes sense for them. In addition, business owners and security professionals should ask key questions to help make their decision. Namely, does the business require an audit trail, which is a time and date stamped record of every door opening and attempted visit to an office? Second, does the business require that different employees have various degrees of access to different locations depending on their job responsibilities, such as managers allowed exclusive access to certain records, financial information or material? Finally, would a lost or stolen key represent an immediate threat to the security of the business facility, making it unwise to distribute keys to employees and risk that possibility?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, it makes sense to consider installing an EAC system. Read on to learn more about EAC systems, especially the readers, the part that most people see and use on a daily basis.

Most visitors and employees in a business only see the reader part of an EAC system and identify this as the chief element. Readers, which usually are mounted on the outside of doors, recognize codes, credentials or biometrics through the use of keypads, card readers or biometric readers like fingerprint or retina scanners. The type of reader to choose depends on the level of security required by the situation. Keypads, which are popular and easy to use, have drawbacks because the punch-in codes can easily be stolen or shared. In that case, keypad-only security should not be used in highly sensitive locations that require strict security. Consider combining a keypad with a card reader or even biometric reader for enhanced security. As a general rule, the more security required, the more advanced the reader part of the EAC system should be. At the top of the line and most expensive, typically used for government installations, are biometric readers that grant or deny access based on unique features of biology, such as retinas, fingerprints and facial recognition.

Like it or not, the business world of today often requires the kind of audit trails that EAC systems can create. Audit trails provide a time and date stamped record of every opening or attempted opening of a lock. In this way, business owners and managers can track who goes where in an office as a way of monitoring security. If material goes missing, it is helpful to know who was where and had access to what. On a more positive note, knowing the audit trail can also yield information and insights about work patterns that helps to increase productivity.

When considering EAC systems, it is finally important to think about whether one wants a networked or standalone system. Network systems allow all the doors to communicate with a central computer and provide control from a single location. Doors can quickly be locked down in the event of an emergency and credentials can be added and removed for one office from another office thousands of miles away. Of course, networked systems cost more than standalone systems, which cannot communicate and must be programmed at the specific door they control. Which system to use often depends on size, where it becomes difficult to operate with a standalone system when there are more than a few doors to manage, especially if they are far from each other.

Most people recognize the simplest versions of an electronic access control (EAC) system. The question is, are such systems right for every business? Knowing the basic parts of EAC systems and the chief reasons for installing them can help answer this important question.
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