Letting the right people in – What is access control, and how does it work?

Jan 24, 2022 | Commercial Security, Office Security

Letting the right people in – What is access control, and how does it work?

When we talk about access control, we mean the technology and processes that allow authorised people to enter a specified place. That could be a whole building, a specific area or even a single room. Depending on the use of the room, you may limit users access depending on rules in the hierarchy of access. So, for example, common benefits of access control for a workforce in a secure warehouse are:

  • Allowing all your staff into a building
  • Allowing specific teams to access the main warehouse area
  • Permitting only supervisors to have specific access to a secure storage area
  • Allowing a set few people to be able to access very high-value items in the secure storage area

The same principles of access levels can also apply to public buildings, government offices, retail businesses and, of course, places such as schools and medical facilities where protection from unauthorised visitors is a matter of safety and welfare.

If correctly designed, a good access control system will be flexible enough to allow the right people to get only where they need to go and, just as importantly, keep the wrong people out. Of course, If anything happens outside its settings, your access control system will respond by alerting someone such as a security company or the police and the manager of the system to the potential problem.

How does an access control system work?Access Control Fingerprint Entry GIF

The details vary based on your needs, but entry and exit points will usually be controlled by a central unit that decides who is allowed in. The controller knows who has the right to access the areas because they have a keycode or pass card. More popular newer systems use biometrics such as an iris scan or fingerprint to tell the controller it is an authorised user. The entry also has a contact strip, usually on the top, that will tell the controller the door has been opened. 

Once authorised, the controller will release the door by opening a magnetic lock. When someone is inside the area and the door closes, a release mechanism, either electronic or a manual, will allow them out again.

Flexible and adaptable systems work best

As part of your internal processes, you will need to ensure that only the right people have access to any areas where you want the restriction of movement. For example, in some cases, offices with public entrances or school receptions, you may prefer automatic opening for anyone during specific hours but restricted access outside those times. In the case of our warehouse example above, all the team could have access to the warehouse during the day, but later that area may be restricted for access by night shift workers only.

As your business grows, your needs will change. We always create systems that can grow with you so you have the flexibility when you need more sophisticated control over who can access which areas. Many clients now also ask for security that integrates with cameras and biometric tracking, meaning you know who is in the building at any given time and exactly where they are.

Why do you need access control?

Access Control Monitoring

While cybercrime may grab the headlines, crimes against premises are still the most common. It is probably best to let the statistics speak for themselves on this subject. According to The Home Office, in 2018, there were millions of crimes against businesses in the UK. Burglary, theft, and criminal damage cost SME businesses over 12 billion pounds a year. Most of these crimes go unpunished, and the victims are simply left to foot the bill.

Prevention, as they say, is the best medicine. In the case of property-based crime, your access control forms a large part of that prevention.

An access control system is not about restrictions as much as about well-being and freedom. It is all about ensuring that everyone has fast, efficient access combined with the comfort of knowing that areas that need to be safe and secure are appropriately restricted and monitored.

If you’re interested in learning more about how commercial security technology and access control could help your business, contact us today