Entering a new business venture or developing a commercial real estate property in Charleston is a large investment — an investment that needs a lot of protection.
Businesses and commercial properties, by nature, require a lot of people to come and go throughout any normal business day: employees, contractors, customers, clients, facility managers, inspectors — the list of types of personnel passing through any given business property is virtually endless. Also endless is the list of vulnerabilities a property owner can have by allowing the wrong personnel in the wrong areas of their buildings and businesses.
An example of this would be access to a server room, utility/maintenance closet or other type of area designed only for specific, professionally trained personnel. Should the wrong people gain access to these types of areas, they could wreak havoc on a business or cause an unwanted accident or property damage — all of which could put commercial investments in jeopardy or extend any potential return on those investments.
So how can business owners and commercial real estate developers protect their investments in the Lowcountry but at the same time not restrict the flow of personnel needed to conduct business?
The answer, as you might have guessed from the title of the post, is a well designed & professionally installed access control system.
While many business owners and developers in Charleston are familiar with different types of access control systems and concepts, to help those that may not be as familiar quickly catch up below is a quick rundown of key access control properties, equipment, planning and other tips that will help keep their investments secured in the Lowcountry.
Before rushing right into the essential hardware elements that make up a proper access control system, let’s take a step back and look at the 3 basic elements required for any type of access control — physical or virtual.
1. Identification: Answers the question, “Who is trying to gain access?” This is some kind of marker or way of identifying the person attempting to gain access to a location. A very simple, raw form of this is someone in possession of a key or keycard to a particular area. This doesn’t identify who that person is in detail (see next step), but to the control system this the “person with key or keycard” identity. There are more advanced ways of identification of course — usernames, photo ID, employee ID, email address are all examples of identification.
2. Authentication: Answers the question, “Is the identity being used by the right person?” Any identification method that an access control system employs requires some sort of authentication step to validate personnel. In the example “person with key or keycard” identity given above, authentication would be if the key fits the door lock or the keycard is accepted by a reader. As you can imagine this is not a great access control method as anyone — not just the correct identity — could get their hands on a key or keycard. More advanced forms of authentication include passwords, passcodes, fingerprint scanners and other biometrics — all of which would be unique to the identity trying to gain access.
3. Authorization: Answers the question, “What actions can this authenticated person perform?” Again going back to the simple key or keycard example, an authorized action would be turning the lock with the key or a locking mechanism (see equipment below) unlocks after being read by a reader. Authorization actions are a vital component to any access control system as you can allow access to certain areas for certain personnel or restrict it only to a group of particular authorized identities — more on this later.
Using the 3 access control elements described above, we can easily categorize the associated hardware or equipment needs for a system.
Identification & authentication equipment include keycards or key fobs, biometric fingerprint readers, security code keypads, mobile security apps — like Alarm.com and finally access control panels. Access control panels serve as the “brains” of any access control system. This is often where the hardware connects to the access control software which, in turn, does things like authentication and applies role-based rules for authorization actions.
Authorization action equipment include magnetic door locks, electric door strikes and smart door locks (like Z-wave deadbolt locks). For building access control systems, these authorization action devices are just the physical locking mechanisms that open or close depending on the identification/authentication access rules. These are also connected to the access control panel so that if the software approves a user for access, it can send a signal to unlock the door for access.
These systems typically will rely on a building’s power and internet, so be sure whatever system you implement has a failsafe in case those systems go down.
Access control systems can quickly get complex, complicated — and worst of all, time-consuming. This is why it is almost always recommended that you have an experienced, professional, local access control company perform your installation.
To help you get the best pricing, estimate and turnaround time for your access control project, it’s best to be prepared; your access control system installation company will need to know the following:
1. Number of doors that need access control
2. Door description (pictures would be helpful for more exact estimates)
3. Available power locations
4. Available internet access locations
5. Available utility/access closets
6. Number of access control users
7. Operating hours
8. Specific access area rules (access groups)
Depending on the company you choose, they could need to know more, but providing this information can save both your company and theirs time getting your access control project planned & installed.
With your equipment now professionally installed, it’s now time to role play — create user roles for who gets access to your building or business, rules for what areas do they get access to and when can they access them?
A quick example of an access control role would be a “regular employee” of your business. They can access certain areas like stock rooms, cleaning closets and other areas needed to perform their every day job — during regular business hours — but you wouldn’t need them to access things like your server room, manager’s office or other higher level maintenance rooms (like areas with HVAC systems or electrical rooms). You would then create additional roles and rules accordingly for each area of your business or commercial property.
Once all of your rules and roles are setup, you’re well on your way to keeping your business investments safe and secure in the Lowcountry.
We hope you got most of the information you need to make an informed decision about installing an access control system for your business or in your building, but as always if you have any more questions about any of the details above feel free to contact us anytime.