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Commercial Access Control Systems vs. Traditional Keys

June 22, 2018

There are a few different kinds of access control systems, but keycards and digital keypads are the most common. Access control is primarily used to restrict entry to a building or to restrict access to certain areas within a building.

Learn More About Access ControlBusiness owners often ask us if there are any benefits to upgrading to an access control system from traditional keys. The short answer is that it depends. The size of the business, inventory on hand, number of employees and the amount of sensitive information being kept at the business all play a factor in determining if an access control system is right for your business.

Who’s Watching Guard?

In the old days nearly every business had someone at the front door that greeted clients and visitors. In today’s age, there are lots of businesses that simply don’t need to have a person out front all the time, because so many businesses communicate with their clients and customers by phone, email and the internet. It isn’t very friendly to have all your doors locked all the time, and this can be a hassle for employees, as well as a liability if someone forgets to lock a door or loses their keys. A lot of businesses set up a little reception area with a desk that remain unmanned unless a visitor is expected and set up a system that gives unexpected visitors the opportunity to buzz or call someone within the office. The easiest way to separate out this area is a keycard that allows employees to come and go freely, but puts a stop to unauthorized entry.

What’s the Difference between Loosing Keys and Losing a Keycard?


If you’re still using traditional keys for your business, you know that there is always a chance that an employee could lose, copy or steal a key. Changing all the locks and giving everyone in the building new keys is an enormous hassle. Some businesses don’t keep valuable equipment on hand and might be willing to take that risk, but many businesses end up putting value equipment, sensitive documents and expensive merchandise at risk with traditional keys. With a keycard system, all you have to do is deactivate the keycard for that employee. If the employee refuses to give the card back, all you’ve lost is the several dollars it cost to replace the keycard and your business avoids the huge liability of having unaccounted for keys out in the public.

Why Would I Want To Restrict Access Within My Building?

The first thing that comes to mind is a highly sophisticated facility with sliding glass doors trying to keep the experiment in sector 17 secret. In reality, there are a number of reasons businesses restrict access and have various clearances within a facility. Personalized keycards allow a business to give HR access to the employee files room, IT access to server and computer rooms, and give the facilities department access to all the supply closets and rooms with electrical, HVAC and plumbing equipment. Having dozens of different keys floating around for different departments and different sectors within a building can become extremely risky, as well as unwieldy.

Keycards Help Business Track Who’s Going Where

With traditional keys, there’s virtually no way to know who opened what or when. Personalized access control keycards allow a business to track exactly who opened a door or accessed a specific restricted area at a specific time. Although this has a very “Big Brother” feel, having this kind of data is invaluable and is well within the rights of the business. Most businesses choose not to use these systems to track employees incessantly, but instead just have this data as a record in the event that something goes wrong or there's a problem.

Is Your Business Too Small for Access Control?

Access_Control_CardBusinesses should take into consideration the size of the business, the number of employees and the number of people coming and going regularly in determining if an access control system is a good investment. If the business has lots of employees, coming and going regularly, access control systems are a great way to prevent non-employees from just coming and going as they please. If you’ve got a small little business, like mom and pop law firm, with a handful of very trusted employees that all know each other, regular keys might be enough.

Some Businesses Don’t Need an Access Control System

A small retail store with a handful of employees and lots of customers coming and going probably doesn’t need an access control system. If you add in a basic security system with an alarm code, all you have to do is change the code to prevent a past employee from being to come and go as they please. They might be able to get in with an old copied key, but the alarm system will sound in a matter of moments, limiting the amount of damage they might be able to inflict. Couple the system with a very basic video surveillance system, and you’ll probably be able to figure out and prosecute the perpetrator pretty quickly.

Turn a Traditional Security System into a Business Efficiency Tool

Some control panels give users the ability to set up to 10 or 20 unique passcodes. Giving each employee their own unique passcode is a simple trick to turn a normal security system into a business efficiency tool. That way, if someone opens the business in the middle of the night, you’ll be able to find out who it was. You’ll be able to track the first employee to arrive and the last employee to leave. Although a normal control panel isn’t going to spit this data out for you in a nice neat report, it will keep a log with the central monitoring station that can be accessed later in the event of a problem. For small businesses on a tight budget, it’s worth exploring this option with your alarm system provider.

If you’re considering making the switch from keys to an access control system, consider the cost and benefits before making the leap. Some businesses don’t need a complex access control system, while others might be required to have one by law depending on the data or equipment being stored at the facility. We recommend consulting with a professional commercial security expert to determine the system that’s right for your business.

Contact us if you have any questions related to access control systems or if you’d like to learn more about commercial security systems.

Learn More About Access Control

Topics: Multra Guard News, News, Access Control

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