Access Control Basics Infographic

What is access control?

Access Control Basics

Access control systems are a type of physical security which allow you to restrict or allow access to a building or a specific area within a building. Usually, they are installed to protect businesses and property from vandalism, theft, and trespassing. For example, they are especially useful in facilities that require higher security and protection. Therefore, physical barriers, like retaining walls, fences, etc. can be effective, but access control allow you to control how and when a person can gain entry.

The main components of an access control system include

Access point:

The entrance point which can include security gates, turnstiles and door locks. A building can have a single access point, or multiple including meeting rooms, offices or any room that houses valuable or confidential items.


Credentials can include fobs and key card entry systems, encrypted badges, mobile credentials, PIN codes and passwords.

Readers and/or keypads:

At the access point, readers send the credential data to a control panel to authenticate the credential and request access. If using a keypad or biometric reader (such a fingerprint scan, facial ID, or retina scan), users will enter their PIN or complete a scan prior to obtaining access.

Control panel:

The control panel receives data from the reader and verifies the validity of the credential. If approved, the control panel transmits to the access point via the access control server, and the door will unlock. If the data is not approved, the user will be denied entry.

Access control server:

The server retains user data, access privileges, and audit logs. The server might be on-premises or managed in the cloud. The threat from hacking and security breaches requires that system maintenance and software updates be performed regularly.

Basic vs. intelligent access control

Basic access control might do the job of restricting access to a building or an office space, but that might not always be enough protection in today’s world. A locked door can keep unwanted people out of your space, but how do you make sure that only the correct people have access to your credential data? This concern is where intelligent access control comes in.

Basic systems use keycards, fobs or mobile credentials to restrict entrance. Intelligent systems take it one step further in requiring ID authorization, entry schedules and entry requirements to limit access. For example, you can require 2 elements to gain entry, something physical and some intelligence. The physical could be a keycard or fob and intelligence could be PIN code, password or facial recognition.

Intelligent systems will use multi-factor verification by combining a physical barrier with user authorization. The use of mobile credentials can incorporate an extra level of protection to your intelligent access control. Smartphones most usually require a password, touch ID or facial recognition.

What to look for in access control systems

Advancements in security technology, now affords many enhanced features and options in access control systems. Budgetary concerns should be factored in when choosing the type of credentials you’d like to use. Keycards are the most budget friendly choice, up front. However, the back end costs of keycards might end up costing you more over time. Keycards are frequently lost and require replacing which also poses a security threat, if the keycard ends up in the wrong hands. To increase the level of protection, you can purchase encrypted keycards or use two-factor authentication.

The best value and security would be in mobile credential. It gives your users the ease of using their mobile devices to enter and exit the building and the probability of them losing their device, sharing it with co-workers or leaving it at home is greatly reduced.

You should always add the consideration of maintenance and system management when planning an access control system. Many legacy systems use readers and on-site servers which require in-person management and maintenance. Older readers and slower system updates are prone to tampering. The need to access or update your system remotely, has become increasingly important. If this is the case for your business, a cloud-based platform should be considered.

What is access control that runs on the cloud?

With cloud-based access control, your access control hardware (readers, hubs and control boards) communicates with software via the cloud for a more flexible, scalable security solution.

Benefits include:

  • Remotely control your hardware including unlocks and lockdowns.
  • Instantly creating and revoking credentials for users.
  • Real-time notifications for access events and potential threats.
  • Maintenance and troubleshooting without needing to be on-premises.
  • Automatic system updates from the cloud. Keeping your security measures up-to date.
  • Real-time audit trails for all access activity, which can be accessed from any authorized device.
  • Integrate your access control system with other building security software, for example, video surveillance, communication tools, and space management solutions.

We are proud to partner with Isonas and 2N for access control systems, contact a netRelevance professional for assistance in design, pricing and installation.