While designing security systems, we are especially attracted to projects which consist of access control systems (ACS) – because only the discerning customer considers access control as a ‘security requirement’ rather than a ‘time & attendance’ requirement. In many premises, the convenience of recording attendance is given precedence to the necessity of preventing unauthorized entry at all times. This leads to the continued use of obsolete access control technology, making the entire campus vulnerable to intrusion, albeit unknowingly. Due to the lack of clear understanding of and expectation from an ACS, vendors often make the most of the situation, installing systems that have gaping loopholes.
The entry and movement of persons and/ or vehicles in a campus is of the utmost criticality for any security manager and a sound ACS must be the first step towards managing the same. Surveillance cameras may be the most visible element within security systems; however, they are reactive (mostly used after an incident has happened) – whereas an ACS has the ability to prevent that very incident.
Since all security systems are now IP or IP based, ACSs have also gravitated towards Internet Protocol. This is a great news for both the security and network administrators; however, it does open up possible vulnerabilities, especially if there is an intersection of the data and security networks. Security managers have to be tuned into the IT security demands of their organizations and have to ensure that their ACS over IP poses no risks of virtual intrusion.
Access control is a complex domain using multiple technologies – cards, readers, controllers, software, and the IT elements. Hence, it is best left to experts – however, here I lay down ten techno-functional parameters that must be considered when one decides to implement or upgrade to, a state-of-the-art ACS. While broadly any ACS can be judged by its adherence to these parameters, there are site-specific conditions that one must look into, to increase the efficacy.
Integrability with other systems is the first parameter to consider while designing an ACS. The first integration point for any ACS should be with the fire/ smoke detection system. This is mandated by law. Unfortunately, ‘mandated by law’ is not a very strong phrase in India! This has led to tragic accidents in many organizations, retail environments and homes, but the learning is still not evident. Further, organizations do not have a clear standard operative procedure (SOP) in terms of the modalities and eventualities of such integration.
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