Access Control Solutions

Electronic access control has become the security solution of choice for commercial facilities around the world. Its growing popularity has resulted in an unprecedented number of options to enhance security, which can have the unfortunate side effect of making clients feel overwhelmed by the selection process.

As a result, it’s more important than ever for security consultants to function as trusted advisers who can help their clients successfully navigate the difficult process of finding the right products for their specific needs. Your expertise can play a critical role in helping customers understand the many factors that they need to consider, including facility age, credential management platform and protocols, budget and long-term security strategy.

However, it’s important to remember that anyone can sell products, but if you want to build the trust necessary to cultivate long-term clients, your primary goal should always be to provide the best solutions for their needs.

Communication is Key

Communication will play a crucial role throughout this process. You will need to identify the customer’s long-term goals as well as any special considerations or limitations. Some clients may know what they want, and it will be your responsibility to point out any discrepancies between what they want versus what is actually needed.

A security crisis is often the catalyst that prompts clients to install or upgrade their access control system. Many people’s first reaction is to try and solve the problem quickly. However, before rushing into a decision, it is important to get the right people together for a planning meeting to develop a practical solution that aligns with their building, their budget, how the system will be used and by whom.

Another issue that must be considered during planning — and your clients may not have thought of — is the demands access control will place on bandwidth and internal networks, so it makes good business sense to involve the IT department early. Taking a collaborative approach will allow you to confirm that the IT infrastructure is up-to-date and all products will be equipped to work in the future.

“I’ve seen the best success when a company’s security and IT leaders are involved from the beginning. They set the tone for working together and jointly developing a solution,” says Erik Larsen, National Integrator Account Manager at Allegion. “When security understands the IT infrastructure – and, how, for example, the addition of locks or cameras impacts the network – and, on the other side, when IT understands the liability and reputation risks of not having the proper security solution in place, that’s when they can move forward implementing the right solution.”

Start With a Plan

During the planning meeting, it is important to discuss the issues that most impact which solution will be selected, including:

  • The access control system’s anticipated use and its overall intent
  • The necessary policies and procedures for access control
  • How the implementation of access control fits into the company’s overall security plan
  • The barriers and limitations to implementation

During the planning phase, you may find yourself asking questions your client has never considered before. Your guidance can help lead them toward a solution that works for them and one they feel confident using. Here are some examples of what to discuss early on to ensure the most optimal outcome:

  • What are your current lockdown procedures?
  • How long does it take to lock down?
  • Do you practice lockdown?
  • How many users will your system have?
  • Do your users have varying security levels?
  • Do you have a crisis management plan?
  • Who manages your security?
  • How do people move through the building on a daily basis?
  • How do people move through the building after hours and/or on weekends?
  • What are your goals for electronic access control solution?

Because today’s systems frequently extend access control into parking garages, warehouses, storage units and other areas, planning must also take into account the potential needs of the system outside the main building. Expanding the security perimeter can provide even greater security, management and convenience, but it requires careful evaluation and credential planning.

Identify the Right Type of Solution

Once you have established the overall system needs, budget and IT requirements, the next important decision is determining if the client is looking for a networked security system, a standalone one or a combination of both.

If you are dealing with a large campus or business site, the security needs are likely to be much more complex, with different types of buildings requiring different levels of security. Not every door in the facility has to be a controlled entrance, nor is it always necessary to have 100%, 24-hour control. Your guidance on these types of projects will be particularly crucial in determining what is appropriate.

The building’s construction will also play a role in determining the right solution, since it can be difficult to wire a system in an existing or historical building. Networked locks that connect to a central access control system give you the flexibility to build a system that includes both hard-wired and wireless locks.

Wireless locks are increasingly becoming the solution of choice, both for convenience and aesthetics. Not only can they help you avoid a host of installation hassles, there are many scenarios in which wireless is likely to be your only option:

  • An existing door (especially if it’s fire rated), or an opening set into stone
  • A door that would require the wiring to be run in surface-mounted conduit
  • A location in which drilling into the walls or ceiling would create too much dust or would interrupt a busy workspace (e.g. healthcare facilities have specific procedures that must be followed to protect the air quality for patients and staff)
  • Exterior installations that would require digging deep trenches for wires just to integrate an exterior gate or a remote access door

A wireless solution also allows for easy installation that results in minimal disruption to their environment and can be finished quickly and cost-effectively. It’s important to remember though that not all wireless locks need to be networked to function effectively. For clients who lack the IT infrastructure necessary to support a fully networked system, standalone wireless locks may be a good solution for some or all of the doors.

Keep Solutions Flexible

A common concern of many clients is that the access control system they select today will not be flexible enough to be upgraded and expanded over time as their needs change. Integrators are challenged to provide a viable, integrated security system that can meet current safety and security issues, as well as accommodate emerging technologies that will allow the system to expand and adapt as needed in the future. Such solutions should be able to operate current technologies — as well as those under development — without compromising or risking investments in their present systems.

Open architecture electronic locking systems are the solution to meeting the security and technology needs of today and tomorrow. Your clients are unlikely to be familiar with this terminology and will rely on your expertise to understand what it is and why it makes sense for them. Open architecture will allow them to customize door openings with the right solution for each door, including credential readers and network communications, to create a perfect fit.

Your role is to help them understand how they can upgrade readers and network modules from an offline program to a networked solution, change credentials at any time and use future innovative technologies as they emerge. They may even be surprised to learn that, in many cases, upgrades do not require replacing all the locks or even taking locks off doors.

Because they allow access control solutions to be configured in multiple ways — depending on the need of each opening — modular designs are becoming increasingly popular. Customers appreciate the flexibility they provide to support and manage various types of openings with different access protocols and uses. Modularity also allows a single system to include multiple credentials, depending on the opening requirements.

Achieve Balance

In any given facility there are multiple openings to secure and multiple people who need access.  Helping your client understand their credential options and what credential works best will be an important part of planning and implementing their access control solution. Issues to review and consider include:

  • Are they choosing a networked system where issuing and managing card credentials make sense?
  • Do they need to integrate cashless vending with their credential system?
  • Will they be integrating time and attendance into their access control system?
  • Are the locks being accessed in an interior or exterior location where weather may be a concern?
  • How deeply will they want to monitor each user’s access and movement within the facility?
  • Does everyone have the same level of security clearance or is there a need for multiple security/access levels?

“Typically security, technology and usability are the key priorities,” Larsen said. “The goal is to balance priorities for each organization. In a clean room environment, for example, usability may be the driving priority because handling keys, cards or keypads may not be conducive or convenient. In that scenario, the client likely needs a biometric solution.”

But he points out that there’s no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to access control and security. The key is to achieve a balance.

“Many people try to select credentials by leading with the technology,” Larsen said. “Instead, they should be finding out about the user, the applications and the culture. The right technology will follow once those things are understood.”

Solutions Over Sales

In today’s changing society, there are more decisions for your customers than ever before, and helping them find the right solution is important to completing a practical security plan. Each new sales lead is not just the opportunity to make a sale, but also an opportunity to build a lasting relationship that will lead to repeat business for your company. The end result will be an access control solution for the present and future, and a satisfied client willing to refer you to others.

Article Provided By: Security Sales & Integrators

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