The value of access control for small businesses

By J. Matthew Ladd

As technology has evolved over the years to become smarter and less expensive, the security industry has begun to see more smaller businesses moving away from using a key and lockset to secure their property to implementing small-scale access control solutions.

The reason is that business owners and property managers want to implement solutions that are not only cost effective, but easy to manage.  The introduction of IP and wireless-based access control solutions have made both a reality, supporting both connectivity and remote management capabilities that previously were available only on a limited basis or was too expensive to implement.

In the past, even the smallest and most cost-effective door entry systems – such as a keypad entry system – would need to be hardwired in order to communicate with the lockset to tell the door to unlock and permit someone enter. These devices would also need to be programmed to give each user a unique code, enabling the property manager or business to track each time an individual enters the building using the keypad entry system.

Today, technological advancements now include wireless keypad entry system options with devices that can communicate wirelessly with the door lockset to permit a person to enter and cloud based access control systems. The benefit here is twofold, impacting both installation time and management.

With a cloud-based system, small businesses can now remotely manage users themselves and add or remove a person’s access control privileges by using either a mobile application or desktop dashboard to make changes. The installation time is also significantly reduced thanks to the introduction of newer technology that doesn’t necessarily require the system to be hardwired. This reduced installation times translates into less money spent on the overall cost of the system.

Mobile credentialing technology is gaining popularity amongst small property owners, as this technology turns a person’s smart phone into the actual credential. This eliminates the need for someone to have to carry a smart card with them at all times, as many people always have their smart phones with them.

Small businesses, especially small retail operations, like these options because it can allow them to let employees have access to several locations while also cutting down on the re-keying costs when an employee leaves or misplaces a key. The newer, IP-based systems can also provide a host of data on open and close times and also reports on how frequently an employee is entering a space.

Perhaps the single largest factor that small businesses and property owners should take into consideration is whether the technology is easy to use. Small business owners want to implement systems that are easy to use across the board for both those looking to gain entrance into a building and those on the back end managing the system.

Addressing the challenge of multi-site security

By J. Matthew Ladd

Many different elements come into play when it comes to providing security at multi-site facilities – users have to address company culture, such as smaller offices in rural locations compared with a corporation’s larger headquarters in a major city, budget issues and how to future proof technology.

These challenges extend beyond the issues associated with technology and standardization issues with deploying a single platform. So, what is a corporate security director to do when coordinating a security program that spans dozens, and sometimes hundreds, of locations? It’s important to properly assess the overall situation and there are a few things to keep in mind.

Standardize on Equipment

Should your company standardize on the types of security systems it deploys? Several years ago, it was not uncommon for a company to allow the decision-making process to come from the local level. As a result a local office manager or security personnel would hire the local systems integrator, but the challenge with that approach is that not every security systems integrator carries and installs the same line of products.

Now more large companies are standardizing on the equipment they install and migrating toward a single solution for their video and access control systems. Taking a standardized approach can lower the overall cost of a system because of the volume of product purchased. Also, installing the same brand of access control system across multiple locations enables sales people and senior members of management who might travel to several locations to use a single card to gain access into different buildings.

Taking a single platform approach makes it is easier to review data and security issues on a corporate level by running a single report instead of having to review multiple reports. Companies can also save money on their software licensing agreements by standardizing on a single platform. The more product and software you buy, the better the pricing. Security directors can also expect better support from their manufacturer and systems integrator partner.

Rural Office vs. City Office Mentality

For a long time, there have been two schools of thought relating to providing security for an office located in a rural area when compared with an office located in a large city. It’s not uncommon for the smaller field office to feel that security is not a necessity because the crime rate is low in the area or there are few employees coming and going from the building. However, it’s important for security directors to remember that security is not just about protecting assets, but it’s also about protecting the corporate brand and providing liability protection.

When a corporate office establishes security standards based on risk, it can help a smaller field office understand the overall need for security beyond an intrusion system. One example would be to implement a set standard for data rooms so that every data room or closet has a card reader and a surveillance camera associated with it. Another scenario could be that every perimeter door has a card reader, a surveillance camera and an intercom system. By specifically listing the security requirements for locations like these, corporations can help ensure a security program is accepted and implemented.


When implementing a security program for multiple facilities, future-proofing is critical to ensure that budgets are spent wisely and then there is the ability to upgrade systems as the industry introduces new technology.

Manufacturers are listening to their customers about the need to future-proof security systems and as a result have introduced cloud-based solutions, NVRs and video management systems that can operate with legacy camera systems. This enables end users to take a strategic approach to upgrades and ensures that the investment they made in their security systems maintains its value.

As a corporate security director, it’s important to make sure that you are implementing security systems that can either be upgraded in the future by downloading new software or that have a long-standing reputation in the security market. The last thing a security director wants is a newly security system to become outdated or unsupported after only a few years.