For decades, the valuable resources inside of your office and business have been protected by a simple lock and key, sleepy security guards, or perhaps a grainy, low-resolution surveillance system. But as times and technology change, so too must the way we protect our property.
A commercial access control system is an effective way to secure your business or office building from theft or intruders.
By using a comprehensive security system, you can limit who has access to your facility and when they have access. You can also track employee comings and goings, as well as monitor areas of your building that are particularly vulnerable.
This doesn’t mean simply installing more cameras or upgrading your lock to a heavier deadbolt. Instead, a commercial access control system is a network of integrated technologies that work together to provide end-to-end monitoring.
Below, we will answer:
- What is a commercial building security system?
- What different types of commercial building security systems are available?
- Where do you install a commercial building security system?
- Why does your building need a commercial building security system?
- How do you purchase a commercial building security system?
- How much does a commercial building security system cost?
For businesses, protecting your facility is one of the key factors in establishing continuity – meaning you can keep working even in the face of disaster – and providing your employees with a sense of safety.
A good commercial building security system is one that’s tailored to your specific needs.
That might mean a system with advanced features for a high-security office, or a more basic set of tools for a smaller business. No matter what your needs are, there are several types of systems available, as well as different ways to purchase and install them.
What is a commercial access control system?
Put simply, this is the process of controlling who has access to your property, when they have access, and what areas they can access. This can be as simple as a single lock on a door or as complex as an integrated system of cameras, locks, and alarms that work together to monitor your property.
To effectively protect your assets and monitor who has access to them, you need to understand what different components make up a full security system. This spans access control (moving people into and out of the facility), threat detection, and response.
Security systems have come a long way in recent years and now include things like:
- A control panel or network server that manages and stores data
- Doors, windows, or gates that need to be secured
- Cameras to monitor activities
- Motion detectors sense when someone is present
- Locks to restrict access
- Fire alarm systems
- Keypads or card readers to grant entry
Some commercial access control systems also include:
- Alarms that sound when someone tries to break in
- Notifications that are sent to your phone or email
- Remote access so you can monitor your building from anywhere
- Visitor management to track who is in your building
Individually, these components do not represent a security system. You can have cameras that see everything but with no way to monitor them, they aren’t much help. Similarly, a lock is only as powerful as the door it’s protecting.
It’s only when these components work together that you have a comprehensive security system in place. By integrating these technologies, you can limit access to your building, track employee comings and goings, and be alerted to any suspicious activity.
Types of commercial access control systems
As technology has evolved and become more sophisticated, so too have the options for commercial access control systems. There are now several different types of systems available, each with its own set of features and benefits.
One of the most popular options for commercial access control systems is the use of key cards. Key cards are physical cards that have a magnetic stripe or barcode that is encoded with data. This data can be used to grant or restrict access to a building, door, or gate.
Key cards are typically assigned to individual employees and can be programmed to allow access only during certain times or days. For example, you can program a key card to allow an employee to enter the building during their shift but not after hours.
They are also relatively difficult to duplicate (though this is becoming easier), which makes them more secure than traditional keys. If a key card is lost or stolen, you can simply deactivate it and issue a new one.
Another popular type of commercial access control system is the keypad. Keypads are devices with numeric keypads that require a code to be entered to gain entry.
Like key cards, keypads can be programmed to allow access only during certain times or days. They are also more difficult to duplicate than traditional keys, and if a code is compromised, it can be changed without having to replace the entire system.
One of the downsides to keypads however is that they can be expensive to repair or replace, and sometimes have limitations in recording user data. With a keypad, it’s easy to know who is inside the building and when they entered. Not all keypads provide this function, as anyone with the code can enter without being logged.
Mobile access control
Given that nearly everyone now has a smartphone in their pocket, it was only a matter of time before it would be used for access to commercial buildings.
With mobile access control, employees can use their smartphone as a key card. An app is downloaded and used to open doors, gates, or barriers.
Mobile access control has many of the same benefits as key cards, including the ability to program when and where someone can enter. The main benefit however is convenience.
With a key card, employees have to remember to bring it with them; with mobile access control, the most important piece of technology in their life is also the way they enter a building.
Cloud-based access control
Cloud-based access control systems are a newer option that is rapidly gaining popularity. With this type of system, all of the data and information is stored in the cloud instead of on a physical server.
This has several benefits. First, it means that you can access your system from anywhere in the world with an internet connection. Second, it makes adding or deleting users much easier since there is no need to physically update the system.
Cloud-based access control systems also tend to be more affordable since there is no need to purchase and maintain physical hardware. It means that your servers are not vulnerable to attack or disaster, and you can take advantage of the latest security features and updates as soon as they are available.
Visitor management is a key component to commercial access control.
If you’ve ever tried to enter a modern apartment building, you’ve probably interacted with a video intercom. These are a type of access control system that uses video cameras and monitors to allow people to see and communicate with visitors before granting them entry.
Video intercoms can be used as a standalone security measure or in conjunction with other access control devices. For example, you could use a video intercom to screen visitors and then require them to enter a code on a keypad before the door will unlock.
They can also be integrated with your phone system so that you can see and speak to visitors even when you’re not on site. That allows you to grant or deny access remotely while maintaining an accurate log of who has entered and exited the building.
Where to install commercial access control systems
Importantly, every entry point to a building will need to have some sort of access control device installed. This includes all doors, gates, and parking garages. In some cases, it may also include windows or other openings that could be used to gain entry.
These do not need to be the same type of device. For example, you could use a keypad at the front door and a card reader at the back door. The important thing is that each entry point has some form of security in place.
Why your building needs a commercial access control system
For some small and medium-sized businesses, it is easy to think that a commercial access control system is not necessary. After all, if you know all of your employees and customers, what is there to worry about?
But even the most well-known and trusted people can be tempted by the opportunity to steal from your business or office. A study from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce showed that 75% of employees have stolen from their employer at least once, and 30% of business failures may be the result of employee fraud.
Even beyond theft prevention though, an access control system will allow you to monitor traffic in and out of your building. This information can be helpful for a variety of reasons, including:
- Identifying patterns of employee behavior (e.g., coming in late or leaving early)
- Understanding which areas of your building are being used the most (or the least)
- Spotting potential safety hazards, like a fire exit that is being blocked
A commercial access control system can also help you protect your property from external threats like vandals or buglers. By controlling who has access to your building, you can make it much more difficult for someone with ill intentions to enter.
If an intruder does gain entry, an access control system can help you track their movements and identify them more easily. This information can help catch the perpetrator and prevent future incidents.
How to purchase a commercial security system
When you’re ready to purchase a commercial access control system, the first step is to consult with a security integration company. They will be able to assess your specific needs and recommend the best type of system for your business or office.
There are many different types of access control systems available on the market, so it is important to find one that meets your specific needs. Some factors you may want to consider include:
- The size of your facility
- Do you need both pedestrian and vehicle access
- The amount of traffic you typically have
- The types of resources you need to protect
- Your budget
Once you have a general idea of the type of system you need, you can begin to compare different products. When comparing systems, be sure to look at:
- Ease of use
- Compatibility with other security systems
After narrowing down your options, it is important to get quotes from multiple providers before making a final decision. This will help ensure that you are getting the best possible deal on your commercial access control system.
How much does a commercial security system cost?
There is no single figure to answer this question, as costs can vary quite a bit depending on the size of the operation and your needs. There are four main components of any system that you will need to consider.
- Hardware: The actual security devices (e.g., cameras, access control panels, locks etc.) that are needed will be the largest upfront cost involved.
- Software: In the age of software-as-a-service, this will usually end up costing you an ongoing subscription or fee.
- Installation: Professional installation of your commercial security system can add quite a bit to the cost, depending on the complexity of the network. Like anything else, however, you get what you pay for and poor installation can lead to serious problems down the road.
- Maintenance: Be sure to factor in the cost of regular maintenance and repairs for your commercial security system. The last thing you want is to find out that something has been broken or disabled when an intruder probes the security perimeter.
In general, these costs from a traditional security provider can be prohibitive for a small business because they are designed for much larger facilities.
Proptia is a very flexible solution and an economical option for commercial buildings between 1,001 to 5,000 square feet in size, which is almost half of all commercial buildings and can be scaled up to fit large industrial and manufacturing campuses.
The extremely high cost of enterprise security systems may be overkill and not economical for many building owners, and that’s where Proptia comes in. Proptia can be scaled up or down depending on your needs and budget. It can grow with your organization and expand as your security needs increase.