Before looking at whether it’s best to opt for centralised or decentralised access control, let’s first clarify what we mean by access control. We’re talking about the physical system or systems that control who enters your sites, buildings, rooms and cabinets, and when they’re allowed access.
Many access control systems are operated by cards, which the holders present to readers, with varying levels of security set for employees, contractors and visitors. And increasingly more physical access control systems use biometric characteristics to identify people or verify that they’re who they claim to be.
What is decentralised access control?
Decentralised access control is when you have more than one location to protect and some or all of your sites operate their own access control systems. You don’t have one unified access control policy and system.
This can often arise if, for example, you have locations in different countries, each with their own autonomous security managers and budgets. Or if your firm has bought other companies that continue to use their legacy systems for access control.
The challenges that decentralisation can bring
As with anything that’s decentralised, cost control and efficiency is a key challenge for decentralised access control. Even something that should be simple, such as adjusting access rights, can be very difficult, time consuming and expensive.
When it comes to risk management, it’s also tricky to assess whether all your decentralised access control systems meet your corporate standards. Not to mention the relevant laws and regulations at each location. Governance, control and compliance are crucial aspects of access control and they can all be hampered if your access control isn’t centralised.
Convenience and brand continuity are often affected too. Especially if employees and visitors are forced to follow different access control procedures at different sites and can’t move easily from building to building. In our increasingly international world, it’s often a key requirement for people to access buildings on various continents with one card. And this is something that can be difficult or even impossible to achieve through decentralised access control.
What is centralised access control?
Centralised access control is when you have one unified system for all your locations – even those spread across several continents. You have one global security policy and your system is managed centrally.
The challenges of centralising access control
Although centralised access control brings a whole raft of benefits, it’s not without challenges. You need to ensure, for example, that the access control system you select allows you to add new locations easily. And you’ll need to be able to adapt your system to meet the local needs of each location while also following your global policy.
The sheer scale and complexity of unifying security internationally can also feel overwhelming. You’re often faced with managing different cultures, languages, laws and more. That’s why we created our Enterprise Programme. It’s designed to remove the stress of streamlining security for multinationals while realising the benefits of well-planned, centralised access control.
The Enterprise Programme for efficient centralisation
The Enterprise Programme provides a cost-effective framework to efficiently centralise and standardise access control across all your buildings, wherever they are in the world. We provide a central server and take care of project management and local coordination centrally, supported by our network of installation and service partners.
It’s a programme used by large organisations around the world to streamline their international implementation and maintenance of AEOS – our access control system.
Access control tailormade for centralisation
AEOS is software-based so it’s ideal for centralised access control. All locations are connected to one server, so you can manage your global security from one location. You can ensure your global security policy is followed and that each location is both secure and locally compliant.
As AEOS is controlled by a web-based application, it’s easy to add or adapt functionality, assign and change access rights and set up or alter access control for each location. It also gives you the flexibility to easily scale your system, because adding new locations is straightforward, as is integrating other systems.
The benefits of centralised access control
Centralising your access control brings a range of far-reaching benefits. They include:
- Increased mobility and convenience – people can access any of your locations (for which they have access rights) using just one card or identifier.
- Improved efficiency – you can dramatically reduce the hours needed to manage and operate your system.
- Cost savings – you only have one system to set up and maintain and can take advantage of economies of scale when investing in it.
- Future-proofing – with just one system, it’s easier to keep it up to date and adapt it to meet your future needs and risks.
From our perspective, a centralised access control system is always preferable – whether you have just two locations in the same town or hundreds spread around the world.
Read more about our Enterprise Programme to help multinationals unify their access control internationally.
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Frequently asked questions
At a very basic level, access control is a means of controlling who enters a location and when. The person entering may be an employee, a contractor or a visitor and they may be on foot, driving a vehicle or using another mode of transport. The location they’re entering may be, for example, a site, a building, a room or a cabinet. We tend to call it physical access control to differentiate it from access control that prevents people from entering virtual spaces – for example when logging into a computer network.
If you decide to use an access control system, it’s probably because you want to secure the physical access to your buildings or sites to protect your people, places and possessions. That’s just the start for access control systems though. The right system, used well, can add value in a range of ways. You can use it, and the data it generates, to boost not just security but productivity, creativity and performance.
Today, physical security is about so much more than locks and bolts. Many modern physical access control systems are IP-based, powered by smart software and able to process large quantities of data. This provides more functionality, flexibility, scalability and opportunities for integration. It also means they’re part of your IT network, so it’s essential they’re protected and upgraded – just like your other IT systems.
For the people using your building, biometrics can give a better experience compared to an access badge. These days, biometrics are used for both identification and verification – sometimes even both at the same time. Being allowed to enter your building just by scanning your hand or face makes access control more convenient than ever.
Mechanical keys are the simplest form of physical access control and the method many smaller organisations use. Even for a small company, however, using mechanical keys has several flaws and limitations – especially as an organisation gets bigger. Below are just some of the problems presented by using keys.