By Steve Connor, Sr. Product Manager, Identiv PACS
Flexibility — as the concept applies to security systems like access control — can mean different things to different organizations. Many business owners demand a flexible system that can scale up or down as needs change, allowing for natural growth, regardless of where business trajectory leads them. Or, in other cases, an administrator may want the ability to start with one access control setup, then add or subtract features as they determine what works best for their business practices.
The great news is that all of these features are available through the use of the cloud, making the myriad aspects of access control simpler for businesses of all shapes and sizes. The cloud brings several new concepts to reality for the access control industry, making it easier to ensure secure access for a diverse set of applications.
Access Control as a Service
The cloud facilitates access control-as-a-service (ACaaS), which enables users to take advantage of the latest technologies in access control with lower upfront and infrastructural costs. Instead of purchasing the wide array of infrastructure and technologies needed to support an access control system, they can leverage off-site storage and processing capabilities and pay a provider for the amount that they need as a subscription style, operational expenditure. Additionally, because of the software-defined architecture, users gain the added flexibility of being able to control, manage, maintain and update their solution at any time and from any location through a web-based interface.
Leveraging ACaaS means that users can benefit from a comprehensive access control system with less direct maintenance on their part. Administrators no longer need to fret about updates; they instead occur automatically, keeping the system up-to-date with the latest software and firmware. This key function of cloud-based access control also ensures users that their system is staying as secure as possible, as software upgrades frequently address various vulnerabilities or necessary patches.
While the latest trend is that access control is becoming increasingly more affordable as technology advances, the measures that a user might need could be out of their budget with a system that relies on traditional, on-premise infrastructure. The cloud provides lower up-front costs, allowing users to have a more flexible range of access control options while not requiring a large capital expense. Lower costs and less hardware to install both factor into an additional benefit of cloud-based systems: ease of installation.
The affordability factor also plays a role as cloud-based systems typically are able to integrate seamlessly with existing access control readers, which means organizations save significantly on new investments in hardware.
Remote Workers, Remote Security
Business leaders require the ability to manage their operations from any location. The option of remote management is no longer a luxury; for some businesses, it is a necessity. This is a function that is easily provided through cloud-based architectures. Administrators that work remotely reap benefits through the cloud, with the ability to manage and alter the system as needed through a web-based portal. The cloud can offer peace of mind by allowing security personnel to monitor the system health and be informed of any errors or problems while away from the office. An issue that is detected early can prevent downtime and save an institution the time and money required for more costly repairs — not to mention the exponential benefit of being able to mitigate any issues faster from off-site.
For example, an access control system that incorporates analytics may cause an alert if someone accesses the building late at night, but if the system administrator can see that it’s a verified individual and can manage that alarm remotely, it eliminates the cost and hassle of an on-site response or calling authorities to investigate further.
Access control features are not one-size-fits-all. A government building will utilize one feature set for access control, such as FICAM-compliant solutions, while a university campus may utilize another, such as selecting different access control permissions based on the time of day. Many secure environments also need a variety of choices for access management, defining different parameters for separate areas of their facilities. The cloud gives users the ability to choose the elements they need to bring into their system, creating a customized solution that best fits their needs while maintaining the flexibility to change those elements over time.
One of the biggest needs for flexibility is within the ongoing growth and changes an organization experiences. For example, if a campus administrator adds on a new building with 38 doors that need to be secured, or decides to renovate the wing of an existing facility with drastically increased access protocols, they will want to be able to add these functions on to their existing platform seamlessly.
Cloud-based access control grants organizations this ease through the ability to effortlessly change when needed. Users can begin by defining their current demands and leverage the cloud to meet such needs, instead of investing in high-expense servers and technologies of traditional systems that may become obsolete or need to be expanded in the future at further expense to the organization. Businesses can work with cloud-smart companies to continually redefine their needs and establish a price that fits their specific use.
When anything is added to the network, such as a cloud-based access control service, the IT department must have a high level of involvement. Convergence of IT and physical security is an ongoing trend that continues to transform the traditional way that security is handled. However, flexibility in a cloud-based system is achieved when the IT department can trust the solution to be updated with software patches automatically, as well as controlled remotely. This cuts down on the ongoing myth that the cloud is not secure.
With proper protocols in place, such as built-in encryption, the cloud can offer a multitude of benefits for enhancing the security of data being transmitted (which is like music to an IT director’s ears). With this level of encryption in place, paired with robust data insight, IT directors gain a clearer picture of the facility they are protecting, better enabling them to appropriately respond as events occur. With no hardware on-site to be hacked, they can focus their efforts elsewhere — such as improving the current system infrastructure, or adding new features, such as multi-factor authentication, to high-volume entry points. This level of oversight is unmatched by other services, providing end users with the flexibility to pursue other important initiatives, such as increasing cybersecurity or trying out new and emerging credentials options.
Security is a fast-moving arena, with new access control features developed each year. Oftentimes, users may find a desire for advanced technology or pricing may change to allow them access to wider device options. A cloud-based system is designed in such a way that it can grow with end users and the industry — providing valuable solutions now as well as into the future.
Original article published via In Security Magazine (p. 38).