How to Assess True Cost Differences of Various Security Entrances: 4 Levels of Security that Impact the Bottom Line

Aug. 21, 2019
When you consider security entrances or access control, it pays to look at the full picture of what your costs will be

In planning a comprehensive security program, every choice you make has consequences. Because budgets are never unlimited, costs need to be balanced carefully against needs to make sure you are properly protected against risk, threats and liability.

When you are looking at the costs of any product or solution, it is not enough to look at the price tag on what you’re purchasing. There are also intangible costs and other factors that have an impact on the bottom line. For example, in addition to capital expenditures, you need to factor in annual operating costs and any additional staff or other resources you will have to deploy along with your new product. Only when you understand the full value of each product or solution you are considering, will you have a complete picture of what it will cost your organization.

This is certainly true for security entrances. Security entrances are a smart choice to provide both the entry and the access control for a campus or facility. However, when it comes to controlling access, there are many different types of needs and differing levels of security depending on the location and function of the entry. There’s also a wide range of security entrances; some are more budget friendly, others more attractive architecturally and some offer greater levels of control.

4 Levels of Security that Impact the Bottom Line

When considering security entrances as part of your security plan, the first step is to learn about the different levels of security they provide in terms of mitigating intrusion. Essentially, they protect a facility at four levels, all of which relate to the number of people who can enter at once: crowd control, deter, detect, and finally, detect and prevent. These levels ultimately have an impact on the bottom line, which we will discuss later in this article.

Level 1: Crowd Control -- Crowd control simply limits the number of individuals who can enter at any one time. Waist-high tripod turnstiles, for example, only allow one person to enter at a time; however, it is possible for someone to climb or jump over the turnstile to enter. They do not have any sensors or alarms to detect and alert staff when intrusion attempts happen. They are typically used in locations that are less secure, or which are well-manned by individuals checking the identification of each person trying to enter.

The next three levels – deter, detect, and detect and prevent – relate to the issue of tailgating, or a second person entering on the same ID verification as another person. Some security entrances can deter tailgating, some detect when it does happen, and others actually go as far as to prevent it from happening in the first place.

Level 2: Deterrence -- A full height turnstile, due to its height of over 7 feet, is designed to deter intrusion attempts. Its basic construction and robust design make it a favorite of exterior, fence line applications. Its working principle allows one person at a time to enter on a valid authorization. While it cannot be jumped over, a full height turnstile does not have any sensors to detect the presence of people or objects: this means that two determined (and relatively slender) individuals could go through together in the space designed for a single person (otherwise known as “piggybacking”). Therefore, full height turnstiles are usually the first layer of defense, relegated to the fence line with video cameras. If they are installed inside a building, supervision by security staff is strongly recommended due to the possibility of piggybacking.

Level 3: Detection -- The next level, detection, is represented by optical turnstiles, which provide a meaningful difference beyond deterrence. These entrances are always intended to be used inside, typically in a lobby for allowing employees and registered visitors to enter. They include sophisticated sensor technology that enable them to detect when someone passes through the entrance, along with how many individuals move through on a single authorization. When someone tailgates behind an authorized user, the turnstile issues an audible alarm to alert security staff to intervene quickly. Since optical turnstiles cannot prevent someone from tailgating, it is strongly recommended that security staff be present at all times. This has a great impact on the true cost of this solution year-over-year.

Level 4: Detection and Prevention -- Finally, the highest level of security entrances, which can detect and also prevent tailgating and piggybacking completely, includes security revolving doors and mantrap portals. Because they are so good at identifying an intruder and rebuffing them, these types of sophisticated doors do not require any supervision. This potentially creates a rapid return on investment.

Now that we have reviewed the four levels of security that are provided by security entrances, you can see the breakdown in Figure 1 below:

Examining the True Cost Differences

When it comes to looking at the cost differences between these four levels of security entrances, it is essential to compare and consider all the associated costs that you will incur when each type is installed and beyond. As stated earlier, in each of the first three security levels you will likely need to hire security personnel in order to prevent tailgating or other unauthorized intrusions from happening (the one exception are full height turnstiles deployed outside at the fence line).

Understanding the need for officers to be deployed in conjunction with security entrances helps to clarify the full cost of your choice of security entrance or other solution. Beyond the capital expenditure for the purchase, the installation, and initial training for administrators and users, you will be responsible for the ongoing operating costs. These include not only maintenance, repairs, and electricity, but also the need for guard supervision in order to truly prevent intrusion.

Take a look at this matrix below and you can see how the different types of entrances compare for capital expenditures vs. ongoing expenses. There is quite a difference! If you look at the “x” axis, one-time capital costs increase from left to right. You can see that tripod turnstiles and full height turnstiles, per unit, cost a lot less up front than optical turnstiles, security revolving doors and mantrap portals. See Figure 2.

Then look at the “y” axis, which is expressing the annual operating costs, and you’ll see something interesting: the less expensive tripod turnstiles and also the optical turnstiles cost quite a bit more per year than the security doors (shown in the bottom right quadrant)! The full height turnstiles are assumed to be outdoors on a fence line with no guards; if they were used indoors, they would need a guard and would be represented to the right of tripod turnstiles in the top left quadrant.

The Upfront Costs Can be Deceiving

Ultimately, it can often be more cost-effective to install an entrance that does not require the ongoing presence of a guard to prevent unauthorized entry or tailgating. For example, if you have a data center where it is critical to limit entry to only those with the highest authorities, it makes sense to choose a security revolving door or mantrap portal for that location. While these products may have a higher initial price than a standard access control reader and maglock or turnstile, at the end of the year your total costs for that entry will be lower than if you had to hire an officer to staff that entrance full-time.

It is also important to be aware that while security guards do increase the level of deterrence and security at an entrance, they are by no means infallible. “Social engineering” is the term used to describe the variety of clever ruses used by criminals to get past even the most diligent guard. These scams are astounding in their variety and inventiveness and demonstrate that there is virtually no guarded entry that cannot be breached by a determined (and skillful) criminal.

When you are considering security entrances, or access control in general, it pays to look at the full picture of what your costs will be. Working with a responsible and knowledgeable integrator or manufacturer will help you take a deep dive into these details and many more to make the best choice for your organization.

 About the author: Mark Perkins, Vice President of Enterprise Security Accounts has over 25 years of sales and operations experience in the automatic door and physical security industries, including work with Stanley Access Technologies, Automatic Systems, and now over 15 years’ experience at Boon Edam.  Mark is currently leading business development initiatives across the USA and Canada, and assisting the Boon Edam U.S. operations in managing its global account customer base. He is known for his entrepreneurial spirit, having lead multiple startup companies, and has several patent’s to his credit; including a patent