Taking it to the Web

May 5, 2011

Traditionally, the access control systems market has been dominated by large facilities that require comprehensive and complex installations. Access control system installation opportunities can be hard to come by for security and locksmith providers who focus on small businesses. Small business owners typically need to secure fewer doors — and at a lower cost than what is possible with traditional access control technologies.

It is simple — these products do not work for small businesses because they are not designed for them. A gap has traditionally existed in access control system features, wherein the entry point for making effective use of the technology starts with securing a minimum of four doors. And since most products offer more than what many smaller end-users actually need, they tend to cost more than what end-users are willing to pay.

Think about how many small businesses have less than four entry points. These represent missed access control opportunities. In the past, this gap has limited the ways in which locksmiths can expand in the lucrative market of businesses with three or fewer doors to protect.

Fitting Individual Needs

Many small business owners recognize the need to ensure the security and safety of their property, employees and end-users but are forced to rely on conventional lock-and-key or keypad systems. The demand for more advanced systems certainly exists — many end-users I work with have voiced their frustration at the lack of an adaptable system that works for them.

However, recent product advancements are turning this under-represented group into an eagerly enthusiastic end-user base. Great strides have been made in the development of products and technologies that can meet the needs of businesses with fewer doors to protect. What’s more, these new solutions provide end-users with more benefits and features than other keyless entry technologies, creating opportunities to upsell without overselling. The proliferation of these products has created a momentum shift in the access control industry, with a greater frequency of business owners with fewer than four doors to secure requesting similar security solutions.

So what kinds of features can persuade these business owners to jump from keys to keyless? Three words: simple, flexible and scalable.

Access Control from Anywhere

The complexities of managing and operating large-scale access control systems created additional obstacles that, until now, have hindered broad market adoption. Smaller businesses generally do not have the capital to hire a full-time employee with the necessary technical skills to run a server-based access control system. They seek an easy-to-use master system that features a simple point-of-entry tracking and reporting feature, but instead they are stuck with complicated systems that are beyond their technical competency. Thus, managing traditional access systems has often required system operators with qualifications in information technology to complete relatively routine tasks, like securing doors, managing access and sites, and pulling reports to meet compliance requirements.

Fortunately, the tide is changing. Recently developed Web-based access control solutions provide both locksmiths and operators with an elegantly simple solution. Web-based access control enables one or more operators to control the system from anywhere via a browser. They can easily add or remove security functions and privileges on individual keycards and entry-points, creating an entirely customizable solution.

Web-based access control systems like this are simple enough for office managers with very basic computer skills to operate and maintain, and they typically require less than 30 minutes of training. In addition, these systems typically do not require IT expertise for installation.

For example, a law firm sought an access control system for its office’s shared entrance. The firm previously relied on a tangled mess of keys to control the entrance, which made managing access difficult. As a result, the law firm decided to convert to keyless entry and ultimately chose Honeywell’s NetAXS-123 system for better point-of-entry control.

The Web-based access control system provides a greater degree of control over the office’s entrance, and enables system managers to easily complete tasks like adding or removing people from the system at any time or changing card access — all via the Internet.

Web-based access control systems also greatly reduce operating costs. System controllers are not tied to one PC and are not handicapped every time the PC has an issue. Browser access eliminates the need for dedicated control PCs and the expenses associated with operating systems, servers and software licenses. It also nullifies the risk of virus infections and computer issues like hard drive crashes or system lock-ups. As the old saying goes, time is money, and any time that business owners must dedicate to training or operating the system is time that could be better spent running their business.

One Door at a Time

Locksmiths can also benefit by offering end-users Web-based access control systems that are suited to grow with their business. The Web-based access control system described above is an ideal solution because its flexibility allows it to easily accommodate the addition of more doors. Thus, it is necessary to offer systems that can add doors with simple installations — this, in turn, will increase future revenue potential.

Systems with add-on boards can be mounted directly on top of control panels via a board-to-board connector, which means they do not require extra wires or cables to connect. This provides simple expansion capabilities — adding a door does not require re-wiring the system or changing out the enclosure. Instead, you simply add on to what the end-user already has in place.

Smaller end-users will likely want to focus on protecting one door at a time; therefore, expansion should be quick and painless. System startup for a single door with a common application system can be completed in 20 minutes or less, meaning end-users can spend less time focusing on the installation and more time running their business. Access control systems can also benefit from having a small enclosure footprint, which speeds up the installation process and is ideal when space is limited. Generally, plastic enclosures are smaller and more compact than conventional metal enclosures, allowing them to be mounted in convenient locations instead of taking up space in a storage room or closet.

Another example: A health club was looking to integrate an addition to its existing access control system. The club installed NetAXS-123 to control access to a bike cage, giving members and employees a secure area to store their bikes. To integrate NetAXS-123 with its existing system, I simply added a router as an access point and wirelessly connected the bike cage to the main system with basic programming. This easy process capitalized on the system’s Web-based capabilities.

Locksmiths seeking to recommend electronic access control should opt for Web-based access control solutions to penetrate the small and mid-sized market. Capabilities like plug-and-play installation and power over Ethernet (PoE) free business owners from the expensive and laborious installation process that can include tearing up walls and rewiring. Plug-and-play features allow the installer to tap into existing infrastructure and wiring. With PoE, installers only need one wire to the panel and will not need to run separate power. The wire to the panel enables power for the strike, reader and input devices.

A Win-Win Situation

Remember, features sell and help deepen your relationships with your end-users. Outfit your end-users with access control systems that match the nimbleness of the businesses they run. End-users are looking for a system simple enough to operate without technical prowess, priced to match their needs and designed to adapt as their business grows. Business owners will benefit from the solutions they receive, while locksmiths can unlock the power of the Internet and benefit from providing additional services.

Eyal Shebiro is the owner and operator of Locks in the City, a security and locksmith services provider based in New York City. He can be reached at [email protected].