The Security Shift to Cloud-Based Access Control

Jan. 27, 2021
Low cost and high efficiency are reasons why more companies are making the move.

Keycard systems have dominated the physical security industry for years. In this type of security setup, a building’s tenants or employees are issued a keycard or fob that they use to unlock doors. These access tokens can be swiped, inserted or tapped on a reader connected to the door to allow authorized access. These systems are sufficient, but the high initial cost of hardware and installation has made keycard systems unrealistic for small businesses, which means that those businesses have had to settle for less secure solutions.

What’s the solution? Cloud-based access control.

Cloud-Based Access Control

Keycards and fobs typically are hosted by an on-premises system that requires chunky hardware, in-person updates and on-site maintenance. In a cloud-based access control system, all software is stored off-site — in the cloud (a remote server) and accessed through the internet. Cloud-based access control systems provide centralized management, flexibility and better security. Such a system can be deployed quickly and often is compatible with a company’s existing software. These advantages alone have helped to make cloud-based access control more appealing. Experts predict that the shift to the cloud will be one of the most prominent physical-security trends in the next few years, so it would be wise for locksmiths and security pros to get involved.

Many of the benefits of cloud-based access control for the end user result from how the system works. The software is hosted in a remote server, where it’s managed by a third-party provider. The necessary hardware devices (locks, readers, etc.) are installed in the building and then connected to the cloud-hosted software via the internet.

Through this approach, security system providers can offer low costs and affordable monthly subscriptions for hosting the system, which leads to that all-important recurring monthly revenue for the provider.

What’s more, installation of cloud-based access control solutions requires much less time and effort. Obviously, this is good for the installer, but it also can be a good sales pitch for the end user. Most times, when adding or changing an access control system, turnaround time is critical, because the facility can’t spend several days without having an access authorization system while integrating a new one.

Cloud-based access control essentially overcomes the prohibitive cost disadvantage that made traditional access control systems available only to those who have ample funds. In addition, cloud-based access control supports remote management by administrators. This is a crucial feature and provides additional cost benefits to the end user, because it eliminates the necessity for on-site IT staff.

Cloud Benefits

We’re seeing increased adoption of cloud-based access control — not just by large companies but also apartment complexes, healthcare providers, educational institutions, churches and small businesses. Organizations that implement a cloud-based access control system gain in many ways:

Safety and security

The main function of any access control system, of course, is to ensure safety and security. Commercial and residential buildings face a multitude of security threats. Without preventive measures, security incidents can occur that damage a company’s or building manager’s reputation and lower tenancy levels. Such security incidents are more common with on-premises systems because of the ease of access to hardware and software. Cloud security, thus, enables building managers to decrease the success rate of insider attacks on security.

Meet compliance requirements

Doctor’s offices and other healthcare providers, for example, are required to meet strict regulations for health data confidentiality. Similarly, financial institutions, such as banks and insurance companies must ensure that credit-card information is protected. Cloud-based access control has multiple layers of encryption and thus increased cybersecurity capability over its on-premises counterparts. This enables the high security that’s necessary for these businesses to comply with established legal requirements.

Reduce overhead costs

We already discussed the lack of necessity for on-site IT staff. Security often is difficult and expensive to manage in buildings that use lock and key systems. Building managers have to replace keys every time an employee is hired or leaves, or a tenant moves in or out. If a key were lost, the building owner or manager would have to be present to unlock the door.

Although better, on-premises keycard access control systems have similar drawbacks. New cards have to be produced to replace those that are lost, and building managers have to be on-site to program and distribute new cards. However, cloud-based access control systems simplify security management and reduce ongoing costs by eliminating the necessity for a physical presence to grant new credentials.

Ensure a healthier environment

COVID-19 has changed how we think about physical security. High-touch surfaces, such as keypads, can fuel the spread of disease in buildings. For this reason, many companies have considered upgrading to touchless technology for entry. By eliminating the necessity to touch high-use surfaces, the system can reduce the spread of diseases. Cloud-based access control fits in well with these touchless systems. Some cloud access controls are integrated with innovative health technology, including temperature checks, capacity limits, staggered schedules and health announcements.

Further Benefits

Compared with on-premises physical-security systems, cloud-based access control provides other distinct advantages:

Faster installation. Implementation of an on-premises access control system might take weeks or even months for the hardware and software to be installed. Cloud-based access control systems can be deployed almost instantaneously, particularly if you use a wireless access control system. The installer has only to set up cloud-enabled readers and configure them to work with existing door automation infrastructure. These readers then connect to the remote server via the internet.

Higher security. In an on-premises system, security updates have to be installed manually. This can take time and create loopholes that can be exploited by hackers. Cloud-based access control software is updated automatically. In addition to ensuring better security, this also reduces the maintenance cost of the system.

Ease of access. Many on-premises access control systems require constant attention by IT staff, and all require dedicated equipment. With cloud-based access control, system management is performed by logging into an intuitive dashboard that’s accessible from any device or location. Visitor management also becomes easier through the cloud because of the ability to grant access remotely.

Flexibility. Security demands are likely to change as a company grows. On-premises systems can be difficult or expensive to scale. Expansion typically means that new servers and accessory hardware have to be set up. With a cloud-based access control solution, however, only new readers have to be installed at the expansion sites. The same centralized database is used, and any number of users can be added to the system.

It’s no wonder that access control that operates from the cloud is becoming the new standard.

Bethwel Njore is a marketing and copywriting professional for Swiftlane who has worked with startups across the board.