What is an Integrated Physical Security System?
The methods for securing access to digital and physical environments continue to evolve. Two traditionally distinct areas of physical security—door access and video surveillance—are not immune. They’re not only being moved away from strictly on-premise solutions, but are now being integrated to provide a modernized, scalable, and highly secure approach to safeguarding entryways.
Where Are Integrated Access and Video Surveillance Systems Used?
Integrated access and video surveillance are common in a variety of familiar settings, large and small. Schools and corporate offices, for example, have stringent access control requirements to protect the privacy and safety of their students and employees. Many facilities integrate their security camera systems and door security card systems for entrances and exits.
Key Industries that Benefit from an Access Control and Security Camera Solution:
- Apartment complexes
- Business and corporate offices
- Retail stores
- Government buildings
Common Faults with Access Systems
Regardless of where they’re deployed, physical access systems tend to come under fire from IT and security professionals for these common pain points:
- Difficult Installation: Wiring doors for access control is known to be time-intensive and expensive, requiring specialized expertise for the removal of doors, running wires, and alterations to building structures. Because it involves a lot of electrical work, installing access control can be dangerous if done incorrectly. When extrapolated across a larger scale deployment, the cost and labor associated with the installation can be significant.
- Complicated Pricing: Between controllers, doors, cameras, and software licenses—not to mention door wiring, setup, and staff training—access control can be priced in many different ways. Pricing is rarely straightforward. Traditional systems are plagued by hundreds of line items that create confusion among customers as to what they’re paying for and what they actually need. Hidden costs often arise when customers decide to expand to new locations or add doors and cameras. What’s covered under the warranty, along with warranty claims processing, can also be a headache.
- Slow Incident Response: Separate systems for monitoring video and door access can create delays in identifying, locating, and responding to security events. Some legacy systems make it difficult to access and respond to events without the intervention of the IT team. Being unable to see what happened at a particular door, or quickly drill down to an event, person, or location from a remote management console, can slow incident response. This limitation can be costly, both in terms of people and property, but also brand image for those organizations for which security breaches are sure to make the news.
- Unscalable: Many access control systems set a limit on the number of doors, admins, and cards that can be supported. Upgrading the number of doors requires new hardware and additional costs, which can multiply when you factor in new camera surveillance, too. How simple and seamless is the process when the time comes to scale your security system—to add key card door locks to new sites, roll out ID credentials for new sites and end-users, and add system admins for those new locations?
- Disparate Management Platforms: In the world of IT and security, centralized management keeps operations as efficient as possible. Non-integrated access control systems often mean different management platforms, with different credentials and permissions, or locations, in the case of on-premise solutions. This makes managing doors, users, and settings more time consuming, complicated, and prone to human error.
- Vulnerability Risks: Naturally, minimizing security risks is a core function of any door security and video surveillance system. Yet, many systems are inherently vulnerable. Complex VLAN or firewall requirements can leave networks open to security breaches. Machines that support access control are often physically accessible and built on platforms like Windows, which can be exposed in cybersecurity attacks. Finally, many users still have generic usernames and passwords for access control system management.
- Lack of Remote Access: In security and surveillance environments with multiple locations and many users, remote access to doors and cameras is essential to swift incident response and scalable access control. Many systems, however, do not have remote access capabilities, nor provide a centralized management console for all locations, accessible from any location or device.
What Are the Benefits of an Integrated Access System?
Integrated access systems overcome many of the pain points associated with traditional systems, while offering a number of distinct capabilities:
- Instant Visual Evidence: Immediately see and access footage for events happening at any door, in any location, shortening the time to investigate and resolve security incidents. If available, facial recognition capabilities can help you identify people on camera through the management console.
- Always in Sync: When reviewing security footage, precision is non-negotiable. Integrated access systems run events on the same system clock—for both door security and video surveillance—ensuring video and access events line up to the millisecond.
- Enhanced Visibility: Some integrated systems provide enhanced visibility of door-based activity, so that controllers see who was there, how they accessed the door, including the ability to review footage and dig deeper into user activity.
- Proactive Insights: The ability to react to incidents is one thing, but preventing incidents before they happen is essential. Proactive notifications, for example, when occupancy levels reach a certain threshold, suspicious activity occurs, or a person of interest appears allow for immediate action and quick communication with first responders.
- Ease of Access: Access control management is about end-user experience, too. Integrated systems make it simple to add or remove users, assign or deactivate the swipe cards, key cards, or fobs used in conjunction with readers installed at each door. In terms of management, each swipe sends valuable data to the central location to fuel incident response and proactive insights.
While these benefits of integrated access control certainly impact security management and broader organizational strategies, they help deliver on a fundamental need: safer buildings for employees, occupants, and all visitors.
Features to Look for in an Access and Surveillance System
When comparing access and surveillance systems, keep the following differentiators in mind:
- Simple to Install: From mounting controllers to connecting and configuring new doors and cameras, to bringing everything online for remote monitoring and cloud management, installation ought to be as close to “plug and play” as possible.
- Works with Existing Door Hardware: An integrated access control system, including new controllers, readers, and security camera equipment, should work with most existing door hardware to avoid expensive, labor-intensive hardware replacements.
- Remote Access: A unique advantage of cloud-based, integrated access control systems is the ability to access all doors and cameras remotely, either from a central console or a mobile device. This allows for faster incident response and communication when problems arise, as well the ability to receive proactive security notifications.
- Active Directory Integration and Secure User Management: Integration with your Active Directory allows you to easily onboard and configure new employees or users, update credentials, or change access and make updates during offboarding, with far less manual intervention.
- Native Video Integration: Systems that natively integrate with all or parts of your existing security ecosystem make a centralized view of all physical facilities possible. This includes the ability to easily add new cameras and door security to your existing access control framework without additional plugins or configuration.
- Automatic Configuration: Integrated, cloud-based systems allow you to automatically configure new doors, users, controllers, and other components as you add them to your organization, based on your existing permission structure and settings.
- Offline Door Detection: As part of your proactive approach to access security, look for solutions that instantly notify you when any doors or cameras—across all locations—are disconnected or require your attention.
- Flexibility to Move Doors: Short list solutions that automatically transfer and update settings, configuration, and historical data when you move existing doors between slots on your controller, or between different controllers altogether, during door rewiring, for instance, or when it’s time to replace a unit.
- Built-in Auxiliary Ports: On the controller, look for auxiliary ports that allow you to connect and configure fire alarms, physical buttons, intercoms, and other peripheral devices to the door system. That way you can easily incorporate peripheral security devices into your integrated access control system for a more comprehensive and robust security solution.
What to Consider When Buying an Integrated System
The time and labor required to install door entry systems and video surveillance systems on their own can be considerable. While implementing an integrated system offers a number of advantages, it’s important for IT buyers to keep the following in mind when buying an integrated access system. Doing so can help control cost and ensure that you’ve put a scalable solution in place:
What is the main purpose of an access control system?
To protect your people, information, and assets from unauthorized digital and physical access.
What does installation require?
Beyond the prerequisite hardware and cloud infrastructure, will your new system integrate with your existing door entry security system? Will a rip and replace be needed? Each aspect of an integrated access system—access hardware (door locks, readers, and cameras), remote management and cloud infrastructure, and user management—will require installation and configuration. Look for systems that don’t require complex staff provisioning and onboarding.
How scalable is the system?
Nobody wants to rely on professional services for every update or upgrade. Nor do they want to constantly add overhead and headcount when it’s time to expand access control to new locations and staff. Look for systems that don’t require additional costs when it’s time to add hardware (card holders, cameras, controllers, and so on) to secure additional doors.
How easy is it to manage?
Bulky, messy, disorganized management is a common complaint among IT and security professionals tasked with managing access control systems. Look for systems that centralize and simplify the process for:
- Managing credentials
- Pulling event logs
- Software, hardware, and firmware updates/upgrades
- Ensuring security (end-to-end encryption)
- Remote, device-agnostic access across sites
- Permission control
How “future proof” is the technology?
Forward thinking organizations would be wise to vet and select integrated access solutions based on their ability to “futureproof” access control. Look for systems that minimize manual, time-intensive maintenance and updates, avoid new overhead for IT infrastructure buildout, and don’t use purely on-premise solutions, such as CCTV, which can create scalability and cost headaches down the road.
Does it offer native integrations to your broader security ecosystem?
Put differently, how easy and seamless is it to actually integrate video surveillance and access control with your existing systems? In the past, separate systems, hardware incompatibilities, and wiring issues might have been pain points for integration.
A modern system is typically designed to ease this particular problem, so look for systems whose door lock controller, readers, cameras, and controller units can integrate with your existing door lock system, for example. On the software side, consider solutions with native integrations for the platforms and devices in use throughout your IT infrastructure.
Integrated Access System FAQs
What is a physical access control system?
A physical access control system—or door entry security system—can be installed to regulate access to a building’s entry points for employees, workers, and other approved visitors. Electronic readers at each entry point scan identification, such as a key card, fobs, or fingerprints. Data that is then sent (in an instant) to a central controller to determine access privileges, grant or deny access, and keep track of who is coming and going.
What is the difference between logical and physical access control?
Another way to think of “logical” access control is the regulation of access to “virtual” or “technical” locations and resources, such as networks, data, and environments. Whereas a physical access control system might require a badge or other identification, logical access control is usually maintained using things like passwords, network firewalls, and cybersecurity software.
What are the three types of access control?
IT professionals can implement one of three approaches to access control, as follows:
- Role-Based Access Control (RBAC): One of the most widely used approaches to access control, RBAC grants access based on user profile or “roles.” What makes RBAC so popular is the flexibility, granularity, and scalability of this system: roles can be organized into centrally managed hierarchies with many layers and levels of permission. RBAC is considered more restrictive than discretionary access control (DAC).
- Discretionary Access Control (DAC): In this model, a central person has both access to all doors, as well as the ability to assign access to any person in the system. While this solution might provide the right amount of flexibility for smaller organizations, it can create scalability issues, oversight, and potential security vulnerabilities.
- Mandatory Access Control (MAC): This approach is ideal for high-security environments where access to sensitive areas, resources, or information is highly restricted. MAC systems are designed to be as stringent as needed and prevent security vulnerabilities even if an employee loses their keycard or fob.
What are some examples of physical controls?
To prevent unauthorized access to a building or specific area, most organizations build out some kind of physical control infrastructure. Common examples include:
- Security personnel & photo ID verification
- Motion sensors
- Physically or electronically operated door locks
- Surveillance cameras (closed-circuit or cloud-based systems)
- Biometrics, including fingerprint check, voice and face verification, or signature verification