Access Control Security 101

By: Dan Olk
March 23, 2023

The next time you walk around the office, look at it with fresh eyes. 

Pay special attention to workstations that are left unlocked at the end of the day, important documents left lying around, and any physical files that can be accessed by anyone and everyone in the building. Next, think about the people that enter your building regularly. In addition to your staff, you probably also welcome a variety of vendors, contractors, employees, and visitors. 

Everyone who enters your facilities represents a potential risk; access control helps you reduce that risk. 

What Is Access Control? 

Put simply, access control is a way of controlling who is allowed to access what and when. Cybersecurity is one form of access control; securing your facilities and assets is the other. 

When we talk about access control systems, we’re talking about the systems that limit access to your facilities or certain areas within your facilities. 

Why Is Access Control for Physical Security Important?

With cybersecurity grabbing world headlines, it’s easy to forget about risks that are often right under your nose. For example, at a busy hospital in England, auditors recently found that 62% of computers in patient-accessible areas were left unlocked by hospital staff. Can you imagine the damage that just one curious or unscrupulous person could do?


Physical access control can help you reduce your risk of the following: 

  • Theft of equipment, data, merchandise, and other business assets
  • Damage to property
  • Cyberattacks launched from unsecured devices
  • Disruptions to normal operations
  • Physical harm to you and your staff

8 Areas That May Need Physical Access Control 

Depending on your business and your level of risk, you might consider some form of physical access control in these areas: 

  1. Your main entrance
  2. Your parking lot
  3. Rooms that contain expensive or critical equipment, like servers
  4. Filing cabinets that contain sensitive information
  5. Between different work areas or floors (for example, turnstiles or elevators)
  6. Secondary or emergency entrances and exits
  7. Windows that open
  8. Any rooms containing confidential information

Things to Consider When Choosing Access Control Devices or Systems 

Fortunately, when it comes to access control systems, you’ve got plenty of options. Narrowing it down, however, can be tricky. Here are a few tips to help you narrow down your search, but if you’d prefer to just ask a specialist what they’d recommend, my team is here to help


Obviously, this one’s the biggie. Will a system be up to the job of protecting all of your areas of risk? If your main entrance is secure, but a side exit is propped open and unmonitored, you haven’t bought yourself real protection. 

And here’s a pro tip: 

One element many people fail to consider when they’re evaluating how much protection a system offers is time. Threats change, and at some point, the system you’re using may not be equipped to mitigate them. However, if your new system can receive updates or new features from your manufacturer, you may get longer-lasting protection. 

On-Site Solution vs. a Cloud Provider

Systems that can be operated in the cloud have a number of advantages — they’re relatively easy to manage, they’re often cheaper than fully on-premises systems, and they won’t be as much of a burden on your IT team. And if you ever lose connectivity, the system will hold its current settings and keep things secure.


Every system experiences downtime for repairs and maintenance, including access control systems. If you’re considering a cloud-based solution, make sure your provider guarantees a high level of uptime. If you’re considering an on-site solution, select a manufacturer known for its reliability and device longevity. 

User Experience 

Security is often seen as the enemy of productivity, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Many modern access control systems are designed with ease of use in mind — for your IT department and all other authorized users. 

Compliance Needs

If you have special security needs, you’ll need to invest in a system that can meet those requirements. You may also need to choose your providers more carefully. For example, depending on your industry, you may need to work with a vendor that has achieved a SOC report

Future Use 

Will your facilities or security needs change in the next ten years? If so, look for a system that can be reconfigured easily and can scale up or down as needed. 

Total Cost

I’ve put this one at the bottom for a reason. Cost will always be a factor in any business decision, but a system that doesn’t protect you from threats may end up costing you dearly. 

In addition to the price tag, you should also consider the cost of owning this system over time, including personnel hours spent installing, configuring, managing, and maintaining it. On-site systems can sometimes be cheaper in the long run, but cloud-based systems are often less expensive upfront and help keep costs more predictable. 

The Best Way to Secure Your Space  

Can I save you a considerable amount of time here? 

When it comes to access control systems, you’ll probably find that most providers you talk to just want to sell you their product. I have nothing against sales — that’s just part of the job. But every business is different and has different security needs. Our experts will take the time to make sure your system is properly integrated to protect sensitive areas like offices, file rooms, and data rooms. We’ll also provide you with initial and ongoing training as needed, and we offer 24/7 live support with a 98% live-call answer rate. 

Got time for a few additional tips? If you’re interested in other ways to help secure your space, check out our recent physical security blog about the importance of employee training, clean desk policies, and more. 

Want to skip to the head of the pack? Click below to set up a conversation with a Marco physical security specialist. 

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Topics: Security