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There are so may things you must understand before choosing an access control system. The access control industry is undergoing a massive change. The limitations of on-premise server-based access control systems are becoming increasingly apparent, especially in comparison to the emergence of feature-rich cloud-based access control platforms. However, to pick the best solution for your business, here are some key factors to consider.

Open Protocol vs. Proprietary Hardware – This is one of the most common areas of confusion. When selecting an access control system, you will be choosing a brand of hardware or “controllers”. Many brands of controllers are proprietary such as AMAG, C-Cure, OpenPath, Kastle and S2. That means only AMAG software works with the AMAG hardware. So if you have an AMAG system and want to switch to another access control software platform, you have no choice but to rip and replace all the controllers.

The dominant platform in Open Protocol access control hardware is Mercury. Mercury manufactures the firmware (think Intel chips) that is used as the underlying technology for dozens of branded access control platforms including Genea, Lenel, Genetec, Avigilon and RS2. This means if you have a Lenel system and want to change, there are dozens of other access control software systems that can use the Mercury-based controllers. This means you don’t have to spend the capital expenditures to rip and replace! This is the reason why most decision makers will NOT install anything except a Mercury-based access control system. No one wants to be held hostage by one company. Just think… if the company who manufactured the proprietary system went out of business, you would be left high and dry.

This can get confusing because access control systems are oftentimes purchased through a security systems integrator. There are often multiple authorized integrators in each market who can install and service a proprietary system (AMAG). It doesn’t matter how many different integrators can work on an AMAG system – if you want to switch away from AMAG (or any other proprietary system), you have no option than to rip and replace the controllers.

What Are Benefits of Cloud-Based Access Control Platforms? – With on-premise access control systems, users generally need to physically go to the computer that houses the access control software to make changes including adding and removing users. With cloud-based access control platforms, users can make adjustments from any computer with an internet connection. Remote access comes in particularly handy for those who manage security for multiple locations.

Remote access is far from the only benefit of cloud-based access control solutions. Cloud-based access control platforms allow for seamless integrations with other cloud-based technologies including identity management solutions (Okta, Azure Active Directory), video management systems (Milestone, Cisco Meraki, Eagle Eye Networks) and communications platforms (Slack, Microsoft Teams).

The better cloud-based systems accomplish these integrations through applications programming interfaces (more commonly referred to as APIs). API integrations are what make cloud-based access control platforms so powerful for the end users because it allows technologies to communicate directly with each other.

Imagine adding a new employee in Okta and based on their title and role, through an API integration, that person is immediately added to the cloud-based access control system for the five different offices they will be visiting. This simple example is a significant time-saver for security teams who would typically be required to manually add new employees to access control systems. On-premise systems are not capable of offering these kinds of integrations without a lot of expensive customized programming.

Many cloud-based access control systems do not have APIs. It is important to understand what kind of APIs are available with the platforms being considered. If APIs are available, make sure to understand if the integrations are free or if there is a separate charge for each one in.

Who Provides Support? – With access control systems acquired from and installed by security systems integrators, it is generally the integrator who provides on-going support. However, this can cause delays. Support issues are oftentimes related to questions involving the software. The integrator then must wait for the access control software company to get involved. To minimize disruption to your business, it is important to have a direct line of contact with the access control software company. Moreover, given the critical nature of access control, it is important your access control software company provides 24/7 direct support.

For more questions about cloud-based access control, schedule a demo and we’ll be happy to provide you with more information.

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