Choosing The Right Access Control System

Companies have long dreaded the inevitable call to the locksmith when someone loses the keys or an employee leaves. Depending on the number of doors and type of keyway, it can get expensive pretty quick. More extensive facilities with complex keying systems can quickly push the cost north of $10,000.

Access control systems are a great solution. When a user loses a card or key tag, it only takes a few clicks of a mouse to cancel it and re-issue a new one. Groups and access levels make it easy to manage which doors a user has access to and auditing to keep track of the traffic. The upfront cost is higher than that of a traditional keyed setup ($1500+ per door), but the added benefits will more than make up for it.


Save your customers from the daily routine of unlocking the panic bars and turning on the open sign. Often these get forgotten and could result in a loss of business. Setting up a schedule to unlock doors and turn on devices is a standard feature in most systems. Just be sure to check that the one you choose as a “First in” function (More on that soon). Bluetooth and NFC readers are becoming more common. NFC allows you to use your phone as a credential, while Bluetooth allows the door to be unlocked as you walk up to it.


Many systems have alarm integration that will allow you to arm and disarm your alarm through the access control system. The “First In” function will prevent the system from unlocking on schedule until a valid user has entered the area (you don’t want the public randomly wandering in on a snow/sick day). Auditing will allow you to see a detailed log of all users and doors. In the case of theft or assault, the record will show if a door was forced open or a valid user was granted entry. You can also integrate with a CCTV system on site to capture footage of events such as a door forced open, or when a user attempts to access a door they are not authorised to access.

How to choose

With so many options out there, how do you choose what to use? The first step is to pick a distributor. In this area, it’s ADI, Graybar and Tri-ed/Anixter. Dealing with distribution instead of direct will generally mean better access to stock. When dealing directly with a company, parts can take upwards of 3 weeks to arrive. That’s not so bad for initial installation, but it can be terrible for later service. Ask your distributor what companies provide the best sales and technical support. Having access to a sales engineer that returns your calls and a support staff that won’t keep you waiting for hours can make a world of difference. The returns desk can be a great help as well. Ask them what products have most warranty claims.
Free monthly training seminars through your distributor will give you a chance to get some hands-on experience with these systems.


Hosted solutions are a great way to increase re-occurring revenue while providing extra value to the customer. The software to manage the system is installed on a system controlled by you, and for a small monthly fee, you can take care of adding and removing users for your customer. This option is great for customers looking to lease the equipment.

Talk to your customer

The most important thing is to make sure the system you pick has what the customer needs for their security, convenience and budget. A complex enterprise system with biometric is unnecessary for a small retail location. While a larger company may need to give up on a few convenience features to ensure they have the security they need. Find a few reliable and well-supported products to offer and take the time to learn them well.

For more information, drop me a line at

Multi-Residential Video Surveillance and What You Should Know.

As a property manager, do you have your boiler/chiller rooms checked on a daily basis? How about your undergrounds and your compactor rooms? Your lobbies and corridors for cleanliness? Seems like second nature to us to make sure that we don’t run into any unexpected problems day in and day out. But why is it that I so often get called to a site by a management company in a frenzy seeking video footage of an incident, only to find out that the critical camera they’re looking for hasn’t worked in months?! It’s because we still don’t view our security as an essential service like our heat, or hot water, or waste removal.

Why? It’s because residents aren’t vocal about the things they don’t see. Your heat is down? Phone calls. Compactor is clogged or running non-stop because a tenant stuck a giant cardboard box down the chute? Phone calls. It is great if we’re able to be proactive in our jobs, but the amount of daily things happening often make us reactive to arising issues. I’m here to tell you that security doesn’t need to be.

If you have a video security system (often refereed to as CCTV, or plainly security system) you can save yourself a whole bunch of headache (and money) by simply including the CCTV monitor in your daily checklist. It is not even as extensive as checking your undergrounds, or taking the temperature readings on your boiler, listening for whiny pumps, and checking for leaks. A simple daily glance at your security monitor looking for (depending on your system) a black box, a blue box, or a “no video” box, can save you the corporate media embarrassment, safeguard you against liability, and ensure your residents have a safe place to call home.

Still not convinced? I’ll give you a few examples that I’ve ran into over the years which I’m certain would be applicable to most of us as property managers.

  1. Camera is out in your elevator, some kid vandalizes the stainless steel or wood paneling in your elevator, you’re stuck with the repair costs or nagging residents saying the building is going down the drain. Their perception of the building contributes to them giving their move out notice costing you: administrative time, marketing costs, turn over costs, and potentially the cost of the repair. OR you catch the resident(s) and bill back the cost of the repairs, fixing it quickly.
  2. Camera is out at your garage door(s), resident either takes out the keyway/card reader with their car mirror, or worse yet hits the garage door with their car (trust me I’ve seen it all). This isn’t a “nice to have”, this is a must that you have a working garage door and a working key switch for your residents to get in/out of your underground. If there is damage to your door and/or your card reader/key switch, it’s a cost you must incur. If you can find the culprit responsible and bill them for it, it’s a lot better for your bottom line whether you’re owner/operator or a third party.
  3. Camera is out in your party room. We take deposits when our residents rent the party room but IN and OUT inspections can only go so far. I won’t go into too much detail but whatever happens during the party, ie: Broken furniture, broken electronics (TV/Blu ray), garbage. You have a record of their behaviour and it is a lot easier to collect on and enforce rules when you have evidence.

I won’t go into more extreme cases but they include: physical or sexual assault on your property, major property damage, homicides, alleged slip and falls, and theft. Safeguard yourself by ensuring your cameras are functioning at all times. Call a trusted security professional right away to rectify the issue(s), it can be as simple as a power supply to the camera, or at worst the camera requiring replacement, the price tag is nowhere near as expensive as dealing with litigation that you’re ill equipped to defend yourself against, or repairs you can’t bill back to the parties responsible.

I will let you in on a secret here. A lot of the modern DVRs (digital video recorders) have a functionality wherein they can alert you to a loss in video, often when a camera goes out due to age (or in more extreme cases where someone is actively bashing it off the wall) via email.

Some companies such as ours ( can help you setup these services and alert you to a camera outage, taking a proactive approach in rectifying the issue for you or at least notifying you, taking one thing more off your plate. It ensures that your cameras are not out for more than 24 — 48 hours while we mobilize to take care of the issue.

I will briefly touch upon dummy cameras. In very few words, DO NOT INSTALL DUMMY CAMERAS. Dummy cameras are used as a deterrent to minor crimes on your property however they do more harm than good. First of all they’re incredibly ineffective, anyone who is a career criminal can spot one a mile away, they’re not hooked up to anything, may look out of place, and anyone scoping a property out will likely determine based on exterior appearance that it is a dummy camera or just avoid it. It does not deter vandals, they typically cover their face and vandalize your property, and upon learning that there are no repercussions they just come back for more. In addition to, dummy cameras open up property owners and managers to a slew of liability.

Often is the case where there are signs posted such as: “This property is under 24/7 CCTV surveillance”, it’s great when it is true but it automatically implies a level of perceived safety. If you install even a single dummy camera and something happens within its “perceived view”, you’ve created a false sense of security. A car break in, vandalism, an assault can happen, a resident or insurance company will ask for footage based on their belief that the incident was filmed. Imagine explaining to the resident (or insurance company) that you do not in fact have surveillance there. It can result in a litigation or denied damage claims to your property that likely carry a hefty price tag, all because you decided to go the cheaper route and install a false sense of security.

Imagine that it is not a dummy camera, but a camera that has failed, whether you knew about it or not. It is no different than a camera that is there for appearance. If you discover a camera that has failed, fix it. Or if you do not have the financial means, at least take it down. Be wary of cameras that have been up and functioning for a long time such as lobby cameras. Residents can view these as amenities provided and if you remove them, in certain jurisdictions the residents can make a case for rent abatement.

If you’re unsure of the current state of your surveillance system, reach out to us for a free evaluation (, we would be happy to give you a few free tips.

Stay safe, protect yourself, protect your property, protect your residents.