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.

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