Understanding Access Control Systems: Types, Benefits, and Implementation

In the rapidly evolving landscape of security, access control systems have become vital to safeguarding physical spaces, sensitive data, and digital assets. They are a fundamental aspect to any business’s security operations, and every company to carefully consider their specific needs when rolling out an access control system.

Here, we will break down the different types of access control so you can better understand how to build a safe and secure system to protect your business.

So, What is an Access Control System?

As the name suggests, it’s a part of your security system that determines who gets access to what, when, and how. At the most basic level, there are two major distinctions of access control—physical and logical.

Physical access control limits access to a designated area, such as a room, office, or entire building. Whereas, logical access control manages access in the digital realm—think, computer systems, networks, and the like. Just about any access control system designed today utilizes both of these characteristics to create a completely secure environment.

Four Major Types of Access Control

Determining what type of access control you need for your business can be tricky since every organization has unique needs. A good place to start is looking at the overarching types of access control systems—Discretionary, Mandatory, Role-Based, and Rule-Based.

  • Discretionary Access Control (DAC) — This type of control system offers some of the least restrictions as it gives administrators and users the control in deciding who or what can access a protected area or resource. A good example of this type of system would be an apartment complex, or a business with multiple managers.
  • Mandatory Access Control (MAC) — In a mandatory access control system, a single entity or administrator (e.g. Chief Security Officer) assigns levels of access. MAC systems are very common among organizations with high levels of security and confidentiality, such as a government agency.
  • Role-Based Access Control (RBAC) — Typically assigned by a systems administrator, RBAC assigns permission based on an individual’s role and their need to access that area or information. This is a somewhat complex system, depending on the size of the organization, but it allows administrators to be very specific around access to sensitive areas of the business.
  • Attribute-Based Access Control (ABAC) — ABAC tends to be the most flexible of the types described above, as it grants access based on specific rules, policies, relationships, characteristics, and even enviromental conditions (e.g. a specific time of day). While extremely flexible, this kind of system can be challenging to set up, as it takes time to define the rules and attributes.

Benefits of Access Control Systems

The main purpose of an access control system is to minimize the security risk of unauthorized access to your organization’s physical spaces and sensitive data. There are numerous benefits to access control, and it’s crucial to ensuring security compliance.

  • People and Business Management — Access control systems enable a secure and safe work environment for everyone. They allow you to ensure business continuity and operational flow as well as quickly control the flow of people in and out of a building during an emergency situation.
  • Enhanced Security — It’s a no-brainer. By implementing an access control system, you’re adding another, necessary, level of security to your business and minimizing the risk of breaches.
  • Increased Efficiency — You can increase operational efficiency with an access control system by streamlining workflow, automating tasks, and tracking time in a more meaningful way.
  • Compliance and Reporting — Access control systems help you navigate the complex landscape of regulations and compliance. You can use these systems to generate comprehensive audit trails and reports.

Implementation of Access Control Systems

So now that you have a better grasp of access control, what kind of system should you implement? And how? It’s almost impossible to answer these questions, as every business is unique. However, here is a framework you can follow.

  • Planning and Assessment — Start by working with your IT partner or MSP to plan for rolling out access control. Conduct a security risk assessment to identify your specific access control requirements.
  1. System Selection — Based on the insights from the planning and assessment process, determine what kind of system you need to secure your business and systems. Take time to consider system vendors, and things like scalability as your business grows.
  2. Installation and Integration — Once you have figured out the type of system you’re using, you’ll need to figure out how it integrates into your existing system. Access control systems involve both hardware and software components—Your IT partner will be pivotal in a successful rollout.
  3. Maintenance and Upkeep — Maintaining a secure environment is an ongoing process. Just like any other IT-related process, it’s necessary to regularly update your access control system hardware and software as well as monitor access logs. This will not only ensure the longevity and effectiveness of your system, but it will minimize potential risks.

Access control is integrated into an organization’s IT environment, so talk to your team or MSP to better understand your needs around implementing an access control system.

As always, we’re here to help. Get in touch with us today if you have any questions around implementing an access control system. We’ll find some time to assess your space and your needs so you can safeguard your business.

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They'll get it done right and on time and be good to work with.

Jesse Armstrong Chairman & President, Greystone Technology September 21, 2020