Leaving the Door Open: Different Door Controller Choices for Access Control


Within a physical access control system, the decision to grant or deny access to a cardholder normally happens at the door controller located at the individual door or centralized with one controller handling multiple doors. The controller handles the authorization process, determining who has access to a particular door and if they can enter, or sometimes exit, an area.

Deciding which system architecture is right for a particular installation means closely examining the pluses and minuses of each of these scenarios and settling on the one that makes the most business and security sense for an organization. The good news is that with today’s technology, you can select a system that plays to the strengths of your specific situation.

Sometimes the decision is determined by the configuration of your building. Will the system be installed in a building occupied by a single corporate office, or in a building that houses office suites? Is it planned for a public space, or a private space?

For example, deploying individual controllers at each door location means that technicians will need easy access to service and maintain each one. Does the physical set up or aesthetics require the controllers to be placed under ceiling tiles? While certainly doable, you may have to reroute people to different access points while the controller in the ceiling is being serviced. This may be a small inconvenience, but it is sometimes an important consideration for hospitals and healthcare facilities, where ceiling disruptions require the area to be cordoned off for a period of time.

Think as well about how much your system will grow, and in what ways. Will you need to customize specific doors because of the type of area you’re protecting, or are you anticipating wholesale expansion that could bring dozens of doors online? Do you have clusters of access control doors located in close proximity to each other, or are they spread out?

An IP reader at the door, which bypasses the need for a control panel altogether, can provide easy installation and quick access to database information. The only caveat is that information and wiring located on the unsecure side of the door is prone to tampering, vandalism and hacking.

Another option is to locate the decision-making power at the server, which can be viewed as a more efficient choice. However, since each real-time access decision is taking place over the network, this option is inherently less reliable.  If the network goes down, or the server goes down, so do all of your doors.

There is also the option these days of centralizing system management in the cloud. While this set up can work well for reporting and processing activities, putting the real time card access go / no-go decision making power in the cloud isn’t widely embraced yet.

The key is to look closely at what you want to achieve with your access control system, its size and potential for growth and then select a configuration of single or multi-door controllers that best meets the overall needs and security considerations of the business. It’s not a matter of right or wrong choices, but rather having the luxury of customizing your access control scheme.

MCC’s Security Solutions Division can help you make the right access control choice. Contact us today to learn more! 

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