Unlimited Access: How Cloud and Open-Source Solutions Allow for Greater Access Control Scalability & Efficiency

Jeff Bransfield headshot
Jeff Bransfield

Jumping into the world of entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart. In addition to managing finances, hiring competent employees and creating a sustainable business plan, there are many other important considerations to be aware of, such as ensuring the comprehensive protection of the people and assets inside a facility. Entrepreneurs are responsible for the safety of their business and those that help operate it, which requires making strategic decisions when it comes to what type of security solution will work best now and in the future. It is difficult to predict business trajectory, so it is imperative to have a security system in place that allows for scaling up or down as needs change.

Manufacturers and integrators alike, especially in the access control sector, are responding to this growing concern by offering more customized solutions than ever before. From “as a service” offerings to the cloud, the industry understands the need for operational longevity and is working to improve the solutions available. When it comes to choosing an access control system that will fit a business’s unique needs both today and in the future, there are a few things to keep in mind.

Should an Access Control System Be in the Cloud?

Over the past few years, the availability of cloud-based security solutions has exploded, and for good reason. The benefits the cloud provides to end users are numerous, ranging from cheaper installations to increased scalability potential.

The main advantage of selecting the cloud when considering the future of a business is financial. The cloud eliminates the need to invest in an access control server – one of the more expensive parts of a traditional access control solution. Capital expenditures become a thing of the past, and system maintenance is more cost effective.

In addition, cloud solutions are typically part of a subscription-based model that allows users to pay a set monthly fee for the services they receive. This ensures that users only pay for what they need, with the ability to change the services as a business grows. If a business only requires support for four doors at launch, but experiences growth and later needs support for 10 doors, this can be done easily and efficiently within the cloud. And, conversely, if a business experiences slower growth than anticipated, it can scale back on the services. The cloud provides the means by which users, for the first time, can scale up or down seamlessly, creating cost-saving measures and the flexibility needed to accommodate to ever-evolving technology.

With no software to install and with automatic updates, the cloud ensures delivery of the most up-to-date, secure version of the system possible. Since there is no need to create an entirely new network, installations are streamlined, saving users both time and money compared to traditional access control solutions that require extensive wiring and network configuration. This further reduces installation costs while simultaneously allowing users to add more services without having to pay to rewire the entire network. No wires, no capital expenditures, and a dedicated team monitoring the system positions the cloud as an ideal option in terms of affordability and scalability.

What About Open Source?

Open systems are having an impact on all aspects of physical security, from development to installation. In general, these systems are being increasingly accepted and implemented, though not all companies have recognized the benefits yet.

Open source systems provide a level of flexibility that is unmatched by other options on the market. Instead of choosing a single manufacturer and getting locked into purchasing products and services only from that vendor, users can instead mix and match to develop a true “best of breed” solution. An open system means being able to use equipment from a variety of companies to customize the solution to a user’s unique needs. There is no cookie cutter approach to access control, and open systems provide the means by which integrators can create tailored solutions.

As a result of this flexibility, users can start small and add more system components as the company grows. With no vendor lock-in, users are free to choose equipment at a price point they are comfortable with, while also staying on the cutting edge of new technologies. An open source access control system can easily integrate with a video management system, human resources and HVAC to provide a full operational view of a facility. From there, the systems can work together to grant and revoke credentials, schedule lighting and heating based on occupancy and more. This integration provides situational awareness, which ensures that a business is being run in the most streamlined and efficient way possible, with the flexibility to easily add cameras or other devices as needed.

In contrast, with proprietary systems, users are forced to make up-front commitments that do not easily allow for adaptation as new technologies are developed. Open systems ensure that users are at the forefront of innovation, on whatever scale works best for them, while also providing the freedom of choice to make security decisions based on functionality rather than manufacturer agreements.

Some companies have open APIs, which can be modified by integrators depending on what users are looking for. Are they interested in advanced technologies, such as facial recognition and machine learning? Open systems can accommodate that. There are minimal limitations to what can be done, ensuring the solution that is implemented is fully customized to user demands, with the ability to switch out equipment from different manufacturers as needs change. Gone is the “build once and maintain forever” mindset. Open source provides users with more flexibility to choose than ever before.

Do I Need Remote Monitoring?

Remote monitoring provides both short and long-term benefits to technology investments and is especially useful for companies that do not have the resources to support full IT departments. According to Gartner, the average cost of IT downtime is $5,600 per minute. While there is variation among businesses, this translates to about $140,000 to $540,000 per hour, with the average being around $300,000. Regardless of where users land on this scale, one thing is certain: Downtime means money lost.

The benefit of remote monitoring is that users have an offsite dedicated team in place watching over the network to respond to any incidents that could result in downtime. The moment a potential issue occurs, it is either taken care of automatically or, if human intervention is required, is routed to the correct person and dealt with immediately. Since users pay a set monthly price to receive remote monitoring services, there are no hidden fees incurred when an event arises. Remote monitoring is like insurance: It is not always needed, but when it is, it can quickly pay for itself and more.

Remote monitoring can also be useful to companies that have an onsite IT team by increasing productivity and allowing members of that team to focus on other essential job functions. If employees are constantly responding to every single IT event, that leaves little room for other tasks to be accomplished. Remote monitoring takes the guesswork out of what tasks need human intervention, streamlining internal operations and providing the means for talented employees to use their skills elsewhere.

Overall, remote monitoring saves money by reducing downtime, which is especially important for businesses that are just starting out, as a large financial setback could be devastating for a fledgling company. And for companies that already have an IT team in place, remote monitoring helps users allocate resources and respond to events in a more effective way. In both of these situations, remote monitoring positions companies to be more successful in their responses to threats, both now and in the future.

Preparing for the Future

There are many ways to ensure that an access control system is ready for the technological challenges of the future, and all of the suggestions above can be combined to achieve that goal. All of these services provide high levels of cybersecurity, ensuring that technology investments are longstanding and worthwhile. It is not practical to update systems completely as new technology is developed, but the cloud and open source systems provide a way to effectively accomplish the same thing in a cost-effective manner. Combining the cloud, open source capabilities and remote monitoring ensures that access control systems are on track to stay competitive in a changing technological landscape.

Jeff Bransfield is the national sales manager for RS2 Technologies.