If you’re like most of us, you probably still use a flat, metal key to unlock the front door of your home. These flat locks were invented in the 1800s — an upgrade from the skinny skeleton keys that had been used for more than a thousand years before that.
Metal keys are a simple, effective, and relatively inexpensive way to secure a single family home, but they can start to be pretty inconvenient when they’re used in buildings which many different people need to access.
When you’re in charge of securing an office building, you need to keep track of which employees have which keys, which can differ based on their access levels. (In fact, as we mentioned in our post on tools for facility managers, some software solutions even offer key tracking features because this gets so confusing.) And if you ever fail to collect keys from departing employees, you can choose between the expense of changing all the locks or constantly worrying about who actually has access to your workplace. Plus, there’s the time-honored tradition of losing or forgetting your physical key and getting locked out when it’s the least convenient.
In recent years, though, major advances in internet and digital technology have produced new and better ways for humans to restrict access to their homes and offices. Electronic keys and “smart keys” both offer varying degrees of high-tech features that can keep your office safer than ever.
Here’s more to consider as you compare sophisticated door lock options for your office.
New Types of Commercial Door Locks
New, electronic access control methods generally break down into three main categories.
Card Readers – Instead of keys, some locks are activated by cards with magnetic strips. These cards are easy to reprogram so there was no worry about having to change locks or even collect keys from departing employees. Radio frequency identification (RFID) keycards also have similar benefits, plus all you have to do with an RFID keycard is bring it within range of the lock (no need to swipe) and staying operable even in the presence of magnets (magnetic keycards could be erased in the presence of things like magnetic name tags and wallet closures). Some keycard systems could theoretically keep records of which keys were used at which entry points and when. However, these key cards still require the holder to worry about losing the physical card at inconvenient times. It also requires a manager to remember to deactivate cards as necessary and take the time to issue new cards to new employees.
Numeric Keypads / Key Codes – Locks that rely on numeric codes input by the user have a few serious benefits over physical keys or even keycards. Like keycards, they can be reprogrammed at a moment’s notice, which eliminates the problem of having to change the locks. Keypads also relieve employees and other building occupants of the need to always have a key on hand, because all they have to do is memorize the code. However, numeric keypads do present a few unique security problems. First of all, it’s easy for an employee who knows the code to share it with anyone they want — including people who shouldn’t have independent access to the facility. Plus, it may not be difficult for others to guess the code if they can watch someone type in the code from a distance. Some of the latest digital keypad locks address this issue with “anti-peek” features that scramble the locations of each number on the pad after each use. However, unless there is another tracking feature used in conjunction with the keypad, it may be difficult to keep a record of who is actually using each code to gain entry to the building.
Biometric Scanners – Some of the latest commercial locks on the market now have the ability to recognize fingerprints. Employees can simply place their finger on a fingerprint scanner directly on the front of the lock to unlock the door. Other access control systems require employees to sign in with an app on their smartphones. Because most modern smartphones stay locked with the requirement of a passcode or a fingerprint ID, no one except the credentialed employee should get access to the building. When employees can sign in with their fingerprints, it eliminates the problem of their having to remember keys, cards, or even codes. Most locks with fingerprint scanners also keep records of who signed in and when, which can be super helpful for auditing purposes. However, not all office visitors will want or need to have their fingerprints registered in your system in order to gain access to the building. Contractors (such as your cleaning service), vendors, and people who are expected for appointments will have to get in another way.
Factors to Consider in Choosing an Access Control Method
Here are a few of the factors you may want to consider as you choose which type of door lock will work the best for your office.
- Online or offline: Connecting your locks to the internet has a lot of cool benefits. You can control the locks remotely (no more wondering whether or not you forgot to lock the door before you left) and can make updates to the access control system from any internet-connected computer. You can also gather up-to-the-moment, comprehensive information about access. However, any internet-connected device has the potential to be hacked, so digital security can require some of your energy and attention.
- Touch-required vs. Touchless: Even after COVID-19 is under control, people might think twice about touching a surface that has been touched by everyone else who has come into the office that day. For that reason, fingerprint scanners can be off-putting when you’re trying to limit the spread of germs, even if there’s hand sanitizer nearby.
- Wired vs. Wireless: Some access control systems are hard-wired to electrical sources or to the local server. Being dependent on the local electricity eliminates the need to change batteries regularly. However, a local power outage (or even purposeful sabotage) could render your security system useless without a battery backup. A hard-wired system is also generally much more expensive to install and maintain than a wireless, battery-operated system.
- Authorization Levels: Some access control systems can limit which employees can access various parts of your facility. For example, maybe all employees can get into the front door, but only a few can access the server room.
- Use During Emergencies: In the (hopefully unlikely) event that your locks lose electricity and/or battery power, they’ll either stay locked or unlocked until power is restored. So-called “fail-secure” locks require electricity to open, while “fail-safe” locks require electricity to lock. You might want “fail-secure” locks for the most secure areas of your building (such as the vault of a bank) but opt for “fail-safe” locks where people work to ensure that emergency personnel can access them easily if necessary.
- Door Camera: Some newer smart lock and access control systems come equipped with internet-connected cameras so you can get a real-time view of who is coming into the office.
Beyond the Unlocked Door
When most people think of physical office security, they think of door locks and security cameras.
However, there’s plenty that goes into keeping your employees and assets safe beyond those basics.There’s plenty that goes into keeping your employees and assets safe beyond door locks and security cameras. Click To Tweet
For example, during normal business hours, doors are often unlocked. Visitors who come through will still need to be processed and credentialed.
With visitor management programs like The Receptionist for iPad, administrators can use a digital tool to manage all visitor procedures and data. Administrators can access a single portal to analyze visitor data from multiple buildings, entrances, and locations. Plus, the tablet-based sign-in system impresses visitors and makes administrators’ lives much easier.
Head over to our site to learn more about The Receptionist visitor management system. Our visitor check-in app is top-ranked on sites like Capterra and G2, and we offer a free 14-day trial (with no credit card required) for new users.
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