How to Choose the Best Access Control System

Selection Guide for Door Access Control

It’s easy to think that all door access control systems are the same, but they’re not. They all have different features and capabilities. How do you choose the right door access control system for you?

This article reviews how to select the right access control system.

We discuss the features, security requirements, the type of hardware required, the installation, credentials, and management software. And we compare the cost of ownership for several access control systems.

Access Control Selection
Access Control Selection

The Process for Making the Choice

To choose the best one for you, first, determine your objectives. Is it the cost, or how easy it is to install, or maybe the safety and security it provides? It’s important to review your objectives before considering which access control system is best. Once you know your objectives, you can select the features and functions that meet these objectives.

To get started, review the following features. What functions do you need?

List of Access Control Features to Consider

Not all Door Access Control Systems are alike. Some are designed for a small number of doors and have limited features, and more complex systems include sophisticated functions. Here are some features to consider.

  1. What Access Control features and functions do you need?
  2. What type of security do you require?
  3. What type of hardware would you like?
  4. What installation is required?
  5. What type of credentials do you prefer?
  6. What Access Control Management Software do you want?
  7. The total cost of ownership

Features and Functions of Door Access Control Systems

Most door access control systems provide an easy way to enroll all the users and maintain a database that determines who, what door, and when each person can enter. But some access control systems can do much more. For example, elevators can be controlled, and security people can be notified of alarm conditions, visitors can be monitored, gates and garage doors can be controlled, and the access system can be integrated with an IP camera system.

Elevator Control

Elevator Access Control
Elevator Access Control

Elevator access control is only available with some access control systems. An elevator access control system consists of a credential reader in the elevator and a controller box in the elevator control room. The access control software can be programmed to allow certain people to go to specific floors on specific days and times. Read more

Remote Management

Some access control systems provide mobile apps that allow you to change credential authorization remotely or even open the door remotely.

Realtime Notifications from Door Access Control Systems

You may want to be notified if a security alert occurs. The alert can appear on the Windows management console or, in some cases, on your smartphone app. If-Then-Logic helps implement the type of notifications. Advanced door access software includes logic that responds to specific inputs and then causes specified outputs. This if-then logic provides some compelling advanced access control functions. To learn more, read about the Advanced Door Access Control article.

Touchless Door Entry

The pandemic has increased interest in touchless door entry. This requires door openers that are triggered by the access control system. The doors will open automatically when the correct credential is presented at the door reader.

Apartment Intercom Access Control

An apartment intercom is a communication device used in the lobby or at the front entrance of a multi-tenant building or apartment house. It provides a connection to the tenants.

The new wireless apartment intercom allows you to contact the resident’s smartphone or standard phone to request entry into the building. The lobby intercom display provides a list of all the tenants in the building. To help you select the right apartment intercom please read The Best Apartment Intercom.

IP Camera System and IP Intercom Integration

IP camera systems monitor the doors controlled by access control systems, increasing security. For example, an IP camera records all the people that used their credentials to enter a door. The historical recording can be used to determine if the right person has entered. The integration allows the safety person to check for anyone using a stolen credential.

IP Intercoms can be used to control visitors. The intercom allows the security person to talk to the visitor while using the IP Camera System to see the person at the door.

For example, the Access Control Management software from Hartmann integrates with several video management systems. The integration allows the user to view cameras in the same user interface used to manage the access control system.

Level of Security Provided by the Access Control System

How secure are door access control systems? In general, the cost is a significant factor in the safety you can achieve. Pricing can range from less than $400 for a single door to over $1100 per door. The controlling hardware, the management software, and the credentials all contribute to the level of security.

The Security Level Provided by the Hardware and Software

Door readers that use PINs are the least secure. Door access readers that use card credentials are better. Using your smartphone as a credential provides better security because it is less likely to be given to someone else. The highest level of security is provided by biometric readers that use your face or fingerprint as the credential. Biometric door readers provide the highest level of security but are the most expensive. The door readers that you select should provide vandal protection.

Access Control Management Software can provide passback protection and dual authentication. Read more about the Comparison of Security Provided by Door Access Systems.

The Credentials Determine the Security Level

There are card or keyfob credentials, smartphone and mobile credentials, and biometric credentials that use your face or fingerprint. Some access control readers use PIN codes that are not secure. To learn more about credentials, please read more.

Comparison of Access Control System Hardware

The more you know, the better you can make decisions about your door access control system.

There are several types of Door Access Control Systems

Here is a summary of the types of Door Access Control Systems Available. We provide some examples of pricing but this changes frequently, so please contact us for the latest prices.

Access Control Protection

Several Door Readers Connected to a Controller

This is the least expensive when you need to control more than four doors, but it’s the least flexible and the most costly to install. Pricing for a four-door controller starts at about $850, with each door reader costing $50 to $500 (The total cost for four doors is about $1200 (or $300 per door, depending on the door reader required). These systems utilize simple management software and can’t be controlled by your mobile device.

IP Reader-Controllers

This is the easiest and least expensive system to install. It is best for small to medium systems that don’t require extra features. The pricing for the reader-controllers start at about $730 per door.

IP Controllers and Slave Door Readers

This system is easy to install and is the most powerful since you can select the type of door reader you need. For example, you can select a door reader that reads a card credential or another that uses mobile smartphone credentials. A kit that includes the controller and a door reader starts at about $750 per door.   Learn more.

Access control with temperature and mask detection

These panels include a thermal camera that measures a person’s temperature. It includes facial recognition so that it can be used as a stand-alone door access control system. It is best used for a small number of doors since it’s challenging to share credentials. The pricing for the panels start at about $600 per door. See Comparison of Face Recognition and Temperature Access Control Panels.

Biometric access control

Biometric door readers provide the most secure type of credential because you can’t share or lose the credential. Facial recognition has become more popular because it provides touchless entry control. These fingerprint reader controllers start at about $650. Face recognition panels start at about $1100.   Read more.

Electric Locks for Your Door Access Control System

There are Magnetic Locks or Electric Strikes. The Electric Strike is easy to install and is used to secure outer and inner doors but does not prevent egress from an area like the magnetic lock. When the electric strike is installed, you can exit from a secured area using a knob or level.

Electric locks range in price between $65 to $500 depending on the type of lock and power supply required.

Access Control Management Software

The management software is an essential part of the door access control system. Access control management software determines who can enter, what door they can use, and when they can come in.  The access control management software is associated with each type of access control system. Some management software is cloud-based, and there is a yearly subscription cost, while others have a one-time license. They all may include a yearly service and support fee for upgrades.  To learn more, please read How Access Control Management Software Works

The Total Cost of Ownership for Your Access Control System

The cost of your access control includes the hardware, which includes the door readers, controller, and electric lock. It also includes the software and the installation labor cost. Other costs include support, training, and maintenance required. Some access control systems cost more for the hardware, but the installation cost is less for some systems. Some systems require more support and maintenance costs, but the hardware costs less. It is best to review your objectives with knowledgeable people before making a choice.

For help selecting your door access control system, contact us at 800-431-1658 in the USA, or 914-944-3425 everywhere else, or use our contact form.