It used to be that pulling wire to every access point was a given for any access control installation if it were going to be on the network. The trend moving forward will be an increase in the number of access points on a network. However, fewer of those doors will be wired to it.
Since labor and material expenses are significantly reduced, this type of solution is quite attractive to campuses, particularly in today's tight budget economy.
There are basically three viable options available to deliver networked access control that is centrally managed. In addition to the obvious wired network, the other two are wireless and virtual smart card networks. Following is a comparative look at each one.
Wired Is Effective but Costly
Once installed, the wired network continues to offer most of the features desired by campuses. The strengths of the wired access control network include real-time monitoring; centralized management; constant power source; and features like global lockdown. However, it also usually has the highest total cost of ownership (TCO) for the end user of the three network technologies discussed here. Tight budgets aren't going away, so it is imperative to eliminate costs that do not offer a tangible return on investment (ROI).
For example, one of the common justifications for wiring an access point in the past was to enable centralized management of all access points. This precluded having to revisit the door to add users, change schedules, get an audit trail, etc., which is necessary for truly standalone locks. However, all three network technologies covered in this article allow you to centrally manage access control without having to revisit the door to make changes or get reports.
Therefore, with wired now being the most expensive way to centrally manage the network, it is essential to consider the cost savings of the alternatives by re-evaluating how many access points truly warrant the increased cost of being wired.
Another prior justification for going wired has been to supply power so that you don't have to ever replace batteries. Today, you can get electronic access control products that are optimized to utilize power very efficiently. Secondly, battery technology has also improved to where the shelf life exceeds five years.
Another key factor to keep in mind with a wired system is that during installation you typically install a reader on the wall, mullion or similar location, and then also install an electromechanical security device and power source to physically secure the access point. Once you move away from a wired access point, you can install an integrated electromechanical product that contains both the reader, the physical security device and power source, all in one. This significantly saves time at installation and reduces component sources.
Wired, wireless or smart card (top to bottom) technologies all provide centrally managed access control, without having to revisit the door to make changes or get reports. Thus, consider the alternatives by re-evaluating how many access points warrant wired's higher costs.
Wireless Saves Time, Money
A wireless network is a credible alternative to a wired system that gives you virtually all of the same functionality with significant savings on the installation costs. Wireless technology has proven itself in fire and intrusion applications, and more recently has been used for access control and CCTV.
While there are different types of wireless technologies and topologies within the category with varying levels of effectiveness, the key benefit for all of them is that you do not need to run wire to every access point. As with most product categories, the quality and reliability of wireless access solutions ranges from fair to excellent. Some wireless products being sold today are not networked, but simply have the ability to receive updates without visiting the door. The better wireless products provide the same two-way communication/monitoring features as a wired system and can quickly execute global lockdown, audit reports and other commands.
Leading wireless systems also have built-in redundancy such as a mesh network to ensure that the wireless network is always operational if a particular router is down. The better systems also manage power very efficiently to extend battery life.