How to Upgrade Legacy Access Control Equipment

Networked access control systems are beginning to provide powerful, newfound capabilities. When replacing a legacy system is not an option, end users still can take advantage of these new functionalities.

There is no doubt that the landscape for professional security systems continues to change rather rapidly. The proliferation of networked systems has driven demand for new systems that are more highly integrated and scalable with the potential to deliver new levels of performance and functionality to further improve overall situational awareness and security.

These new features have helped set pretty lofty objectives and expectations for new systems, but they are all achievable as best-in-breed technology companies are demonstrating with innovative new solutions. Yet there are a few important considerations one cannot overlook as end users seek the latest and greatest solutions.

Perhaps the most daunting reality to address is that technology innovations are not always the most accommodating. There are literally tens of thousands of professional video and access control systems installed across the country that still do a respectable job of protecting people, property and assets. Nonetheless, they are sure to have significant drawbacks when compared to the level of security system solutions available today.

As much as security management personnel want to deploy all these new gizmos, the deployment of new hardware and software solutions often requires that old systems are ripped and replaced. Even with signs of widespread economic recovery, that simply is not a viable alternative for most facilities.

Knowing When to Rip ‘N’ Replace or Upgrade

For the purposes of this discussion, let’s focus on access control technology. The first thing to do is to have a systems integrator conduct a thorough site survey to evaluate what is currently in place. This helps all involved to understand the basic architecture of the existing system and to determine how much of the system’s legacy cabling and equipment can be used with new software.

The process starts by examining the existing access control software to see if it provides the ability to export data so the programming and enrollment elements don’t need to be rebuilt from scratch. An integrator should also chart out the equipment topography to see exactly how the hardware is laid out across the entire system to determine how the system communicates with the control software.

Of course, the easy approach is to rip out everything and install a completely new system. Unfortunately this is also the most expensive approach, and often an unnecessary one at that. A big issue for integrators and end users is that several access control manufacturers have abandoned the ability to accommodate legacy controllers and wiring with their new software. Some of the newer software packages are not even compatible with their own legacy hardware.

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