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.

Fortunately there are alternative access control software solutions that are designed to be backwards compatible with virtually any new and/or legacy controllers. This provides significant savings relative to equipment and installation costs, resulting in a higher return on investment and lower total cost of ownership.

Improve Efficiency By Keeping Good Records

Here is a simple tip if you elect to upgrade rather than replace your legacy access control system: keep good records of everything that is installed.

Often, technicians go into a facility and there is no record to document what access system was originally installed and how. This creates a tremendous amount of work that can be easily avoided for future upgrades.

Good installation records will make your staff more efficient by speeding up processes and reducing manpower costs.

Software, Not Twisted Pair, Often Determines System’s Fate

The presence of analog twisted pair cabling is often used as the initial “excuse” for a rip and replacement versus a retrofit. But analog cabling is not the culprit; it’s really the software. Many of the access control installations that we’ve upgraded feature two- or four-wire localized infrastructure using traditional twisted pair with 485 or 422 protocol. In these instances, the system is typically comprised of a series of controllers that have embedded software to control specific entrances.

Essentially, the intelligence in the system is distributed to the access location entry points, with data sent back to a centralized location for system control. In this scenario, we can replace the controllers and install new remote interface cards so that all operations are controlled centrally by an enterprise access control solution. Although we are replacing the old controllers, we are able to use the installed readers, and more importantly, the existing wiring, which saves time and money.

With legacy access control systems that feature centralized architecture, all the system intelligence resides in the software. In most cases, these legacy systems are also most likely running on twisted pair cabling that can be utilized by the new system. In some instances, we can re-engineer the existing controllers installed throughout a facility so they also do not need to be replaced, as well as keep the installed readers. This yields extremely high cost efficiency as only the centralized software is being replaced at the head-end. This scenario yields the highest cost efficiencies.

The key to remember is that virtually every access control system is different. Some aspect of the installation, hardware topography or software programming is different from one location to the next. This has been a longstanding problem for system designers and integrators when looking to integrate multiple previously autonomous access control systems onto a single control platform.

With new software solutions, even systems that span separate buildings in different locations can be efficiently upgraded – even if they have different hardware topography – by using one or both of the previously described methods. More importantly, systems with different topography can even be integrated without ripping and replacing multiple systems. The larger the deployments to be upgraded, the larger the incremental savings.

When Managed Services Become a Possibility

The availability of best-in-breed access control solutions that enable legacy systems to be upgraded and/or integrated presents a major opportunity for campuses. What’s more compelling is that there is no need for concern as to the brand of legacy products or a system’s topography. The new software is the critical component, and is by far the easiest component to deal with from an installation perspective. It’s the new software that also holds the key for future installations as campuses utilize their access systems for more business purposes like time and attendance.

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