Access control - choosing the correct system

June 2002 Access Control & Identity Management

An access control system is there to protect lives and property so time taken at this stage is worth it to make sure you are making the right choice.

Whether you are an end-user or an installation company making recommendations to a client, it is worthwhile asking the following questions about the proposed system - before you commit yourself.

First of all, is the system manufactured according to some form of standard such as SABS, CE, UL, etc? Products manufactured to a recognised standard offer a certain guarantee of quality, which would normally not be found in products not manufactured according to any standards.

Next, does the system operate on a distributed database? A true distributed database system offers:

* Parallel processing of events at reader/controller level.

* Increased speed of operation.

* Full off-line operation in the event of computer failure.

* Date and time stamping of all transactions for more than 24 hours without transaction duplication.

If you are an end-user ask your installer for an organogram of his company as well as the supply chain of product from manufacturer. This will indicate capacity and capability of the company and the manufacturer or distributor to provide technical support and back-up. If you are an installer, be prepared to provide this sort of information to clients.

Does the system use an open system architecture in terms of software database such as SQL Server, or MS Access and an industry standard 26 bit Wiegand card reader interface? Systems adhering to this requirement will provide the most flexibility for current and future expansion and connectivity.

Make sure you are aware of any hidden costs such as:

* Annual software licence fees.

* Software upgrade fees.

* Firmware upgrade fees.

* Mandatory maintenance agreements.


You need to ask the right questions regarding whether or not the system is modularly upgradeable - for example:

* How easily can the number of card readers be expanded? Can you upgrade to the next version of software without any hardware changes and can you add on software modules such as photo-ID, alarm monitoring, CCTV, time and attendance, multiple dial-up sites, and TCP/IP connectivity if you need to at a later stage?

* Does the manufacturer offer backwards compatibility in terms of both software and hardware? This will ensure that the system is not made redundant through new releases of software and hardware.

* What form of surge protection is offered against mains power borne transient spikes and lightning strikes?

* Does the manufacturer offer a website where new software releases and firmware upgrades are downloadable, thereby making it an easy process to upgrade the system on-line?

Finally, if you are an end-user ask for a list of reference sites, and phone them.

For further details contact Nigel Versfeld, TeqTrader on tel: 011 403 3002.

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