Bits 'n bytes

October 2005 News

We are proud to bring you this Access Control Handbook 2005, the second of its kind, the first successfully debuting in 2004.

This Handbook once again aims to raise awareness of the different aspects of, and approaches to, access control and once again we have included trends in the industry, best practices in the various fields of access control, as well as a number of case studies from a range of industry verticals so that you can see those trends and best practices in action.

Brian Barnes was quoted in the 2004 Handbook as saying: "Access control, in one form or another, is as old as mankind itself. When primitive man rolled up a stone to the entrance of his cave to protect himself from wild animals, he was in effect controlling the movements of animal traffic through a point of entry or portal."

From rocks to basic locks and keys to high-tech biometrics, the changes over the last 10 years alone have been immense, forget centuries past.

Integration as a driver

The task of keeping unauthorised people from accessing buildings or equipment is an ongoing process, and an increasingly difficult one as convergence trends force the physical world and the logical world together.

Access control no longer necessarily involves just one solution; it is a collection of solutions, often integrated ones - from perimeter fencing at the outermost point of entry, through manned booms, turnstiles or access points to swipe cards or biometric readers, extending into the logical world with password authentication on computing networks.

How long is a piece of string?

So what makes a good access control system? Well, how long is a piece of string? Hi-Tech Security Solutions has come across systems whose performance criteria would blow you away. Functionality and flexibility have been well planned and both future growth (planning for future growth or scalability is one of the most critical areas in access control) and upgrade paths have been taken into consideration without any sense of overkill.

On the other hand, we have seen and heard many horror stories where products simply do not meet customer requirements. Planning has been done and systems installed (usually as a result of a conventional tender process) but in effect customers have been sold systems that meet specification intent and nothing more.

And this is more common than people care to admit, with even credible access control suppliers suffering when their systems are incorrectly specified and installed. Of course the customer also suffers, either wittingly or unwittingly. South Africa's security industry still fails to understand the difference between the price and the cost of a solution, and end-users do not help matters by being so price-driven in their product selection.

When installations fail, for whatever reason, in many instances the only way to fix the problem is to completely remove the equipment, then reinstall it correctly or install a new system. So, with the above in mind, I would encourage readers to stay abreast of best practice and the critical points of system design and performance criteria. The aim of this Handbook is to make that easier for you by pointing out what you need to know without being product-specific, and highlighting how different businesses, in different business sectors, have tackled their own access control dilemmas.

Lynne Larsen


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