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Access control has always been at the forefront of building security. Traditionally, access control systems have come in the form of conventional lock and key methods, electronic systems or a combination of the two. Trevor Ball, pictured, business development manager UK and Ireland at the physical security product company Allegion UK says that cloud-based systems are changing the market landscape, providing secondary security benefits to users across the UK.
All buildings need to regulate their building security, from government-owned educational and healthcare facilities right through to small commercial properties. With this in mind, balancing security features with other factors has always been a challenge. Facility managers and decision makers alike have to account for accessibility and usability alongside safety and security – not to mention budgets and building capabilities. With this, and the fact that many traditional security systems can sometimes be demanding to manage, it’s clear as to why facilities are beginning to implement cloud-based systems into their security strategies.
The construction industry has not always been first to implement ‘cutting edge’ technologies. From an external viewpoint, many forget the extensive standards that decision makers must abide by – with these considerations sometimes slowing the process for technology adaptation. For those that have combined traditional security methods with electronic systems, new security demands must still be considered.
One of those new demands is cybersecurity, which in its simplest of terms, is the protection of internet-connected systems, whether this be in the form of software, data or hardware. As with most internet-connected systems, today’s access control systems are also at risk to cyber attacks – with potentially detrimental consequences to building security. With this being a new area for some (consider schools or small commercial facilities), questions are now being raised on how to effectively secure a building from two angles both physically and electronically.
Take a school entrance for example. With various access points across the building, schools can be known to use fobs or keycards as a way of granting access and monitoring movement. However, with many of these access control systems being operated from a local internal server, they can become vulnerable to cyber attacks. These access control systems require internal maintenance, updates and data back-ups. If a slight mistake is made with the data that’s being handled on-site, it could lead to a less secure digital infrastructure. One cyber attack later and, suddenly, the physical security of the school is compromised. So what’s the answer to this growing issue?
The rise of the cloud
Today, cloud-based systems can offer a wide range of UK facilities enhanced security with full integration into their access control systems. In fact, worldwide spending on cloud computing is expected to grow by 23.8% this year, with spend expected to reach $210 billion USD in 2019. In an increasingly digital age the growing need to protect a facility physically and electronically paired with the benefits that cloud-based solutions offer, is why these numbers for worldwide spend on cloud computing are rising.
Cloud systems essentially store and access data online, taking it away from an on-premise computer or server. When integrated into an access control system, cloud solutions offer facilities a number of operational choices. Users can set how visitors are granted access into the building, with a number of situations possible, such as registration in a reception area paired with visitor passes. Of course, other factors need to be taken into account, such as the required movement of the visitor; but this is left in the hands of the decision maker. With the cloud, these decisions are designed to be made quickly and effortlessly – all via the internet and all while providing extra digital security.
Yet, there is a common misconception that on-site closed network security solutions are more secure. With plenty of evidence against this, cloud-based systems are progressively being seen as the best equipped systems for cyber attacks (providing the correct procedures are put in place, ie. two-factor authentication). For an internally managed system, facilities may need a large amount of resources, time and even budget to keep it running smoothly. Updates, in particular, can be a timely and precise process, and when done manually on-site, there’s the chance that a lax approach or a common mistake could cause huge security repercussions.
Looking back to the example of a school entrance and those that operate access control from an on-site server: It is possible for users to implement multiple layers of security to their on-site infrastructures by themselves. Yet, in reality, many lack the expertise and experience to enforce this. With schools, in particular, stretched IT teams and budget issues can sometimes result to a more lenient or less meticulous operation. This increases the possibility that their access control systems become vulnerable to cyber attacks, highlighting the weaknesses of these systems compared to those that are handled by third-party organisations.
With cloud-based systems, the maintenance is taken away from internal teams, saving time and resources and giving peace of mind that updates are being handled by expert teams. This extra layer of security is why schools, among other facilities, across the UK are beginning to make the switch.
Aside from being the best protection for cyber attacks, cloud-based systems are offering decision makers a number of other benefits. Doors and physical locations aren’t the only areas where these cloud-based systems can improve security. The nature of these cloud-based systems allow for additional use in some unusual but highly beneficial scenarios. Forklift operators, parking gate users and those that require access to drug cabinets (whether based in hospitals or on-duty ambulances) can all do so with integrated cloud solutions.
Accessibility isn’t the only benefit to facilities either. Cloud-based systems offer decision makers full flexibility in terms of how they can adapt to a building. This flexibility allows for huge scalability options, enabling a building to grow with its access control system – without presenting any additional security issues.
The importance of building security has always been paramount to those involved with access control. Now, with physical security and cybersecurity both needing to be considered, it’s imperative for facilities to keep up with the IoT movement by using access control systems that can protect their facilities from multiple security threats.
The effortless nature of cloud-based systems is simplifying (but progressing) access control processes for facilities across the UK. For many, the cloud is much more than an industry trend, it’s a revolutionary stance on access control.