Access Control Security Systems: Thinking Outside The Door

Every conceivable security environment, such as ports and airports, schools and universities, stadiums and arenas, transport hubs, manufacturing facilities and even local authority-owned public spaces, need a unified physical security system that makes the unseen seen if they want to protect its people, property, and investments and generally, make our lives safer.

However, it’s not just people, property and business premises that need securing, data, networks and sensitive information also need protecting. Access control security systems are a prime example that can tick all of these boxes and due to rising criminal threats and cyber crime and a global pandemic that has rewritten the rule book on tracking the movement of people, they’re now more important than ever.

Data privacy and physical security are vital when it comes to protection from data breaches, and ensuring that locations aren’t accessed by unauthorised personnel. It’s also about identifying and tracking the journey of each person at every stage and thinking outside the door, not just letting the right people in and out.

This blog explores the industry’s best-kept secret, access control security systems, and will cover:

  • What access control is
  • The different types of access control
  • The benefits of access control
  • Who can use access control security systems
  • How and why access control is more than just physical security

What is access control?

Access control security is a technique that regulates access to either physical or virtual spaces, data, networks and sensitive information and resources. When used to restrict access to certain places or resources, it minimises risk to businesses, organisations and other properties and spaces.

Access control security systems work through the following steps:

  • Identifying the individual trying to enter
  • Verifying the person is who they claim to be
  • Authorising the access levels assigned to the individual

This could be via a physical key card or some form of digital access or login, such as usernames, passwords, PIN numbers, biometric scans, facial recognition and security tokens, depending on whether a person is accessing a location or a system.


The different types of access control

There are a few types of access control, which are typically chosen based on their unique security and compliance requirements.

Mandatory access control (MAC)

This type of access control is regulated by a central authority and is based on multiple levels of security. Used at a high level, MAC can often be seen in military and government systems.

Discretionary access control (DAC)

Unlike MAC, DAC doesn’t have a centralised control management system. Instead, there are set administrators who create the policies that determine who is authorised to access the resource.

Role-based access control (RBAC)

This is a commonly used system that restricts or denies access to computer resources and data based on an individual’s job role. This can be for both individuals or groups as it is based on the level of the role (for example, executive, senior), rather than the individual identity.

Rule-Based Access Control

This system uses a set of rules, determined by the system administrator, that restricts access to resources based on conditions, such as time or location. This is often used in conjunction with other systems, such as role-based access control to limit access for both certain people as well as conditions.

Attribute-based access control (ABAC)

Similar to rule-based access control, the access from this control system is determined by a set of rules as well as policies and relationships from the attributes of users.


What are the benefits to having access control?

An access control security system can be beneficial for organisations and properties of all shapes and sizes, providing not only protection and security, but also valuable data.

Increases security

One of the most obvious benefits is the protection against unwanted visitors or unauthorised personnel. It provides peace of mind knowing that everyone who is in a place or using a resource has the authorisation to do so, so you can be sure that nobody has access to anything they aren’t supposed to. You can even have the benefit of visual awareness with video surveillance.

Keep track of a user journey

Access control software allows you to collect data on each person that enters a location or database, and when they enter. This can be useful for managing staff and knowing when a place has more traffic than others. This data can also be used for determining and investigating thefts or accidents as you would know who was present in the exact location at the time.

Save money and energy

With an automated system in place, there is no longer any need for physical locks and security guards on every door, which saves money over time. Not only does it reduce these costs, it also reduces the costs of energy. Access control systems mean that lights and temperature controls can be automated based on if a room is empty or not. The money that is saved can then be better spent on other aspects and it also ensures that you’re doing your bit for the environment.

Easy access to multiple locations

Access control security systems remove the complexity that comes from traditional security systems that require multiple passes to get into different buildings. They allow you to set all the locations or files a person can access with no additional hassle – even for different buildings.

Prevent data breaches

This is a particularly prominent benefit for virtual spaces as the access control system prevents important files, such as financial records, client data or personal health information from being accessed, viewed and shared. It can also provide a benefit in a physical space too, as it restricts entry to IT rooms or places that may hold physical files.

Who is access control for?

Anyone can benefit from an access control system. It provides safety and control over a space, whether physical or virtual as well as data and information. There may be a misconception that it’s only for big corporations, but small businesses and groups can also benefit from access control solutions.

A wide range of industries access control helps include:

  • Healthcare – access control systems are vital in healthcare to protect patients’ data confidentiality. They protect the IT systems to keep digital data secure, but also restrict physical access to rooms with medical equipment or places with biomedical waste.
  • Government and military – potentially the most secure areas are found within the government and the military, where they restrict access to a building, department and file containing confidential information. It also works to maintain public access to other specific areas as access control is also about management, not necessarily just restriction.
  • Education – access control systems can be useful in educational settings from schools to universities, whether they’re used to protect expensive equipment or provide security for accommodation. A system such as RBAC may be used to allow those on a particular course to access certain resources.
  • Businesses (both large and small) – obviously large businesses require some form of access control when dealing with large numbers of people, as anyone from the street could wander into confidential places without it. A system that can allow you to track comings and goings means you can rest easy knowing that everyone present is where they are meant to be – even if they aren’t a known member of staff. This can be scaled down to small business for the same reasons.
  • Worship centres – places of worship are known for being open and welcoming to all, making it challenging to manage security. Access control systems can be automated to make this easier as doors can be opened during service times and locked outside of this.

How and why is access control more than just physical security?

The stereotype of security may conjure up images such as CCTV cameras and security guards, but in reality, so much of the protection happens within a digital space, making it more sophisticated and reliable (and necessary!) than people think. Access control is just as important for restricting access to files and databases as it is for rooms and buildings.

Therefore, what surfaces here is that access systems aren’t just about door control to enable or stop people from going through them, but they’re also about gathering data at every stage of a person’s journey. This can be done using multiple channels, enabling the next stage in that journey to be validated or refused in context and not just on an ‘in and out’ basis.

This makes for more rapid detection of anomalies and more decisive action to

curtail security risks, but for an employee or a visitor going about their tasks

legitimately it also delivers far greater flexibility for them to do so without interruption.


Access control is an extremely useful way of ensuring that physical and virtual spaces as well as data, networks and sensitive information and resources are secure, allowing only the right people to access them at the right times. They provide easier security solutions than traditional methods, saving money and generating valuable data about the movement of people using your resources.

The team at C>Ways hopes you found this blog useful, but if you have any questions or need further advice about access control security systems, please don’t hesitate to contact us by emailing or calling our head office at 0333 344 8971 or our London office at 0203 475 8555. We hope to hear from you soon!