Card Access Control Basics

Card Access Control Basics – What are they?


Why should you invest in access control? Because gaining entry to your business shouldn’t be as easy as saying “open sesame”. 

With an access control system, you can manage:

  • Which employees or guests can enter your building
  • Which times or days they can access your facility
  • Which areas or floors they can access

If you’ve ever needed to swipe a card or enter a code to enter a building, then you’ve used an access control system before. But how do card access control systems work? And how can you use them to strengthen the security of your business? 

Access control—it can actually be just as simple as it sounds. Looking to get a handle on how it really works? You’re in the right place. 

At Union Alarm, we specialize in card access control. With our expertise, we secure buildings across Alberta. From offices, banks & credit unions, to industrial sites, commercial buildings, and warehouses. 

In this article, we’re going to cover the basic components of an access control system:


Core Components – The Pillars of Entrance Control!


If you’re interested in card access control, you may not be sure what it entails. Using an access-controlled door is fairly simple—all you need to do is present a valid electronic card, key fob, or credential to gain entry—but installing and programming the system is a bit more complex.


Card access control basics – a basic system has the following basic components:


Access Control Panel (ACU) or Door Controller

This device is the hub for all access control activity. Once installed, the door controller seeks to validate a presented card/fob or credential from the card reader. It then sends a signal to an electric strike and electro-mechanical lock to momentarily release the door. The controllers are typically installed in a secure area or an IT room. The more doors you need to secure, the larger the build-out of the door controllers. Door controllers are typically installed in groups of 2/4/8, but can expand to control hundreds of doors.


Card Reader (Proximity Reader)

Also known as a swipe pad or prox reader, this device is where users present their proximity/RFID access cards, key fobs or credentials. They’re normally located on the outside of an entrance door, but can also be used from the inside when in/out readers are present. When an authorized fob or credential is presented, the card reader then scans the magnetic/RFID field and sends that information to the ACU (door controller) for authentication. If a card or token is valid, the ACU then releases the electronically controlled door. This happens in a millisecond!


Access Control Keypads (Integrated Reader)

An access control keypad can also be integrated into a proximity-based card reader. This enables the system to incorporate a numeric code to be used as an employee credential, or it can further enable card-plus-pin where an employee first presents a valid card or credential, then enters a personal code before the door will release. These features can be enabled to provide additional security after business hours or to secure highly sensitive areas like laboratories, admin corridors, and IT areas.  


Access Cards/Key Fobs

This is what an employee or guest uses to gain entry to your building; they’re small enough to fit in a pocket, purse or wallet. You can also order lanyards or wristbands for employees to wear their access card/s on their person. These are helpful tools in an office environment where multiple entries are needed throughout the day. Cards can also be printed to provide additional ID for employees within a secure office environment. 

Electronic Credentials

A modern electronic or Bluetooth® credential can also be programmed to an employee’s smartphone or android device and is used to gain entry to your building. Similar to proximity cards, they are held up to the card reader and scanned to authorize entry into your facility. Like an access control card, they are assigned to an individual and easily tracked with an audit trail.  


Electric Lock Hardware

This is what keeps your doors secured at all times. Common examples of locking hardware include electric strikes, electromagnetic locks, and electrified exit devices such as panic bars. At union alarm, our master locksmiths begin by installing the correct relays and power supplies to release your doors. This ensures your locking hardware conforms to all municipal building and fire codes. 


Access Control Software

This is the program the administrator uses to grant (or revoke) access, customize employee access, assign door groups, and time schedules, and program new users.  When you work with Union Alarm, we’ll help you set up everything, and teach you how to maintain and operate the system. We’ll also teach you how to perform an audit trail of the assigned users. This will detail who has entered the building, and which doors were accessed at which time. It will also show any failed entry attempts so you can see if someone tried to enter a sensitive area they are not assigned to.


Card Access Control Basics – Using the System

Now that you understand the hardware and components, the next step is implementing these devices to control access throughout your building. 

How can you use an access control system to secure your business? Below, we’ve listed a few instances that demonstrate how an access control system can help to protect your business:


Customize Employee Access

Not all of your employees work on the same schedule. Some may work Monday to Friday, while others come in on the weekends. In addition, some employees require access to specific doors on different days of the week or at different sites across a given city. 

You may want to give some employees access to sensitive areas while others only need to enter the front door or a common office area. 

Not to worry: With access control systems, you can customize permissions for each employee to reflect their role. Your employees will only have access to the doors they need during their scheduled times. 


Change Employee Access

Has one of your employees received a promotion? If so, they may require access to different areas of your building. Using the access control software, you can alter their access credentials to give them the necessary authorizations. 

You can also restrict access to sensitive areas; this ensures that employees only enter the doors they need to. An access control system is your first line of defense when it comes to keeping unauthorized individuals out of sensitive areas.


Revoke Access

If an employee is terminated but does not return their access card, you can immediately revoke their authorization through the software. In addition, if an employee loses their access card, you can deactivate it and replace it with a new one. This negates the need for companies to rekey the locks and the expense to issue new keys throughout the building.


Audit Report on Access

Need to find out which employee was in a certain area on a given day? You can create an access report; this is a log of all the activities that took place. Find out who entered a door or an area and at which time. This feature helps you quickly resolve security breaches and is also helpful with time and attendance. 


Install an Access Control System with Union Alarm!

Whether you run a small business or a large enterprise corporation, an access control system ensures the safety of your assets and your employees. With better security, you can:

  • Restrict access to sensitive areas.
  • Manage building access for all employees.
  • Collect reports on who is accessing specific areas of your building.

Looking for a qualified installer for commercial security systems in Calgary or Edmonton? At Union Alarm, we employ a highly qualified team of security specialists. Our technician’s service all major brands of card access systems, including ICT, Keyscan, HID, and Kantech.


To schedule your installation, contact Union Alarm today!