IP-based door access control systems

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Like any other web-based door access control system, an IP door access control system consists of the four main components - readers, controllers, electronic locks and management software. 

However, IP-based access control uses Internet Protocol (IP) technology to support communication between the reader, the controller, and the software. To communicate, the reader and the controller are connected to a data network – LAN or WAN – and all components are powered by Power-over-Ethernet (PoE), which is why it's also known as POE door access control.

This guide describes the basic differences between a traditional access control system and IP-based systems, and explains the benefits of implementing an IP-based access control system.

How IP access control systems work

Both traditional and IP-based access control systems provide the same basic functionality. A user presents credentials to the reader, the credentials are validated by IP controllers, and the user is granted or denied access. If the credentials are valid, the door unlocks. However, there are a number of significant differences between the way IP-based access control systems and traditional systems work. 

Connection

Traditional systems require dedicated cabling to support communication between individual components. IP system components are connected to a single local or wide area network for communication. 

Communication

Each device in an IP-based system has an individual IP address. Other devices use that address to communicate by sending packets of data via a network or Wi-Fi. Unlike traditional systems, communication is bi-directional, allowing devices to exchange data. For example, an individual IP access control reader and a controller can exchange validation data. A management system can send software updates to all network-connected devices or collect performance data. 

Data collection

Networked access control systems (NACs) can keep track of all access-related data throughout a building or campus because all components are connected to a single network. That facility provides the security team with a single view of all access control activity. Traditional systems collect data from individual devices. To get a complete picture, security teams would have to carry out additional processing. 

Power

Connected devices receive their power via the network using Power-over-Ethernet. If there is a power failure or other emergency, the devices can continue to obtain power provided the network has a back-up power supply. Although locking devices receive their power via PoE, it may be necessary to provide a separate power supply to comply with fire regulations.

Door locking

Known as an IP door lock system or IP smart door locks, access points on an IP-based system are fitted with electromagnetic locks that can be controlled by an IP-based server linked with authorization software to allow or deny access.

Bandwidth

Available bandwidth depends on the network specification, but typically IP access control systems can access bandwidth capable of supporting more complex devices such as video-enabled door readers.

Functionality

IP access control systems provide the same basic functionality as traditional systems. However, their bi-directional communication capability enables IP access systems to support additional functionality such as writing to smart cards or exchanging operational data.

Control

Security teams can manage, monitor, and control IP access control systems on-site or remotely using a mobile device with a secure web browser. Traditional systems may not be compatible with remote or mobile security management solutions. 

Network requirements

An IP access control system requires a network to support communications and provide PoE. The network should provide the bandwidth and the speed to support all connected applications, including access control. Heavy traffic or network congestion can cause issues for access control systems, so the ideal network should incorporate traffic prioritization. The network should also feature strong security measures to prevent hacking or other forms of attack.

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Benefits of Openpath cloud-based security

  • Manage your access control remotely on any web-based device, from anywhere

  • Flexible user permissions and streamlined multi-site management features

  • Enhanced monitoring with real-time activity tracking, live video, and custom dashboards

  • Automatic software updates and user sync ensures your system is always up to date

  • Open API standards for seamless integration with all the hardware, software, and apps needed to run your business

  • Reduce costs and IT burden by eliminating local servers

  • Award-winning support available 24/7 with remote diagnostics and troubleshooting in the cloud

Hosting an IP access control system

The system can be hosted in a number of different ways, on-site or in the cloud:

  • On-site server-based systems – The software and the control panels managing the access control system are hosted on a server in a secure area on the premises. The server can manage multiple access points simultaneously and is suitable for buildings or campuses with large numbers of access points. It can also be used for central hosting and management of systems on a number of different sites.

  • On-site embedded systems – An embedded solution stores access-related data on a control panel connected to a web browser. Easy to install and inexpensive to implement, this solution is suitable for single buildings with a low number of access points.

  • Cloud-based systems – Software to manage the system is stored in the cloud and connected to controllers and readers via an Internet connection. Cloud-based systems can support large numbers of access points and multiple sites, as no local servers or storage equipment are needed. Many providers host their software via third-party platforms such as Amazon Web Services (AWS). IP access control systems can also be hosted by the provider directly in a secure data center.

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Support for access control readers 

IP-based access control systems have good processing power and are capable of supporting commercial door lock readers and reader-controllers that are compatible with wide-ranging authentication methods, including RFID, mobile, and biometric. For greater security, IP-based systems can be integrated with other access control components, such as security cameras or video intercoms.

Mobile solutions

Users present credentials using an approved app on their smartphones or other mobile devices, such as tablets or smart watches. This is a simple, keyless door entry method that eliminates the problem of lost cards or keys. Security teams can also provide authorized visitors with temporary mobile credentials that give them access to buildings or specific areas such as conference rooms or briefing centers for a specified time.

Proximity solutions

Proximity solutions use RFID technology to ‘sense’ credentials when a user is close to the reader. The credentials can be stored on a smart card or badge. Users don’t have to swipe a card or type in a PIN, which makes this a simple, convenient form of authorization. Proximity card solutions are suitable for controlling access in areas of high traffic. One of the benefits of smart cards and fobs for proximity IP access control is that they can store credentials for multiple entries, enabling users to access both main doors and highly secure areas using the same proximity technology.

Biometric solutions

IP-based biometric access control readers include technology to support fingerprint scanning, iris scanning, voice recognition and facial recognition readers, and hand readers. IP-based biometric access control can be used to manage access to higher-security areas where it eliminates the risk of identity theft.

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Benefits of an IP access control system

Choosing a security system for your organization is an important decision, and the right door access control system plays a vital role in security posturing. When making the case to upgrade your security, note that implementing an IP-based access control system can deliver many benefits, including stronger security, improved performance, lower costs, and increased flexibility. Here are a few key advantages of IP-based access control systems, and how they can impact your business:

1. Stronger security

Fast, accurate authorization

An IP-based security access control kit or system exchanges information between readers, controllers, and databases over high-speed networks, speeding up authorization. If the system is cloud-based, the database should contain the latest available user and threat information, ensuring that authorization is based on accurate, up-to-date information. 

Stronger verification methods

There are a few different types of IP door access control systems that support a wide range of authorization methods, including video, voice, facial, iris, and fingerprint recognition, as well as mobile and proximity-based credentials. Teams can also deploy multi-factor authentication to further strengthen security. 

Increased visibility

All data on access events is transmitted over a single network, providing security teams with a single view of all activity in the access control network. This is important for security teams managing individual buildings with large numbers of access points or managing multiple locations simultaneously from a central control point. 

Real-time notifications

Alerts and other notifications are transmitted in real-time via the network, enabling security teams to respond faster to incidents. With an IP system that supports mobile management and video, security teams can receive alerts with live video on their smartphones, and take specific actions remotely, such as unlocking a door or activating a lockdown.

Faster policy changes

If security updates require a change in access policy, security teams can quickly roll out changes to individual access points or the entire network. For example, implementing a new door schedule, or rolling out new security features is a matter of a few clicks, rather than updating each individual component in person.

Granular control

The access control management software enables security teams to easily view system logs and alerts, manage permissions, and access other management features easily so that they can review user history and customize individual permissions. Because IP-based access control systems communicate over the Internet, these adjustments are also effective in near real-time.

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2. Improved performance and reliability

More bandwidth

IP networks provide high-speed, high-bandwidth, high-throughput data communications that support fast access control over Ethernet or Wi-Fi. Another benefit of relying on IP communications is the capacity to support video and voice formats beyond traditional data. Performance depends on network traffic, but can be optimized by using a network that incorporates traffic prioritization. 

High volume capacity

Networked access control systems (NACs) have the capacity to transmit or exchange high volumes of data simultaneously. This makes IP-based systems suitable for businesses with large numbers of access points and users. This also makes IP-based access control systems faster and more reliable than many traditional systems relying on Wiegand protocol.

Network reliability

A network-based solution does not require separate infrastructure maintenance. Monitoring and maintenance are handled by the network support team. As corporate networks are critical to the business, uptime is likely to be high. Many cloud-based IP security systems also offer offline storage and functionality, so even if the network goes down temporarily, the system still works and there’s no data loss.

Network-level protection

The network provides both power and communications for the IP access control system. If communications fail, any access control data will be stored locally, and buffered for transmission once communications are restored. If the network incorporates automatic rerouting in the event of failure, any transmission delay will be minimal. Provided the network can still provide power, access points can be opened or closed in emergency mode. 

No single point of failure

IP-based door access control systems are not dependent on multi-reader controllers that could cause multiple doors to become inoperable if one reader fails. All the readers on the network are independent with a unique IP address. Any failure will only affect one door. 

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A single device for access and video

  • Openpath Video Reader Pro combines access control and video surveillance in one IP-based device

  • Backed by patented Triple Unlock technology for the fastest, most reliable touchless access on the market

  • Get real-time alerts with video, on-demand playback of every access event, and cloud storage options

  • Remotely unlock the door, trigger lockdowns, and respond to security incidents

  • Sleek, secure hardware with end-to-end encryption and offline functionality so you don’t miss a thing

  • Integrate with leading IP video surveillance and management providers for a complete view of security throughout your space

3. Lower costs 

No dedicated cabling

Unlike traditional systems, IP-based door access control systems do not require separate, dedicated cabling for each device. IP-based system components connect directly to an existing corporate local or wide area network or Wi-Fi system, with minimal wiring required. That eliminates the cost of purchasing, installing, connecting, and maintaining traditional wired connections. 

Simple device installation

Installation is simple. After fitting the IP access control reader or controller, installation consists of connecting the device to the network either wirelessly or via PoE, then testing and configuring the connection. That reduces the time, effort, and cost required to roll out individual devices or complete systems. 

No infrastructure support costs

The network is maintained by the network support team, so there are no direct infrastructure maintenance or upgrade costs. Traditional systems that use local servers or equipment on-premises often require dedicated on-site staff and IT support to maintain. 

No separate power supply

The devices source their power from the network using PoE technology. There is no need to install or maintain separate power cabling for the basic system or any additional devices added later. This reduces installation costs, and also makes the system easier to scale over time.

Single interface

An IP-based system only requires a single user interface for administration, management, monitoring, and control. A security administrator can manage all access control components with a single login and a consistent interface across all tasks. This saves time and cost, and eliminates duplication of equipment and effort. 

Lower-cost credentials

The versatile readers in an IP access control system can reduce the cost of verification tools. While the most popular access credential is still RFID-enabled smart cards for door locks, many companies with IP-based access systems are migrating to mobile. Using mobile verification or biometric techniques eliminates the costs of producing, distributing, and replacing cards, fobs, badges,or other items. 

Predictable costs

The cost of installing additional readers is predictable because, unlike traditional systems, separate controllers are not always required for new installs. There are no separate infrastructure or maintenance costs to factor in, so the cost per access point is fixed on the cost of components and connection to the network.

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4. Increased flexibility

Remote management

IP door access control running on a network can be connected to management software hosted in the cloud. This makes it possible for administrators or security teams to access the system and the software from any location on any web-enabled device via an Internet connection. Administrators can carry out the complete range of access control management tasks without being on site, including enrolling users, managing moves, adds and changes, and remote locking or unlocking, as well as management and maintenance tasks.

24/7 support

Security teams can provide support outside business hours without maintaining staff on site thanks to remotely accessible software on web browsers, or by securely connecting to the local network via VPN. Teams can monitor systems, carry out remote diagnosis, or respond remotely to incidents, dispatching staff only if necessary. 

Scale systems easily

There is no limit on the number of access IP controllers that can be connected to the network, so it's easy to deploy new access points without the disruption of adding new controllers, cabling, or other infrastructure. That makes an IP-based access control suitable for a growing business. 

Integrate multiple sites

With a cloud-based IP door access control system, businesses can extend the system on one site to other locations and control them from a single platform. This ensures that access control security will be consistent across all sites, even those in remote locations. The systems on any site can also be controlled remotely using the remote management facility. This increases operational flexibility and overcomes any challenges of managing multiple sites in different time zones.

Future proofing

Both networking and access control software are constantly evolving. With an IP-based system, businesses can take advantage of new releases or emerging technologies on a platform that is compatible with existing and future developments. IP technology provides a cost-effective, consistent upgrade path for adding new functionality or incorporating new technologies, with the ability to roll out updates automatically on a cloud-based platform. 

Integration with related systems

An IP-based system also supports integration with other security-related technologies, such as video surveillance systems or building management systems. This will be important as businesses move towards smart buildings where services are fully integrated. Plus, PoE adapters make it possible to power other IP devices, including IP security cameras, on a single network uplink. 

Simpler migration

For businesses migrating from a legacy access control system or upgrading existing IP-based systems, IP technology provides the basis for an efficient roadmap to the future. The ease of install and lower costs make migration more manageable, and the flexibility of many IP-based access systems to support both new and legacy credentials allows businesses to accommodate a wider range of preferences and security needs.

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Why migrate to IP access control?

IP door access control offers many important operational, security, and financial benefits compared to traditional systems. However, it’s important for businesses to decide if and when migration to an IP-based system is right for their security environment. There are a number of factors that indicate when migration to IP security systems will make a difference:

Limitations on growth

With a system that requires dedicated cabling, the security team may face difficulties in expanding the system. Adding new cabling can be time-consuming, costly, and disruptive, which could lead to delays in securing new access points. An IP-based system removes this hurdle, allowing businesses to scale with greater ease and less frustration.

Poor performance

The system may be slow compared to other networked services, which can increase security risks in the event of an incident. The system may not have the bandwidth or speed to support more advanced forms of access control, such as mobile or biometric authentication. Additionally, if unlocking the door is unreliable, people will become frustrated, and businesses are likely to see a greater number of IT requests coming in for simple matters. 

Risky credentials

User credentials based on older technologies can weaken the security posture. Users can lose keycards or fobs, and these items can be stolen or cloned. In addition, there are known vulnerabilities on Wiegand systems, and many traditional access methods are prone to tampering and hacking.

Disparate management

If the system has grown piecemeal, it can be complex to manage and difficult to impose consistent standards of security technology across the business. To monitor and manage the system and effectively respond to incidents means keeping staff on site at all times. Disparate systems across sites, and even within the same building, means having to log in to multiple platforms to accomplish basic tasks.

Rising costs

The cost of maintaining and updating a traditional system can increase as older components wear out or essential manual updates grow more frequent. Day-to-day maintenance and updates can impose an increasing burden on security and IT teams, preventing them from focusing on strategic security tasks. 

Those factors together can contribute to a security operation that is inefficient and costly to run, as well as increasing vulnerability. If you notice any of these warning signs in your organization, it may be time to consider migrating to a more flexible, modern option.

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Flexible, secure access with Openpath

  • The fastest, most reliable touchless access control in the industry

  • Unlock with the mobile app, tablet apps, Apple Watch, key cards, and fobs

  • Secure mobile entry with automatic entry detection and unique Wave to Unlock feature

  • Customize and send digital visitor passes to guests within seconds

  • Remote unlock and lockdown capabilities from your mobile device, anywhere in the world 

  • Ability to require multi-factor authentication for added security 

  • Personalized digital badges bridge the gap between cyber and physical security

Guidance and support for your IP access control system

With the right IP door access control system in place, you can be confident that you are increasing security, improving operational performance, and reducing costs, as well as taking full advantage of the benefits of networked access control. 

As technology continues to get smarter and more efficient, the future of access control is also favoring more intelligent, sustainable platforms. With many different systems available from a wide range of suppliers, it’s important to select an access control partner well-versed in the latest IP access control technology, who understands the specific needs of your internal team. Whether you’re installing a new IP-based system in a ground-up development, or looking to update an existing system, your access control providers and installers can assist with additional services such as network planning, system design, installation, and technical support. 

Ready to learn how IP access control can work for your organization? As an experienced provider of leading IP door access control systems, Openpath can help you take the next step in improving your security. Contact our team today to get started. 

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