Strengthening security with commercial keypad door locks and access control

Keypad access control systems overview

The most sought-after quality in an access control system after robust security is convenience, and access control keypads are one of the most convenient systems in the market, due to their keyless configuration. Although this particular access control system is practical, will keypad systems be the right choice for your establishment? Potential customers looking fora system for controlling access might be deterred by the less-than-secure access method of entering easily shared PIN codes into a keypad. However, there are steps users can implement to build a robust security strategy using control keypads. This guide breaks down the components of a keypad access control system, the advantages and drawbacks of the system, different types of access control keypads, such as commercial keypad door locks, how to integrate the device with other standalone access control systems, and the important features to look for in keypad readers.  

What is keypad access control?

Keypad access control typically comes in the form of a reader mounted at entry points, with a keypad featuring numbered buttons or touchscreen interface that allows users to enter a series of numbers, or PIN codes, to trigger an unlock mechanism. Keypad access control systems keep doors, gates, and entry points securely locked while enabling tenants, visitors, couriers, and authorized individuals simple access. Access control keypads can be used as a standalone single-door access control system. For a larger establishment or commercial spaces with several entry points and restricted areas within the building, a keypad control and commercial keypad door locks can be integrated with other systems to allow access for several entries using one PIN code. For example, an apartment building might integrate keypads placed at the gym or swimming pool to the keypad controls at building entrances, so users can access the areas with the same PIN code. 

Benefits and drawbacks of keypad readers

Here are the advantages of choosing keypad readers as an access control door method for your building: 

  • Convenience: The main draw for keypad readers is the keyless access option. Users are not required to carry physical keys to gain access to a building or specific spaces within the building. 

  • Cost-effective: By opting for control keypad systems, businesses are able to cut the cost of producing physical credentials. 

  • Multiple entries: PIN codes can be programmed to unlock different doors, eliminating the need to carry multiple keys to gain access to different spaces. 

  • Enhanced security: Keypads can be programmed to work with other access control systems, like proximity readers, to create a secure multi-factor authentication process. 

Despite the convenience of the access control system, there are some disadvantages to the system that are worth noting:

  • Security vulnerability: PIN codes can be easily shared and used by multiple people. Once access is gained by unauthorized users, a door could be left open to let others in, increasing the possibility of a security breach. This is a reason for establishments to pair keypad readers with other systems to create a stronger authentication process. Used in this manner, keypad readers work well for spaces that have been retrofitted with other access control methods. Additionally, how keypad readers are designed can leave room for security breaches. It is possible for unauthorized users to guess PIN codes from worn-down buttons or marks on hard-to-clean surfaces. The light and sound of the buttons being pressed can also give away the codes to people who are in close proximity to the devices. 

  • Need for dedicated staff: As keypad readers are susceptible to constant technical support for forgotten PIN codes, an on-premise staff is often required for troubleshooting and incident response. 

  • Constant upkeep: PIN code resets are typically required after a certain period of time to reduce security risks. Depending on the size of a building, number of tenants and the keypad access control system, this task can be labor-intensive and time-consuming. 

Keypad access control systems price and installation

When it comes to pricing, keypad readers fall on the more affordable side of security systems, priced from $400 to $1,500 for hardware, software, and installation. The system typically uses minimal wires, contributing to the cost-effective quality of the device. As pricing can vary depending on the building size and infrastructure, it is recommended to contact a reputable access control system keypad supplier and installer to get a quote. 

Keypad access control systems are also easy to install, due to the minimal wiring required. The compact size also makes the device versatile, as they can fit into most doors and gates. If your building has an existing system for controlling access, choose Wiegand keypads for easy integration with third-party systems. For exterior entrances, choose waterproof and weatherproof keypad readers with an IP65 rating for durability.

Types of keypad access control systems

Keypad access control systems are not a one-size-fits-all solution. Depending on your establishment, particular types of security keypads for doors and Wiegand keypads might be more convenient to use and can better serve your business’ security needs. Some keypads are designed to serve a very specific purpose, like commercial door keypad locks for commercial use, and can only work in certain environments. For example, exterior keypad door locks are designed to withstand the harsher weather conditions than interior keypad readers, and a commercial keypad door lock or commercial keypad locks will not be the best fit for apartment buildings. Keypad door access control systems also come in widely varied mechanisms, such as electronic keypad lock and digital combination door lock. Which door access keypads you choose will depend on the nature of your business and the level of protection you are looking for.

Keypad door locks

A keypad door lock features a numeric button pad and comes with the locking hardware and controls. This type of door access keypads uses combination door locks that connect the programmed PIN codes to a locking mechanism to open doors. Keypad door locks are available for both residential and commercial spaces, which typically use commercial keypad door locks. The residential version is best suited for apartment unit doors, where access can be granted to a small number of people through a magnetic lock mechanism or other door lock function. 

For enterprises and office buildings, keypad commercial door locks and commercial keypad locks can accommodate a larger number of users and are more durable in design compared to the residential versions. Keypad door locks and commercial code door locks are often connected to an additional access method for stronger protection. For example, a commercial door lock with keypad or combination door lock with key mechanism requires users to enter a PIN code in addition to the use of a physical key. The disadvantage to this technology is the constant maintenance of the devices. Most access code electronic commercial door locks are battery-powered, requiring users to change them regularly.

Standalone PIN keypads

Ideal for shared spaces like apartment amenities and offices, standalone keypad access control typically comes in a more compact form to allow users to install the devices at interior doors. The most common standalone PIN keypads come in a flush mount, single-gang design, making the devices easy to install into drywall or single-gang electrical boxes. To open doors, the PIN code lock for doors are connected to a separate door release device and a power supply. The drawback to this type of code keypad for access control is the existence of a master access code that functions much like a physical skeleton key that can open all doors. When an unauthorized user acquires a master PIN code, they are able to alter other codes and gain complete access to a building.

Gate keypad readers

Keypad gate entry systems are designed for outdoor use. Commonly installed at gates where authorized tenants enter a building, campus or parking lot, gate entry keypads can help operators control access for both pedestrians and vehicles. This variety of gate opener with keypad offers a simple solution for tenants to access locked areas within a property. They can often be found at the entrances of gated communities and office complexes. For private single-home properties, driveway gate keypads are often used to control access for guests. As keypads for gate openers are best suited for tenants, residential properties that receive a large number of visitors might opt for an additional authentication method, such as an entry intercom system, to allow tenants to verify the identity of visitors directly.

Elevator keypads

Commonly seen in hotels, hospitals with restricted access floors and luxury condominiums with private penthouses, elevator keypads can be installed inside or outside of elevators and require users to enter a PIN code to gain access to specific floors. This type of keypad access control system accommodates a more limited number of users compared to the other types of access control keypads. For example, an elevator keypad to a private floor in an apartment building grants access only to the tenants living in the particular unit. An elevator keypad can also provide better security between parking garages and apartment units, granting access to certain floors in garages to tenants living in specific apartment unit floors. 

Like other keypad systems that require PIN codes, this method is not entirely secure, as passcodes can be shared with unauthorized users. This can be particularly concerning, as elevator keypads are used to access private homes in some cases.

Using multi-factor authentication with keypad readers

For strengthened security, it is not uncommon for keypad access control to be used with other authentication methods or credentials. Using multi-factor authentication (MFA) provides extra security by using an additional access control method to verify authorization. In fact, a keypad system or commercial door lock with keypad could be connected to another system that requires verification by a physical key or mobile credential, or natively support MFA on a single reader. Here are the systems that keypad readers are commonly used with:  

Mobile credentials

Allowing users to gain access with smartphones, mobile access control systems use Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or near-field communication (NFC) to unlock doors and commercial keypad locks. Legacy keypad systems are often integrated with mobile access control to allow users to enter an access code door lock from the keypad in a mobile app. This type of keypad is particularly convenient, as it enables a touchless door opener access experience. To use mobile credentials alongside PIN keypad control for MFA, a user would need to use an app to authenticate, as well as type in their PIN to unlock the door. 

RFID cards or fobs

This particular type of access control system utilizes Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) to allow access to users. This technology is seen in readers that require users to scan a key card or fob to open doors. This method of access control is less convenient compared to keypad systems, which does not require users to rely on physical credentials to access a space. However, combining keypad systems with RFID fob or card key door locks strengthen security, as it requires users to go through two steps to verify their authorization – by entering a PIN code and using the cards or fobs to gain access.

Choosing the right keypad door lock and access control system

As previously highlighted, determining which keypad system is right for your business largely depends on the nature of your establishment and the level of protection you want. It is recommended to review the leading physical access control system keypad suppliers and get in touch with experienced installers to help you choose a system that fits your needs. These are four main features to look for in a keypad access control system that could improve security and convenience: 

Visitor access

Most keypad systems and door access control keypads grant access for tenants and authorized staff. However, it is important to consider access for visitors, couriers, and others who require temporary access to a building. With keypad readers, visitors can access a building with an easy-to-use PIN code, which is typically sent to a visitor’s smartphone. PIN codes make it easy for guests to quickly access a building without taking the extra steps to contact a tenant or wait for somebody to come open the door for them. 

Mobile app

Mobile app keypads allow tenants to gain access to a building through smartphones. Users can choose to enter a PIN code or swipe on the app to open doors. Aside from being convenient, installing smartphone-based keypads allows tenants to quickly gain access and seamlessly move through a building. A system like Openpath also allows tenants to remotely open doors for visitors, enhancing experience by facilitating frictionless movement within a building. 

Cloud-based system

Many are opting to implement a cloud-based security system in their businesses for its convenience. Cloud-based software can be combined with a keypad system to allow more streamlined management. With a cloud-based keypad system, operators can update the tenant directory and manage access from anywhere, at any time from a single dashboard. 

A system like Openpath also allows operators to effortlessly add new users and sites to a network with a few clicks, and set dynamic access permissions based on schedule and location. When it comes to managing access for visitors, customizable Guest Passes can be issued from the Openpath Control Center. Plus, operators are able to tailor the user-friendly dashboard according to user preferences. Opting for a cloud-based keypad system also has cost-savings benefits, as the cost of maintaining an onsite server is eliminated. 

Easy integration

When choosing a keypad access control system, it is important to select one that can be easily integrated with other systems. For example, integrating a Wiegand keypad with other platforms like a property management software means that any updates made in the software are automatically reflected in the keypad access control system. Easy integrations simplify processes and help dedicated teams perform labor-intensive tasks more efficiently. Look for a system with an open API and mobile SDK like Openpath to allow seamless integration with other hardware, software, apps, and third-party platforms. 

Secure access

The main concern users have when using a keypad system is the misuse of the easily shared PIN codes. Although some might see PIN keypads as a less-than-secure access method, the system could be complemented with other access options to create a stronger barrier with multi-factor authentication.  It is recommended to create a unique PIN code for each user. According to a recent study from Ruhr University, 4- to 6-digit PIN codes are less secure than longer codes and can be easily guessed by individuals attempting a breach. Opting for longer-digit PIN codes, up to 16 digits, adds an extra layer of security. To keep security teams informed about access events, choosing a system with real-time access alerts also helps admins stay on top of any incidents with fast, appropriate responses. 

In terms of technical construction, the design of keypad readers can help prevent security breaches from occurring. The typical keypad reader also features flashing lights or sounds that make it possible for unauthorized individuals from guessing PIN codes; a keypad reader with a uniform backlight can help block spoofing attempts.

Incorporating access control keypad systems to your building

Whether used alone or with other systems, keypad readers are one of the convenient methods of access control for businesses and other commercial settings. With any access control system, security remains the highest priority, and it is crucial to choose a keypad system that leaves no room for security breaches to happen. It is also important to consider the security of an establishment holistically and choose a keypad reader that can work with a building’s existing systems. To manage all systems in one place,  cloud-based software allows users the convenience and ease of remote management, as well as offering cost-savings benefits for businesses. These components combined provide enhanced security while giving users the convenience of a keypad access control system.