Magazine article Security Management

A Q&A Approach

Magazine article Security Management

A Q&A Approach

Article excerpt

A Q & A APPROACH

PLANNING AN ACCESS CONTROL system is a complicated process. A good system should be affordable yet provide trouble-free service for many years. Security managers who are considering purchasing access control systems should examine the following questions before committing themselves to a product or supplier.

How long has the prospective supplier been in the access control business? It is important that the company supplying and supporting an access control system have several years' experience in the access control business. The security manager must be confident that the supplier will be able to provide material and technical support for years to come.

Does the prospective supplier have a network of district offices and distributors that can support the security manager's need? The location of offices is a key issue from a support standpoint. Having the manufacturer's district office or a qualified distributor nearby becomes increasingly important as the user's security requirements grow.

Are the products listed by Underwriters Laboratories (UL) for relevant applications? During the listing process, UL conducts a series of detailed tests that cover electrical safety, environmental and operational tests, and more. When a product is UL listed, the buyer is assured that his or her investment will perform to high standards. The UL standard that is typically applicable to access control is UL-294 (access control system units). This standard primarily addresses systems that "provide a means of regulating or controlling entry into an area or access to or the use of a device by electrical, electronic, and/or mechanical means." Most electronic access control systems that use a card or badge for access would fall into this category.

How versatile are the access cards? Many technologies of access cards and encoding schemes are on the market today. The most common card technologies offered are magnetic stripe cards, barium ferrite cards, Wiegand effect cards, and proximity cards (or tags). Choosing a suitable card can be difficult since all these technologies have definite benefits.

Different types of cards offer differing information-holding capacities and degrees of flexibility. Cards typically contain the following codes:

* Card number. This is a unique number assigned to each cardholder.

* Facility code (site or customer code). This number is both encoded on the card and set in the system. This number ensures that only cards held by company personnel will be accepted for verification by the company's card readers and that cards made by the same manufacturer for a different company will be rejected. It is important to confirm that the facility code issued by the vendor will be unique and not used for any other customer.

* Issue level/issue code. This number is a subset of the card number and allows the same card number to be issued many times without the need to issue a new card number. For example, a cardholder is assigned card number 2345 with issue level 1. For reference, it is referred to as card number as 2345.1.

If the card is lost or stolen, the security staff simply reissues card number 2345 at issue level 2 (2345.2). At the same time, the security system is reprogrammed to accept the same card number with the new issue level. The lost card will be rejected if an access attempt is made at any card readers in the facility. Without the flexibility of issue levels or issue codes, security personnel must issue a different card number each time a replacement for a lost or stolen card is required. Over time, this practice tends to reduce the quantity of card numbers the system has available.

Some cards can contain additional information. Security managers should look closely at the flexibility different vendors offer.

How immune are the cards from alteration, duplication, and reading error? …

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