Security is Personal

Today’s focus is priority for the small business owner

Security—be it personal, financial, logical or physical—is a top focus of today’s small business owner. The protection of people, property and assets is a key part of any small business’ overall strategy and stability, and the way people think about physical access control is changing because of this focus. The average electronic access control deal is now less than 10 doors and the average access control customer is a small business owner.

For small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs), access control needs to be affordable, scalable and easy to install, manage and maintain. Business is no longer left at the office, as today’s small business owner needs control and visibility of the organization while on the go. This peace of mind, however, can come with a hefty price tag, even though business owners are continually tasked to do more with less money and fewer resources. Because of this reality, a typical access control buyer is looking to invest in only what is required and leverage existing investments when implementing new security solutions.

With the changing needs of access control end-users comes the need for security dealers to evolve and upgrade their access control offerings. Dealers should ask a few key questions before diving into this new avenue for growth:

  • Why is the access control market changing?
  • Why is SMB a focus?
  • What’s the competitive landscape?
  • How can I create a turnkey model for access control?
  • What type of product should I invest my resources in?

The Growth of Access Control

The security market has seen incredible growth over the past few years, with particular advancement within IP video surveillance. Video has become an oversaturated segment of the industry, with integrators and resellers fighting over smaller margins to win deals.

Access control, though, has had a slower entry into the marketplace, perhaps because of its reputation of being an intricate solution with higher design and installation complexity than video surveillance. However, due to changing technologies, it is now easier than ever to enter into the access control market.

Because of the emphasis placed on safety and security in today’s business landscape, end-users now insist on a complete security strategy, and they are realizing access control is a major component of that. Once an add-on to a video solution, access control is now seen as a necessity. Because of this changing frame of mind, and because of the improvement of access control technology, the access control market—already a beast at $3 billion (in 2012)—is projected to grow at a 7 percent growth rate to $4.2 billion by 2017, according to market research firm IHS.

The Move from Enterprise to SMB

Traditionally, electronic access control was a security solution built for the enterprise. Expensive and complicated panels controlled systems through expensive, initial hardware investments and extensive, proprietary cabling, resulting in complex and costly installations by trained experts. Even after installation was complete, it was necessary for the enterprise to maintain a dedicated security staff to manage the access control systems.

With the advent of IP access control—a sister solution to the already welladopted IP video—end-users are now able to leverage their existing network infrastructure when implementing access control. This means simpler installation processes, utilization of existing cabling and infrastructure, and management capabilities that are easy and convenient. Dedicated security staff is no longer a requirement, and personnel who manage other network equipment can take over and manage these IP-based systems.

Once known as a solution for government entities and large corporations, access control is now available and accessible to all industry verticals. In fact, access control is becoming a requirement in many verticals. Regulatory compliance is a driving factor of access control growth in education, healthcare, data centers and other markets. And, with such a wide variety of verticals, organizations are required to follow a strict set of protocols and rules to protect privacy, information and assets. This includes HIPAA and countless others.

Access control is not a convenience; it is a necessity. This necessity will only continue to expand as, for example, all of our personal and private information is stored on computers in data centers across the globe. Physical protection is the first line of defense to logical data protection.

An Access Solution that Fits Every Need

Because the access control market is changing due to advancements in technology, increasing compliance complexity and the evolving desires of the end-user, access control solutions should also be evolving to fit these needs. An access control solution should be intuitive enough for smartphone-dependent end-users, sophisticated enough to meet the strictest of compliance regulations, and lucrative enough for a dealer to invest and support a new product to grow their business.

Networked access control is the smart decision to meet all of these needs because of its flexibility, affordability and ease-of-use. Unlike traditional access control, networked access control leverages the existing network infrastructure without any special network configuration. This cuts down on installation time and complexity, as well as overall cost of the system. In addition, networked access control is flexible for the needs of a growing small business. Unlike traditional access control, where centralized controllers manage a set number of doors, (usually 4, 8, 16, 32) networked access control does not force constraints on multiples of doors. Access control can be added as required by the end-user’s needs, one door at a time, if desired.

The ability for an access control system to directly connect to a company’s existing network is another huge benefit of investing in a networked access control solution. Not only does the software convey real-time information, but it also allows for remote and enterprise management of multiple locations. Encapsulon, the networked access control from Wren Solutions, for example, has the ability to manage up to 250 doors in multiple locations—even on different sides of the world—through one device.

Software should also be intuitive, easy-to-use and easily upgradable. Many traditional access control solutions are built on antiquated software that requires extensive training and a sizeable project to change or upgrade the software. Solutions like Encapsulon, though, are built with simple upgrade paths that include automated upgrade downloads and an intuitive user interface, similar to many other modern software interfaces the user is already comfortable with.

As mentioned earlier, business is no longer kept at the office, and an access control solution should reflect that. End-users are used to having their most important and necessary information available at their fingertips and security solutions should be no different. Many access control solutions offer mobile management of the system. Encapsulon allows businesses to view the status of their facilities, control doors and lock out employees or other visitors that should no longer have access.

Without dedicated security employees on staff, end-users need an access control solution that is powerful yet simple enough to be managed by non-security experts. They also need a trusted partner to configure and install their system It’s important that access control vendors have well-developed methodologies and programs for their partners, as well as end users, to ensure that solutions are developed and deployed to meet specific needs of a given application.

The Customer is Always Right

Perhaps the biggest reason to invest in an access control product line is the enduser himself. The access control end-user is firstly a consumer, and the consumer market is leading the way in access control. Surrounded by home automation, smartphone apps and continuous technology upgrades, today’s access control enduser expects and demands the convenience and efficiency seen in the consumer market in his buying decisions.

The end-user wants his electronic access control system to be convenient, efficient, easy-to-use and cost effective. An end-user is no longer convinced that his business is best secured by a complex panel system managed by an even more complex software program, especially when he can lock doors, turn off lights and control the temperature at his house, all with a few touches on his smartphone. We live in a world of smartphone apps and one-click purchasing, and these habits are beginning to influence the buying decisions of end-users.

Although end-users want simple and intuitive security, they still require security investments to be reliable and to work well. The security of employees and assets is a top priority, and a security system must be capable of providing peaceof- mind through secure operation.

A Non-traditional Curveball

The increased accessibility, affordability and simplicity of networked access control is not going unnoticed within the security industry—and outside of it. IT resellers who have previously steered clear of physical security are beginning to see the benefits of IP access control and the market opportunities available within their existing customer base. These resellers are often times trusted advisors for all technology solutions for their SMB end-users due to their IT expertise.

IT resellers are beginning to see that networked access control complements their business model and are beginning to add access control solutions to their product lines to grow their business and their profits. These resellers, in turn, may begin taking business away from traditional security dealers who have been more conservative in bringing on access control as a business offering.

Because of the increased awareness surrounding access control, end-users are beginning to request access control solutions in their businesses, and IT and other non-traditional security resellers are tired of turning these business requests away.

A solution like Encapsulon is an easy choice to enter into this growing market.

This article originally appeared in the October 2014 issue of Security Today.

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