The Access Solution

The Access Solution

Why multi-campus facilities are investing in centralized access control

Providing security, managing budgets, gaining efficiencies— these are just a few of the many objectives that facility managers have to balance at once. And for organizations with multiple campuses, the challenges can be even more significant. Whether a university system, a commercial organization or a hospital network, multi-campus facilities are looking for ways to improve outcomes at scale. Thanks to technological advances and a growing move to centralized systems, access control is proving to be a valuable solution for achieving the many goals of multi-campus facility stakeholders. However, the path to an centralized access control system is rarely without challenges.

Organizations of all types must be budget-conscious, and with finite funds, access control doesn’t always make it to the top of the list. If there is enough budget for access control, an integrated system is passed over for a stopgap measure to address short-term needs.

This can be particularly problematic for multi-campus facilities where existing infrastructure varies in age, type and quality. On university campuses in a state-wide system, localized decision-making could result in card readers that don’t communicate with other campuses’ ID cards. In addition, aging infrastructure often includes analog video equipment that can’t be merged with a main campus’ digitized system. At each location, there could be thousands of access points and a host of technologies—from mechanical to wireless and everything in between.

Moving to an integrated system can require an upfront investment of time, finances and other resources. But the potential longterm benefits and efficiencies these systems deliver can actually yield an even greater return. For multi-campus organizations contemplating an access control evolution, here are four benefits to consider.

Better resource management. Implementing a multi-campus access control system allows facilities to leverage their size for pricing. Ultimately, a centralized system centralizes spend, providing a holistic picture of the total cost of access control across locations. Managers, buying committees and stakeholders can use this information to evaluate where resources need to be allocated—are there opportunities for infrastructure upgrades? Where can efficiencies be gained, or systems streamlined? A clear picture of spend across locations can drive cost-saving decision-making without sacrificing performance.

Talent is prioritized. With a centralized access control system, the roles and responsibilities of team members can be consolidated, allowing personnel to be re-deployed to other priority projects their talents can serve. For example, with centralized access control that gives cross-campus line of sight, the task of monitoring the function of card readers system-wide can be handled by one team out of one location rather than by separate teams at each campus. This frees up staff to focus on preventive maintenance and other security priorities.

A seamless experience for users and operators alike. Another key benefit is that centralized access control enables facilities to deliver a consistent user experience and address the growing complexities of today’s environments, all without creating additional back-end challenges. More specifically, it provides flexibility to operate multiple technologies with varying system topographies. On the main campus of a university, student housing may require Wi-Fi electronic locks for every residence hall room door. But student housing at a sister campus could select locks that use local wireless communication with a hub that connects to an access control panel. With a centralized system, a university can easily install multiple types of technology— in this case, card readers and electronic locks—that can work with varying power sources and infrastructures without negatively affecting the experience of students and staff accessing the spaces.

Identify opportunities to improve. When multi-campus facilities harmonize access control systems, it allows them to identify patterns at scale and learn from issues across locations. For example, data can show the times users are accessing certain facilities most, which can be used to inform onsite security staffing needs or to adjust the level of access to restricted buildings during peak hours. In the event that a theft occurs on one campus, all campuses across the organization can use insights from the incident to identify and improve potential weaknesses and prevent similar attacks.

Moving to a centralized access control system can seem daunting, but there are several valid reasons to do it. These integrated systems allow facility managers to achieve economies of scale, free up personnel to focus on new priorities and identify opportunities for improvement—all of which drive long-term efficiencies and improved outcomes that make the move a worthwhile investment.

This article originally appeared in the September 2019 issue of Security Today.

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