access control models & methods


Key takeaways

  • Access control models allow verified users to access a property while preventing unauthorized people from entering.
  • Access control methods differ based on the user permissions they grant.
  • The four types of access models are discretionary access control (DAC), mandatory access control (MAC), role-based access control (RBAC), and rule-based access control (RuBac).
  • RuBAC models are considered the best access control model because of their high flexibility for most types of properties.


When it comes to controlling access to your property, it is challenging to find an access control system method that benefits everybody. Different access control models come with a variety of features and technology. The usefulness of any one of these models depends on your unique property and the levels of access that you wish to manage.

In this guide, we help you choose the best access control system model. First, we explain access control. Next, we review the four main types of access control. Lastly, we explore the best access control model.

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What is access control?

Access control is the act of maintaining building security by strategically controlling who can access your property and when. It’s as simple as a door with a lock on it or as complex as a video intercom, biometric eyeball scanners, and a metal detector. Access control allows you to manage who enters your property and at which time they are allowed to do so.


What are access control models?

Access control models are distinguished by the user permissions they allow, and the methods we cover in this post all feature electronic hardware that controls access to a property using technology.

Some types of access control in security are more strict than others and are more suitable for commercial properties and businesses. Other methods are better suited for buildings that receive a high volume of visitors. Some basic control models are better for buildings with low traffic.

While looking elsewhere on the web, you may learn about different types of access control methods or alternate definitions for the models that we list below. There are two categories of access models: models that benefit physical properties and models used to set software permissions for accessing digital files.

While there are some interesting connections to be made here, they actually have very little to do with each other. This is especially true when it comes to finding the right physical access control system for your property.


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4 access control models and methods

There are four types of access control methods that you will commonly see across a variety of properties. Keep in mind that some models are exclusively used for commercial properties.

The four main access control models are:

  1. Discretionary access control (DAC)
  2. Mandatory access control (MAC)
  3. Role-based access control (RBAC)
  4. Rule-based access control (RuBAC)


1. Discretionary access control (DAC)

The discretionary access control model is one of the least restrictive access models. It allows for multiple administrators to control access to a property. This is especially convenient for residential properties or businesses with multiple managers.

One of the advantages of DAC access control is its straightforward nature, which makes it easy to assign users access.

However, the downside is that this model can lead to confusion if multiple administrators don’t communicate properly about who does and doesn’t have access.


2. Mandatory access control (MAC)

Mandatory access control stands as a complete alternative to discretionary access control. This access control design is best for businesses that emphasize security and confidentiality. As a result, this model features only one system administrator.

The system administrator cannot be overridden or bypassed, and they determine who has access to a property. As such, government facilities primarily use mandatory access models because of the singular security system administrator option.


3. Role-based access control (RBAC)

The role-based model is also known as non-discretionary access control. This model assigns every user a specific role that has unique access permissions. What’s more, system administrators have the ability to assign user roles and manage access for each role. This type of access control model benefits both residential and commercial properties.

For residential properties, residents tend to move in and out of a building depending on the terms of their lease. This model makes it easy to give new residents access permissions while revoking access for prior tenants.

For commercial properties, different levels of access can be granted based on an employee’s job title. A server room, for example, can be restricted to computer engineers. If a computer engineer switches over to a different team, their access to the server room can be easily revoked. There are only positives with a role-based access control system unless your property would benefit from specific criteria that define the other three access models.


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4. Rule-based access control (RuBAC)

Rule-based access control features an algorithm that changes a user’s access permissions based on a number of qualifying factors, such as the time of day.

An example of rule-based access control is adjusting access permissions for an amenity such as a pool or gym that’s only open during daylight hours.

Another example is an office that’s only accessible to certain users during business hours. In this scenario, a manager with different permissions can still access the office when others can’t.

Another high-security use for this model is the ability to program a role-based access control system to lock down specific areas of a building if a security compromise is detected at a main entrance. Of course, the specifics of this feature vary from system to system.


Which is the best access control model?

While the most useful access control model depends on the type of property you oversee, a role-based access control system is likely your best choice. User-friendliness and accessibility are key concerns for most people.

Role-based access control systems are some of the most convenient for both property managers and daily users. They benefit both commercial and residential properties, which means you can’t go wrong with choosing a system that uses this model.


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Nick Manzolillo

I'm a Rhode Island-based writer fascinated with real estate development, the inner workings of the real estate industry, and how real estate and technology blend together.

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