Traditional locks and keys have controlled access to buildings for centuries. But today, there are better solutions. Access control systems are the best way to manage access to your commercial building, office, or business. But how do you know which type of commercial access control system to install?
Read on to learn more about commercial access control, the types of systems available, and what the best commercial access control system is.
This guide covers:
- What is a commercial access control system?
- How does a commercial access control system work?
- Types of commercial access control systems
- Why your building needs a commercial access control system
- Where to install a commercial building access control system
- The best commercial access control system
What is a commercial access control system?
A commercial access control system is a type of door entry system that enables property staff to manage who can access a building or certain areas of a property.
Commercial door entry systems allow properties to keep areas secure while providing authorized users with a method of entering. In general, these systems put building owners and operators in control of deciding who has door access and when.
Access control systems improve property security and convenience across offices, businesses, and other commercial properties. Tenants and staff who work in the building can quickly enter with a credential — but doors remain locked for anyone without a valid credential. Some access control systems also provide a way for visitors to request property access from tenants.
Components of a commercial access control system
While there are many commercial access control systems, most utilize five primary components to maintain security.
Those five components are:
- Door controller: The door controller is the most crucial component of the entire system because it stores all information regarding credentials. Essentially, the door controller is the brain of your access control system. It makes all the decisions when determining if a user can be granted access or not.
- Access reader: The reader is the device that accepts the user’s credentials. These are often located on a door or next to it on the wall. Many readers are known as proximity readers, meaning they only need the credential to be within a close range to accept the encrypted information.
- Access credentials: The credential is what a user gives to a reader for access. Credentials are often physical in the form of a key fob, ID badge, key card, or even a tenant’s fingerprint. However, credentials are not always physical. Many modern commercial access control systems accept a PIN code or mobile app.
- Commercial electronic door lock: For a commercial access control system to operate successfully, doors must have electronic locks. Common types of commercial electronic door locks include electromagnetic door locks, keyless door locks, and commercial keypad door locks.
- Software: Lastly, the software is a major component of any commercial access control system because it allows property staff to manage user permissions. With the same software, staff can review audit logs in the event of a security breach. The best access control software is cloud-based, meaning it doesn’t require bulky, on-site equipment. Instead, the software can be accessed remotely on a desktop or even a mobile device.
Cost of an access control system for office and business
Commercial access control systems cost anywhere from $600 to $7,000 for door entry hardware. You may also have to purchase credentials — such as fobs or keycards — for each user. So, your access control system price may vary depending on the type of system you choose.
Additionally, you’ll have to factor in installation costs and ongoing service and maintenance fees. Access control installation could cost a few hundred or several thousand dollars. Installers set their own prices, so choose a trustworthy, certified installer who provides a clear and reasonable quote.
How does a commercial access control system work?
A commercial access control system works by the door controller determining if access should be granted based on the credentials provided.
The process is as follows:
- A user presents their credentials to the reader, which could look very different based on the type of commercial access control system.
- Then, the reader accepts the encrypted data and transfers it to the door controller.
- Once the door controller receives the data, it analyzes it to determine if the credentials provided are authorized to access the specified areas.
- If the credentials are accepted, the door controller sends a signal to the door lock to release.
- Finally, the user may open the door to access the area.
Of course, a commercial access control system works with more than just one door. It provides a building-wide solution that helps strengthen security across various areas and entryways. With that said, access control systems can be used for more than just traditional doors — gates, parking arms, garage doors, elevators, and more.
Not to mention, your commercial access control system can work alongside other security measures you might have, such as security cameras, alarm systems, and even cybersecurity measures. Centralizing all of these systems creates a holistic approach to protecting your property and its assets.
What is the difference between commercial access control systems and commercial smart locks?
The biggest difference between these two technologies is that commercial access control systems provide a comprehensive solution for properties, while commercial smart locks are designed for a single door.
More importantly, commercial access control systems may integrate with smart locks to control access to areas. In this instance, the smart lock is connected to the access control system, telling it when to unlock.
However, simply purchasing and installing smart locks within your building will not provide a property-wide access control solution. Instead, access control systems use centralized software to manage credentials and more hardware to operate effectively.
What’s the difference between commercial access control systems and security systems?
The difference between these two systems is that commercial access control systems are part of a security system.
Security systems consist of various technologies to safely secure a property from internal and external threats. As for access control systems, they play a role in preventing those threats from entering vulnerable areas of the property.
Other aspects of a security system may include:
- Security cameras
- Motion sensors
- Smoke detectors
- Carbon monoxide detectors,
- Alarm systems
As you can see, many technologies make up a security system, with commercial access control systems working alongside them.
Types of commercial access control systems
There are many types of access control systems designed for offices and businesses.
Here are the five most common commercial building access control systems:
- Key fob and key card systems
- Mobile access control systems
- Cloud-based commercial access control systems
- Commercial video intercom systems
1. Key fob and key card systems
Key fob and key card entry systems are some of the most common types of commercial access control. They’re a more convenient alternative to the traditional lock-and-key system.
Instead of using keys, tenants use small electronic devices — either a fob or a card — to gain access. Tenants simply hold their device up to the access control reader, which scans it and checks their credentials. If the system recognizes that fob as an authorized credential, it grants building access.
Most key fob systems use RFID technology. That means each fob or card contains a small RFID tag, which communicates wirelessly with the reader.
Although fob access systems are more convenient than locks and keys, they’re still cumbersome and expensive. For example, any time a tenant loses or breaks their fob, property staff must replace it. Plus, anytime an employee joins or leaves the business, property staff must distribute or collect a fob and program or deactivate it accordingly.
Keypad access control consists of a device installed at the door with a numeric keypad. Each tenant and staff member receives a PIN code, which they enter at the keypad to gain access.
Keypads are convenient for office and business tenants because they eliminate physical keys and fobs altogether. Tenants don’t have to carry around a device that they could lose or forget. Instead, they just enter their PIN code to access the building or room. Additionally, staff can easily grant or revoke tenants’ access permissions through cloud-based software.
Some keypads also pair with a mobile app, allowing tenants to open doors through their smartphones. Keypads with mobile apps are especially convenient because they offer more than one way to open the door.
See ways to open doors or gates with ButterflyMX:
3. Mobile access control systems
A mobile access control system is a great investment for an office or business because it allows tenants to open doors right from their mobile devices. Smartphones, tablets, and even devices like Apple Watches instantly become access credentials.
Perhaps the greatest benefit for property staff is that you no longer have to program fobs or hand out physical credentials. Since tenants use their own devices, all you have to do is manage access permissions from a cloud-based dashboard.
Another benefit to mobile access is that it removes the need for a tenant to physically touch a credential to a reader. Touchless systems like these are much more hygienic and help prevent the spread of germs to spread.
4. Cloud-based commercial access control systems
A cloud-based access control system is any type of system that enables you to remotely manage and grant property access from an internet-connected device.
Traditional access control systems require you to install and maintain a server onsite. In contrast, cloud-based systems store data in the cloud. As a result, cloud-based access control systems are far simpler and more affordable to maintain.
5. Commercial video intercoms
A commercial video intercom system is the best way to manage access at your building’s front door or gate. In addition to providing a seamless way for tenants to enter your building, a commercial video intercom also enables visitors to easily request property access.
There are many kinds of commercial video intercoms, but we recommend wireless systems with a mobile app. Wireless commercial intercoms are easier and more affordable to install. And a commercial intercom with a mobile app empowers tenants to open doors for themselves and visitors from their smartphones.
Other benefits of a commercial video intercom for office access control include:
- Seamless access for delivery carriers, so tenants never miss a delivery.
- Visitors can request access directly from the tenant they’re visiting — no need to go through a front desk or staff member.
- Tenants can open the door for visitors remotely — even if they’re not in the office.
Watch how ButterflyMX works:
Where to install a commercial building access control system
Now that you know what commercial access control is and you’re familiar with the different types of systems, let’s explore where and how these systems are used.
- Offices: Whether you need an access control system for a small business or a large office complex, there are several solutions to help you manage access for your tenants and their employees.
- Industrial facilities: Access control systems are perfect for industrial buildings, self-storage units, and other non-office commercial buildings.
- Gated commercial properties: Commercial gate access control systems allow you to manage access for vehicles and pedestrians at your gated property.
- Non-profit organizations: Just like an office building, a non-profit building needs a way to maintain security while ensuring seamless access for employees, volunteers, and visitors. Commercial access control systems are a great solution.
- Buildings with elevators: If your commercial property has multiple floors and elevators, consider investing in an elevator control system. Elevator access controls ensure that visitors and tenants can only access the floors they’re authorized to be on.
Why your building needs a commercial access control system
Investing in a commercial access control system means that you can ditch outdated locks and keys in favor of a simple, cost-effective keyless entry system. Commercial access control offers countless benefits for tenants, property managers, and building owners alike.
Here are the top five reasons why you need a commercial access control system:
- Enhanced building security. A commercial access control system is a sophisticated security solution that lets you keep doors locked without preventing tenants from accessing them. Some systems also have a built-in camera, which can take a photo every time someone enters the building to create an audit trail.
- Simplified access for tenants. Access control enhances the tenant experience at commercial buildings by providing a seamless way for tenants to enter the building and rooms within.
- Ditch the hassle and expense of traditional keys. The reality is that tenants lose keys all the time. And when someone loses a key, building staff must spend time and money to replace the lock and issue new keys to every tenant.
- Better control over who has access to specific rooms at certain times. With a commercial access control system, property managers can automate who has access to certain rooms. They can even limit access to specific times of the day.
- Integrate with other systems. Many commercial access control systems integrate with other smart tech solutions and software, such as Google Workspace.
The best commercial access control system
There are plenty of options to choose from, but the best commercial access control system is ButterflyMX.
ButterflyMX’s commercial access control system provides all the features you need to effectively manage building-wide access. Not only can the access control system help manage employees or tenants, but it’s also an excellent visitor management solution.
The ButterflyMX commercial access control system consists of the following:
- Video intercom: The ButterflyMX video intercom is perfect for controlling access to exterior entryways, including vestibule doors and even gates. A directory provides a way for guests to contact tenants and request access. The intercom supports two-way video calling, so tenants see who they’re speaking with. More importantly, the video intercom works using the ButterflyMX app. So, tenants can use swipe to open, a PIN code, and even send guests or delivery drivers virtual keys.
- Keypads: ButterflyMX keypads support multiple types of credentials, including PIN codes, key cards, key fobs, and smartphones. Using the ButterflyMX app, tenants can unlock doors and gates without using a traditional key.
- Mullion readers: Also known as key card or key fob readers, ButterflyMX mullion readers are similar to keypads in that they accept multiple credentials: key cards, fobs, and smartphones.
- Vehicle readers: For gated properties, parking lots, and garages, the ButterflyMX vehicle reader is an excellent solution for preventing long car lines at entryways. The vehicle reader automatically grants access to vehicles with an authorized windshield tag. That way, drivers don’t have to fumble for a physical credential.
- ButterflyMX OS: Finally, the ButterflyMX OS is what ties our entire commercial access control solution together. From a web-based dashboard, staff members can manage permissions, review audit trails, adjust settings, and more. What’s more, the ButterflyMX OS is accessible remotely, so staff can manage the system whenever and wherever.