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When installing any residential or commercial access control system, property owners must consider how robust, reliable, secure and convenient the solution will be when used by staff, residents and guests. For some installations, advanced locks featuring biometrics and multifaceted credentials may be appropriate. For most use cases, however, security needs can be met in a more cost-effective manner.
In recent years, more property owners have seen the benefits of installing monitored access control and smart lock systems to better protect residents and valuable assets. Utilizing a code keypad for access control is one of the easiest and most cost-effective methods of securing properties from physical threats. This guide will cover key features, considerations and common use cases for keypad access control systems for businesses and commercial properties.
What is an access control keypad system?
Keypad access control systems typically consist of credential readers installed in selected entry points. The digital combination door lock device is a type of commercial door lock featuring an interface with numbered buttons or a touchscreen access control panel. To gain access to a property, users must input a pre-approved series of numbers or a PIN code to the keypad system.
By operating a door access keypad, property owners are able to allow access to tenants, staff and guests while securing select locations from unauthorized persons and potential threats.
The scope of an installed door access control keypad system will depend on the use case. Standalone single-access keypad readers or PIN door locks can be utilized to secure private properties and homes from intruders, while integrated keypad access system networks can be developed for commercial enterprises with multiple entrances to secure.
How does a keypad access control system work?
Keypad access control systems are used to replace traditional key-based locks with a more reliable and traceable method of controlling access. Rather than carrying a physical credential that can be easily lost, misplaced or copied, users simply input a PIN code into the commercial keypad lock to gain building access.
All commercial door keypad lock devices require a dedicated power source, with some modern systems configured to communicate using an Internet connection, allowing admins to monitor, adjust and manage the network remotely via smart devices or computers.
When operating an IP or cloud-based keypad reader security system, admins can update directories, assign new PIN codes and edit access permissions from a web-based dashboard, while local keypad control systems must be manually updated and maintained by on-site security staff and IT teams.
Where to install door access control keypads
As access control keypad devices are generally small in size, these entry point solutions can be utilized to secure most doors and gates.
Keypad commercial door lock systems are typically used to secure:
- Building entrances and exits
- Gated community access points
- Private residential areas
- Storage closets and staff rooms
- Office complexes
- Self-storage units
Depending on the intended use of an installed keypad combination door lock, property owners should seek out devices with specific features to ensure smooth operation and optimize security. For example, exterior keypad door lock readers used to secure outdoor locations should be waterproof and weather resistant with an IP65 enclosure rating.
Types of commercial keypad readers and combination door locks
Door access control keypad systems come in a wide range, with certain types of keypad reader and access software being more cost-effective for particular use cases. For instance, some installations may benefit from the convenience of a Wiegand keypad system, while others may find the cost of issuing key cards to be too expensive.
Additionally, business and property owners must consider where individual devices are to be installed. An exterior keypad door lock used to secure an outdoor entry point will have different requirements to a storage closet combination door lock, both in terms of hardware design and security features.
Further considerations include the type of locking mechanism, whether the system would benefit from Internet connectivity and how security teams intend to integrate existing technology with newly installed readers. Below are four common keypad lock types:
Commercial keypad door lock
Keypad door locks typically feature a numeric button pad attached to the physical locking mechanism or door handle. The device uses a combination commercial door lock with keypad controls in which a programmed PIN code is used to unlock secured doors.
Commercial keypad door lock systems are often designed to be more durable than residential keypad devices, and can usually store and manage a larger number of unique PIN code credentials. Both commercial and residential systems share the same operational principles.
Commercial code door lock systems are commonly used as an additional access security feature to a primary form of entry point management, also known as multi-factor authentication (MFA). For example, staff rooms may be secured with key card-based locks that require an additional unique PIN code for access.
These types of access code door lock readers are usually battery-powered, allowing teams to install devices in almost any location, although staff will be required to change individual batteries regularly. For this reason, they are also best-suited for interior doors.
Standalone keypad access control
Standalone keypad access readers are commonly used to secure interior doors within shared facilities, such as commercial offices and amenity facilities in residential apartment buildings. The keypads themselves are designed to be compact and easy to install into drywall or small electrical boxes, with a connection to a door release device and dedicated power supply unit.
Property managers or security teams will be able issue PIN codes to authorized residents, employees and visitors. The PIN codes can be used to gain access via the standalone keypad device. Often, this is achieved by inputting a master access code, which eliminates the need to issue and manage unique PINs for each user. However, admins won’t be able to see which user is accessing the door at a given moment. If stolen by or shared with an unauthorized user, they will have full building access.
Elevator keypad systems
Frequently found in hospitals, hotels, apartment complexes and other multistory properties with restricted floor access, elevator access control keypad readers are used to manage access to specific floors in a commercial or multifamily building.
This type of keypad access reader is typically designed to accommodate a smaller number of users than other keypad systems. For example, an elevator keypad installed in an apartment building may be used to allow access only to the limited number of tenants occupying a particular floor within the property.
Although the installation of an elevator keypad lock will provide an additional layer of access security when utilized to secure certain floors, these systems are not entirely foolproof. If intruders are able to guess or steal an active PIN code, they will be granted access to any previously secured locations.
Gate opener keypad systems
Keypad gate entry systems are specifically designed for outdoor use, featuring weather- and water-resistant casings and are usually equipped with anti-vandal security features. Common uses for gate keypad locks include office, campus and apartment parking lots, HOA entrances and private gated roads.
A keypad for gate entry systems allows security staff and property owners to manage access for pedestrians and vehicles, and offers a simple solution for property managers to control entry to tenants and employees while granting temporary credentials to authorized guests.
While the operation of a gate opener with keypad reader will allow admins to grant temporary access credentials, locations that see large numbers of visitors will typically choose to install additional authentication methods like apartment building intercoms to ensure that tenants can verify guest identities themselves.
The pros and cons of keypad door access control systems
As with any access control or building security device, there are benefits and drawbacks to the installation and operation of a commercial code door lock or keypad access system. The positives of a keypad door access system generally involve improved convenience and a relatively cost-effective approach to building security. However, a keypad door access control system is not always the most secure way to control access.
The benefits of an electronic keypad lock:
- Cost-effective — Unlike key card or Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) fob access systems, business and property owners will not be required to purchase and manage sets of physical credentials when operating a commercial PIN door lock, helping to reduce overall operational costs.
- Simple operation — Staff, tenants and guests will not be required to carry physical keys or credentials, which can easily be lost or stolen. Instead, simple codes can be distributed via encrypted email with admins able to adjust active codes, should a suspected breach occur.
- Multi-layered security — Keypad access readers can be integrated with existing or newly installed security devices to develop MFA. For example, access to high-security areas may be granted using biometric readers that require a PIN code to engage the scanner.
- Versatility — Security teams can issue multiple PIN codes used to secure different areas of the property, with options to easily change these codes if a breach is suspected. This removes the need for employees or residents to carry multiple sets of keys on a day-to-day basis.
The drawbacks of using a PIN code lock for door access:
- Administrative issues — When operating a keypad access system, security and IT staff must be prepared to provide ongoing technical support to address common issues, such as forgotten codes or faulty hardware. This often requires on-site troubleshooting to resolve.
- Frequent maintenance — PIN codes must be reset regularly to reduce the likelihood of security breaches, and batteries may need to be replaced in some styles of keypad reader. For larger deployments featuring multiple devices, this task can be both time- and labor-intensive.
- Security exploits — As PIN codes are not tied to individual users and are shared by all residents of the property, it can be hard for security teams to ensure that codes are not learned by unauthorized users. Also, physical indicators like worn-down buttons can allow intruders to guess active codes. For these reasons, many security teams choose to operate keypad access devices alongside additional access control systems to improve security.
Access control keypad system price and installation considerations
One of the main draws of choosing to install keypad access control is that these devices are often cheaper than proximity card, biometric and mobile access control systems. Limited hardware is required to successfully implement keypad door locks, and typically these systems do not call for extensive wiring work or complicated software solutions to be developed.
Access control keypad systems are also incredibly versatile. Business owners and security teams can easily find devices specifically designed to fit small doors and locations with limited wiring infrastructure. There is also a wide range of weather-proof systems, such as an exterior gate opener with keypad PIN code controls, for businesses that need to install an access control system outdoors.
Keypad access systems are commonly also used as an additional verification system to existing entry point management devices. As most keypad readers are compact and operate using standard wiring infrastructure, the devices are typically compatible with most installations and existing backend hardware. However, if you want to manage user PIN codes alongside existing credentials like key fobs or a mobile app, it’s important to check that your commercial code door locks are interoperable and trackable.
The benefits of multi-factor keypad access control
As the popularity of converged physical and cyber security systems continues to rise, more property security teams are implementing MFA policies to reduce the likelihood of serious security breaches. Research suggests that the use of MFA can prevent up to 90% of common cyber attacks that cause property access passwords to be compromised.
By implementing MFA through the integration of keypad readers and at least another form of access control, the additional layer of verification can help deter intruders and reduce cases of stolen credentials. Below are three common MFA methodologies:
Mobile and PIN code access credentials
Some access control keypads can be integrated with mobile access credentials to utilize Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Near Field Communication (NFC) technology when securing building entry points. An IP-capable keypad reader will be configured to communicate with a mobile app, allowing users to input a unique PIN code directly from their smartphone or other mobile device to gain property access using touchless entry point management.
Another method of using mobile credentials as MFA is for users to use the mobile app to authenticate after entering PIN code to a keypad reader. This method alleviates the concern of unauthorized individuals using stolen PIN by requiring users to confirm their credential in the app.
The operation of a mobile access keypad system is both convenient for the user and more secure, with password protections and biometric locks already present in modern smartphones providing additional security. Also, as 85% of US adults own a smartphone, adoption of this credential is usually simple and straightforward.
Keypad locks and RFID proximity cards
Many properties with existing access control systems will likely utilize some form of RFID-based card reader. Although these devices are not quite as convenient as keypad access systems and require users to carry physical credentials, combining the two can help to improve building security.
Keypad access readers can be installed in addition to RFID-based proximity devices to create an entry point management system in which users must enter a preapproved PIN code before engaging with any proximity scanning reader, requiring users to present an additional authentication method before access can be granted.
If you don’t want to install two devices at the door, it’s recommended to invest in a multi-technology keypad reader that can support both PIN codes and RFID credentials on the same entry system.
Biometric scanners and keypad systems
Biometric access control readers are among the most secure forms of entry point management. The device requires users to present unique biometric information such as fingerprint, retina and voice prompts in order to gain property access, all of which are particularly difficult for intruders to duplicate or falsify. With a keypad system, users are required to enter a PIN code using the keypad access controls in addition to presenting unique biometrics to gain access to a building.
Commercial access control keypad system features
Selecting the most appropriate and effective keypad access control system will be largely dependent on the unique nature of the property, as well as the level of security required.
If keypad readers are intended to provide additional security to residential homes or used to secure individual doors like a storage closet or staff room, a standalone reader may be sufficient. Larger deployments, such as commercial offices and apartment buildings will require more complex features.
Business and property owners should seek professional assistance when planning and designing new commercial keypad access control systems. It is recommended to consult reputable keypad access control system suppliers and access control installers or integration teams to determine which system will meet a building’s unique set of security needs.
With keypad systems, issuing credentials to tenants and authorized staff is easily achieved through verbal communication or via email and SMS. However, access credentials for visitors, couriers and contactors need to be delivered securely to eliminate the possibility of unauthorized users gaining knowledge of the PIN codes.
Choosing a keypad access system equipped with Internet connectivity and mobile access features can allow security teams to issue temporary credentials and PIN codes to visitors via a secure mobile app, allowing for easily monitored access without requiring in-person visitor management.
Keypad access system integrations
Before selecting a new keypad access system, operators must carefully consider how the devices are to be integrated with existing security and wider building technologies. To simplify daily management processes, as well as reduce time and labor costs, property owners should look for keypad access systems equipped with open API and systems that support third-party hardware and software integrations to ensure that all existing and future devices can be seamlessly connected.
Although access control keypad readers are among the most cost-effective keyless door entry management solutions, there are concerns that PIN codes and passwords can be easily shared, which may ultimately lead to serious security breaches or intrusion events.
However, this potential flaw can be mitigated in a number of ways. For example, implementing MFA for commercial door keypad access control devices reduces the likelihood of a breach. Opting to issue unique PIN codes to each user will also allow security teams to track individual access events and further strengthen security.
Keypad access security can be improved by choosing a system capable of issuing longer PIN codes of up to 16 digits, as longer codes are much more difficult to guess. Operating keypad devices with real-time alerts will also allow security staff to respond promptly to any potential intrusion events.
The adoption of cloud-based services among commercial businesses has been increasing over the last few years. By managing a majority of building and security devices via cloud-based access control platforms, security teams can streamline workflows and develop informed security responses using data from connected systems.
By operating a keypad access control system in a cloud-based platform, admins can update directories, manage permissions and view system uses through remote management. Operators can also receive automatic updates and create integrated dashboards combining keypad access controls with wider security features like visitor management systems, video surveillance systems and on-site motion sensors or site alarms.
Mobile access for commercial keypad door locks
For large deployments like apartment complexes and commercial office buildings, security teams may benefit from installing keypad access control systems with mobile capabilities. These configurations typically come with a dedicated mobile app connected to the keypad system door locks. With mobile credentials, tenants and staff can gain access to a building, issue visitor passes and allow access to guests. Credentials will be issued directly to individual smartphones or other mobile devices, and multiple readers used to secure different areas can all be accessed from one connected interface.
Choosing the best keypad access control system for your business
Keypad access control systems are often viewed by property owners and security teams as one of the most convenient and cost-effective access management solutions on the market. Keypad readers are generally compact, easy to install, simple to operate and able to be integrated with wider security features.
While the benefits of installing keypad access systems are numerous, property owners should be aware of some potential flaws before settling on a particular device. Consider implementing MFA for any commercial keypad lock systems, and look for devices capable of issuing longer PIN codes, as well as hardware units equipped with real-time alerts and cloud-based functionality.
To choose the best keypad access control system for a building, property owners should consult commercial PIN code door lock and access control providers to develop an integrated network capable of operating with existing technologies. Integrating different parts into one holistic system allows operators a comprehensive view of security, enabling a faster response to potential issues and enhancing overall safety.
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