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Companies across many industries now operate multiple offices and sites across different locations, although not all of these businesses will have the resources needed to efficiently manage their unique access and security systems. Because of this, it’s common for primary offices to have dedicated on-site IT managers, often leaving secondary sites without the security support they need.

To make the most efficient use of limited company resources, it’s wise to implement some form of multi-site access control system. This allows a centralized IT team to manage multiple facilities from one unified platform. To achieve this without exposing potential vulnerabilities, teams must take the time to carefully plan the installation of multi-site access controls.

This guide will help businesses operating multiple locations understand how multi-site access control can be used to improve on-site security, making efficient use of resources and implementing the system in a way that avoids potential security issues to best protect commercial properties.

Which industries benefit from multi-site access control, video security and security systems?

While multi-site access control systems aren’t applicable to every business, there are a few scenarios in which it will have a greater impact on overall security. Companies that have distributed teams in offices located throughout the country or internationally can opt for a multi-site access control system to allow employees access to all the office locations. This could apply to enterprise businesses, government facilities, national retail chains, construction sites, and companies operating in logistics or manufacturing.

Businesses operating in the construction industry are likely to be working from several locations at any one time. To appropriately secure valuable machinery and protect each location from intruders, a multi-site construction access control system can improve site security.

Any business that requires large numbers of staff or guests to be granted controlled access across multiple sites will benefit from a multi-site access system. To ensure that a multi-site access control system installation will be beneficial, business owners should take the time to understand their specific needs. Some questions to ask are:

  • How many people will require access? 
  • How many unique sites will need controlled access? 
  • Do different employees need different levels of access? 
  • Should access be limited at certain times or on certain days? 

The answers to these questions will help businesses choose the most effective devices for each location and help teams develop an appropriate multi-site access control system.

For example, to ensure that only qualified workers can enter certain locations, a building site access control system may leverage digital credentials that automatically sync employee credentials, titles or departments to their permission levels.

Additionally, a commercial headquarters office may use time-based site access controls to ensure that all doors are locked after normal working hours, while a warehouse or logistics hub remains open 24 hours a day. By installing a multi-site access system, the different configurations can be operated simultaneously, with different parameters set for each location.

Types of controls for multi-site access control

Each business will have different multi-site access control requirements, with some organizations needing different parameters to be set across multiple company-owned sites. For instance, a primary office building may require a parking management solution to control heavy flows of traffic, while related warehouse and storage facilities may benefit from multi-factor credentials to protect valuable merchandise. Consider the following common multi-site access control systems credentials and configurations as you design your deployments.

RFID devices

Radio-frequency proximity cards and fobs are among the most popular forms of building entry management solutions, as they are easy to use and generally secure. However, these access devices can present a few operational challenges, such as:

  • Assigning and revoking permissions with physical key cards can be time-consuming. 
  • Active credentials must be physically distributed, which can be difficult across multiple sites. 
  • Employees may need a different card or fob for each location, depending on the system installed.
  • Key cards and fobs can be easily misplaced or forgotten by employees. 
  • RFID systems may need manual maintenance or updates, which can be hard to deliver across multiple sites. 

Mobile credentials for multi-site access

Operating smartphone-based access control removes the risk of staff losing key cards or traditional physical keys by granting individual users access permissions via their own mobile devices. These configurations are ideal for multi-site access control systems, as credentials can be issued, managed and revoked remotely from a single location and used to control access for multiple sites with ease.

Cloud-based and hybrid multi-site access control systems

When it comes to securing multiple sites, operators have a choice between on-premise or cloud-based operation. A cloud-based system offers flexibility in installation, management and integration. They are generally easier to install compared to on-premise systems as they eliminate the need to invest in servers and additional storage hardware. 

Operating multiple sites means managing multiple buildings, often with their own unique set of security needs. On-premise systems offer greater customization to meet a building’s requirements, but require maintenance and management for each individual site.

Conversely, a multi-site access control system hosted in the cloud can make management more streamlined, especially when it comes to adjusting permissions and schedules. With a few clicks, permissions can be instantly issued or revoked for new or former users in any or all locations, and system updates are often rolled out automatically via the internet.

In terms of integration, a cloud-based access control system also makes it easier to connect with other cloud technologies, such as video security and alarm systems. Having all technologies connected in one place is particularly useful when managing security for multiple sites, as it eliminates the need to have security teams manage different systems in multiple sites.

To get the most out of your existing multi-site access control system as you scale, a hybrid deployment might offer the best return on investment. In this configuration, an existing on-premise system leverages a cloud connector product to allow new cloud-based building site access systems to be added to the network and managed on a single platform.

Setting up secure multi-site access control 

The major issue businesses face when installing multi-site access control relates to the sharing of user and system data. Most standalone access devices rely on localized communications when assessing presented credentials. To safely operate a multi-site system, all devices must be properly synchronized, and communications protected.

As more sites are added to a multi-location office or construction site access control network, more time must be spent to integrate systems to ensure that all data, permissions and updates are synchronized between devices. This can be achieved by choosing systems with an open platform to ensure that all hardware and software can be easily integrated into one unified system. Choosing a cloud-based system also gives operators the flexibility to control all devices in a single interface from anywhere, at any time.

Network security and real-time status reports can help protect all your locations, and ensure your team stays informed if abnormal behavior occurs at any site.

Always check the interoperability of existing systems and new technology to ensure they can function as an integrated platform, and make sure that you employ cybersecurity best practices to protect your system data at every level.

Potential issues with a multi-site access control system

Unsynchronized security systems

Access control devices are best utilized as part of integrated building commercial security systems, meaning that to ensure effective incident responses, teams must be able to gain access to all security devices quickly. It is important to ensure that all devices across multiple sites are integrated to allow effortless management and prevent security risks. 

For example, video security can be integrated with multi-site access control to identify unauthorized entry attempts, with instant visual verification and notification to the right people. When the systems aren’t properly synchronized, it would take extra time to receive the access alert, locate the correct camera, search for the footage and then dispatch the local team to investigate. A cloud-based management platform that allows all systems to be managed in one interface gives operators the ability to instantly detect issues and take swift action when needed.

Lack of remote access

Effective multi-site access control for enterprises, construction, office-based or other commercial businesses must be designed with remote access in mind. The major benefit of these systems is to save resources by managing company-wide security responses from a single platform from anywhere, at any time. All related networks like cameras, visitor management and alarm systems should also be created with remote access in mind.

Delayed alarms and notifications

As a multi-site access system allows companies to manage building security without being physically on-site, it’s essential that all devices are synchronized and able to share notifications and alerts with no delay to ensure that every location is protected. Devices should be configured to alert admins of access events with detailed time and location information so they can issue the appropriate response to the right place.

Developing a robust multi-site security system for your properties

Developing and utilizing a multi-site access control system can help businesses ensure the protection of multiple locations while reducing the need for dedicated on-site security officers. To do so effectively, networks must be well-planned and all security risks considered.

Access devices, other hardware and software should be integrated into one system, capable of synchronized data communications and designed with wider security systems in mind, as well as developed to operate via a cloud-based remote management platform to provide fast and reliable building security.

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