Managed access control: How to get through the door

What you need to get started, and why you should get started in the first place
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Friday, July 31, 2009

Security is all about protecting lives and assets, detecting intrusion and restricting access. More and more traditional intrusion alarm companies are seeing the value of adding managed services, and many are saying one of the best managed services to tack on is access control. But what does it take to start managing a client’s access control needs? What is the return on investment? Is managed access control one more added-on RMR driver, or should it be something upon which you exclusively focus?

According to ADS vice president Tom Szell, there are a number of important considerations before you decide to get into managed access control. “There are several variables to consider,” Szell said in an email interview. “Can your central station support it? Are you willing to invest the time in selecting a vendor? Are you willing to invest the time and money in training the sales and technical teams? Are you willing to invest the money in the centralized software, servers and printers? And, are you willing to be in it for the long haul?”

Honeywell's John Smith, channel marketing manager, Access Systems, said the challenge is getting back into the homes and businesses of the customers you already have, and the growing trend of value adds like managed access control offer just such an opportunity. “There’s a pretty significant trend toward … a managed access control model … We’re seeing a large amount of business coming from that,” Smith said. “Customers are in some cases a little more computer savvy and they want to pay someone to do their access control for them.” A security company that is doing burg or fire already has a foot in the door, and can take advantage of next generation services like access control.

ADS Security announced May 22 it had expanded its product offerings with the addition of ADS SecureDoor managed access control to their portfolio of security solutions. ADS SecureDoor combines physical access control with systems and software that are remotely managed from ADS’ Nashville-based, UL-listed, CSAA Five Diamond certified central station.

Szell said the decision to launch a managed access control solution at ADS made sense for a couple reasons. “Number one, this is an RMR driver. Number two, we’ve talked to companies who have had success with this, and they’ve said it’s the way to go,” Szell said.

Jacky Grimm, director of security solutions for Diebold, another company that recently launched a managed access control solution, feels one of the great selling points for the service is that security companies can offer staff focused entirely on access control. “It’s not an additional job for someone at the bank branch, for example. It’s our only job,” Grimm said, noting the importance of focus and timeliness. “When you have to get someone out because you fired them, you know it will be taken care of immediately.”

Combining physical access control with systems that can be remotely managed and monitored is of the utmost importance, according to Szell. Szell also said that SecureDoor was a direct response to a growing demand for solutions that combine total security, simplicity and cost-effectiveness. “We’ve really solved a problem for our customers and future customers. I believe that this is the future of access control. It really needs to be managed,” Szell said. “This is going to be a good thing for our industry. This is a perfect time for it. People are really looking at their expenses in this economy and they’re saying ‘Well, where can we get better security and still watch our fixed expenses?’ And this is really perfect for them.”

Grimm said the return on investment Diebold can offer with managed access control makes it an extremely attractive offering, as well. “It’s almost like software as a service. We’re running the head end, and we make all the functions available over a secure Internet access. They may have their own staff, but they’re not paying the capital investment,” Grimm said. “Ask yourself if you want to spend a bunch of money on the head end. You take that away and it’s pretty good ROI.”

Szell agreed the cost savings were significant, explaining the SecureDoor solution provides companies with total access control, while eliminating the need for hardware, software, support personnel and processes, thus reducing total cost of ownership. ADS provides managed access services ranging from single to multi-door access points, and can customize the solution to meet unique business needs of customers. The solution not only makes control of a facility simple and secure for companies, but also provides value-added benefits, such as off-site storage and backup of critical data, better control of access cards and the ability to lock or unlock doors remotely during off hours.

Szell said the response to ADS’ entrance into managed access control, launched May 1 through ADS’ 68 salespeople across its 14 locations, has been very positive. “It’s really, really taking off. Some of our peers said, ‘It’s going to take a while. You’re going to need to retrain your sales force a couple times, they’re going to need to get used to selling it. Be prepared.’ And we were,” Szell said. “But honestly, our sales people have absolutely embraced it. They love it. They’re talking to all of our customers, we have several quotes out there and we’ve sold a few systems already. Customers love it.”