Access Control: Is ‘The Cloud’ a Genuine Alternative?

Dean Kernot: Business Development Manager for Volo at Norbain

Dean Kernot: Business Development Manager for Volo at Norbain

For so long now, access control solutions have been broken down into two distinct types – namely networked or stand-alone – and this has served the market pretty well. However, as end user needs and requirements change with time, we need to ask ourselves whether cloud technology-based solutions can offer a genuine further alternative, satisfying required security levels along with the performance, flexibility, scalability and price points now being demanded by host businesses, writes Dean Kernot.

We all face a constantly changing variety of challenges in our working lives stemming from multiple sources. Competitive threats, regulations, financial uncertainty, technology changes and various business risks force us all to continually evaluate the best available solutions that will secure our assets and ensure our business’ operate in the most efficient manner possible.

The ability of a company to respond effectively to these pressures can itself offer a competitive advantage, but if this is supported – and mirrored – by a security solution/strategy that’s as responsive as the business itself then you have great strength and positioning to differentiate your company.

Cloud technology is a shared, pooled resource via the Internet, with the main accelerant for growth being the Internet itself. Over the past decade, we’ve seen the Internet evolve from being a basic dial-up service to the super-fast solution we have at our fingertips today, complete with excellent reliability and incredible security levels.

Should we doubt ‘The Cloud’?

We now take for granted that the Internet is continually available. We use it in our everyday operations without a moment’s hesitancy, so why should we harbour any doubts about ‘The Cloud’?

The answer is that we shouldn’t. ‘The Cloud’ has evolved in line with Internet developments and offers an incredibly secure and reliable solution designed to fit the business needs of both current and future operations.

As the challenges arise around securing more assets with less manpower, we undoubtedly have to look towards technology to assist with that process. Equally, as our desire for accurate and timely information also intensifies, we must embrace ‘The Cloud’ and the benefits it has to offer.

‘The Cloud’ helps to transform an access control solution from being a reactive one to a very proactive solution that allows the end user to decide who can access their premises from anywhere in the world and at any time.

By removing the need for proprietary equipment such as servers, dedicated PC stations or even a dedicated network infrastructure, the host business is left with a truly flexible solution at a vastly reduced cost.

Enhancement of overall performance

Cloud-based controllers have the ability to connect to the cloud via either GSM/GPRS Modem or via standard Ethernet connections. These dual communication modes allow the end user to deploy a cloud-based solution in the same manner as a standalone solution. In short, each controller just needs to be powered and they will communicate with ‘The Cloud’ via the 2G modem.

It’s worth noting here that 2G is still the most preferred communication method for GSM/GPRS due to both its coverage and communication stability.

All of this enhances the overall performance of a cloud-centric solution, and offers end users complete peace of mind as well as system continuity and, importantly, operational uptime.

Some cloud solution providers will offer network-specific SIM packages for the GSM/GPRS modem, while others will propose global roaming SIMs that allow the system to choose the best available network provision.

The other option of employing an Ethernet connection is a simple process as cloud solutions are configured to auto (DHCP) address themselves and find the best and simplest communication pathway to ‘The Cloud’. In turn, this actively reduces involvement from other functions within an organisation (such as the IT Department). Again, that assists the simplicity and speed with which cloud solutions may be deployed.

Power of asset control

Once connected to ‘The Cloud’, you are now using the Internet to transfer and view your data as any web-enabled device (for instance, a laptop or a PC) will allow you to access your data at any time and from anywhere.

‘The Cloud’ will permit you to view and even manage or edit how your premises are accessed. This offers you the power to control your assets in a bespoke manner dedicated to your business’ specific requirements.

By delving into your secure cloud database, you can see who accessed your premises at what time, change and manage access levels, scrutinise system reports and even manage your user credentials.

We appreciate that this is something we’ve been able to do for some time now ever since the introduction of networked solutions, but don’t forget that, for their part, cloud solutions are deployed without the need for network equipment and, as stated, can be installed with just a requirement for power.

This then means that you can offer network level performance in terms of data and functions to areas where a standalone system would previously have been deployed. For example, you may need to secure multiple outlying buildings that are not manned at all times, and that have no network connection, or you may have difficulty in reaching a gate/barrier position where the cost of civil works to dig up the ground and lay down a network are prohibitively expensive and/or very time-consuming. You can now have proactive management of these sites, and ensure that your asset is both operating and secured to the standard/level required.

Adopting a new mindset

Cloud solutions also allow automatic notifications of exception events. So, if you have a door forced or left open on your site, the system will automatically e-mail you to notify of a security breach (or the vulnerability to one occurring at some point).

The mindset we must embrace with cloud technology is that it’s not here to replace the existing technologies of standalone and networked solutions. Rather, it’s an addition with the capability to bridge the gap between the two.

In terms of installation and application, a cloud solution can be used in the same way as a standalone one. However, it also brings with it the additional benefits and performance characteristics of a networked set-up.

Dean Kernot is Business Development Manager for Volo at Norbain

*For the next blog in this exclusive series on www.risk-uk.com, Dean takes a detailed look at the market drivers enhancing the need for cloud technology within the security space

About the Author
Brian Sims BA (Hons) Hon FSyI, Editor, Risk UK (Pro-Activ Publications) Beginning his career in professional journalism at The Builder Group in March 1992, Brian was appointed Editor of Security Management Today in November 2000 having spent eight years in engineering journalism across two titles: Building Services Journal and Light & Lighting. In 2005, Brian received the BSIA Chairman’s Award for Promoting The Security Industry and, a year later, the Skills for Security Special Award for an Outstanding Contribution to the Security Business Sector. In 2008, Brian was The Security Institute’s nomination for the Association of Security Consultants’ highly prestigious Imbert Prize and, in 2013, was a nominated finalist for the Institute's George van Schalkwyk Award. An Honorary Fellow of The Security Institute, Brian serves as a Judge for the BSIA’s Security Personnel of the Year Awards and the Securitas Good Customer Award. Between 2008 and 2014, Brian pioneered the use of digital media across the security sector, including webinars and Audio Shows. Brian’s actively involved in 50-plus security groups on LinkedIn and hosts the popular Risk UK Twitter site. Brian is a frequent speaker on the conference circuit. He has organised and chaired conference programmes for both IFSEC International and ASIS International and has been published in the national media. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk UK at Pro-Activ Publications in July 2014 and as Editor of The Paper (Pro-Activ Publications' dedicated business newspaper for security professionals) in September 2015. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk Xtra at Pro-Activ Publications in May 2018.

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