what is access control system how it works

Electronic Access Control Systems comprise electronic elements, physical elements, operational elements, and logical elements to create a complete working system that facilitates rapid and reliable access to authorized users in a facility at minimum long-term cost to the organization.

Access Control elements include:

  • Users
  • Access Portals
  • Credentials and Credential Readers
  • Credential Authorization Process
  • Locks, Alarms, and Exit Devices
  • Access Zones and Schedules
  • Access Control System Database
  • Communications Infrastructure
  • Access Control Policies and Procedures

Good Access Control Programs have always included all of the following elements:

Basic Access Control Policies:

  • All areas under the purview of the organization will be organized logically into Access Areas (includes many Portals that are logically related together such as all of the doors in a department).
  • Each organization department or unit will determine where its employees need access. All organizational departments and units will be organized into Access Groups (includes the Access Areas that that department or unit’s employees will need access to and the Schedule for which the group may have access to an Access Area).
  • Individual organization employees will be assigned to one or more departmental Access Groups.
  • Each employee will receive an Access Credential (have a unique number to look up on an authorized user list).
  • Each employee may use his/her Access Credential to acquire access to a portal within an authorized Access Group during the authorized Schedule for that Access Group.


  • Authorized users approach an Access Portal (door, gate, etc.) and present their Access Credential to a Credential Reader (in the old days, this was a guard).
  • the Credential Reader verifies the Credential against a database (in the old days, this was a daily authorized list) of authorized Credential holders.
  • the Credential Reader then verifies the holder against the photo on the Credential (usually a card).

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