What is Access Control?

What is Access Control?

When I first heard of the term “Access Control” I wasn’t really sure what it meant, but I thought it had something to do with limiting entry or access to a physical location to individuals who are authorized. I wasn’t too far off, but the concept extends beyond this simple notion.
According to Wikipedia, “In the fields of physical security and information security, access control (AC) is the selective restriction of access to a place or other resource. The act of accessing may mean consuming, entering, or using. … Locks and login credentials are two analogous mechanisms of access control.”

Back in the days facility managers would employ a guard to stand 24-7 in their reception areas. In some way they were setting a barrier to entry. Anytime someone came in, they would ask for their name, get their driver’s license and let them in. While this may still happen in some remote parts of the country, there are better systems these days to manage access to a building. Which is why there is a whole industry dedicated to access control.

There are two types of access control: physical and logical. While physical access control limits access to buildings, rooms, common areas and physical IT assets; logical access control limits connections to computer networks, system files and data. As far as computing goes, access control is a way in which users can control who can and cannot access certain systems, resources or information.

But let’s focus on the first type. Physical Access Control

The core functions of access control are:

  • Limit entry to specific locations.

Physical access control allows the user to control accessibility to a space, whether that space is the entire building, a garage or the server room. Access to buildings, rooms and floors are controlled using credentials such as key fobs or access cards.
Apartment buildings or any commercial building that has lots of tenants can benefit greatly from physical access control. A quality physical access system such as Brivo OnAir can help property managers ensure that only residents can gain access to apartment floors. Property managers can control all points of entry including apartments, elevators, gyms, pools, parking garages and common areas. Access can quickly and easily be turned off for residents that have moved out of the building.

  • Limit entry by day and time. This is controlling the when.

As a facility manager you may want to give restricted time access to your cleaning crew or contractors. For example you may allow deliveries before 8am and after 6pm. A good access control system can let you do that.

  • Ability to provide a historical record of access entries

Knowing who was physically in the building, where they were at and at what time of the day, can be beneficial to management and facility managers. Having an audit trail or report is beneficial anytime you run into researching a possible theft or adverse event.

  • Ability to provide real-time alerts for invalid entry attempts

Knowing whether people are accessing your building or certain rooms during a time they are not supposed to, or accessing a room they are not authorized to do so. A few years ago I worked at an office where the Finance department was sectioned off to authorized finance personnel. If I tried to access that area, I would get a “friendly email reminder” that it was a restricted area. Regardless of whether the attempt was intentional or malicious the facility manager knew at all times who was on the third floor and what doors they were attempting to access.
Alerts can also notify facility managers of doors activity. For example, you can be alerted if a door is propped open. People may do that if they are taking too many breaks, someone may force a door open, or someone may prop a door open if they are taking assets out of a building like inventory for example.


Brivo’s unique access control system makes it possible for property managers to access all of their facilities with just one card, and provide access to employees from anywhere in the world. The system tracks when and where residents use the system. This makes it possible to pinpoint exactly who was in a specific area when problems are reported.

Brivo strives to provide affordable and reliable commercial physical security solutions that are easy to use and superior to other technologies on the market. For more information about Brivo’s access control systems, please contact us today.

To learn more read The Evolution of Access Control; From Lock-And-Key To The Cloud.