The New Age of Access Control

Doug Carner Comments
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Do tenants have unrestricted access to any building once they enter your facility? Can thieves do the same if they follow a car through your entrance gate? Site security begins at your perimeter. High walls are cost-effective deterrents, but they draw attention to your access gates, security doors and the devices that control them. Here is how to offer great customer service and first-class protection, all at a coach price.

Access keypads are the welcome sign of your storage facility. Tenants expect your access points to be convenient and easy to use. There are four distinct access technologies, and each offers its own benefits.

Proximity Systems

These access systems only require the bearer to pass his proximity card near the access reader. The process is easy, and the access cards are nearly indestructible. Unfortunately, the cards are also quite pricey. If you plan to allocate two cards to each of your units, the cards alone will cost several thousands of dollars for a typical facility.

Magnetic Systems

Similar to a proximity reader, magnetic readers use access cards that are carried in the tenant's wallet or purse. However, tenants can use certain identity cards they already possess (e.g., a driver's license, credit card, etc.), thus saving you the cost of issuing your own access cards.

Numeric Systems

Numeric access is the most common and economical of the three systems. Each tenant is given a unique access code. The better systems use metallic keys for their durability and weather resistance. Even better are systems in which the keypad is illuminates for easy use in low-light conditions. Tenants who do not frequent their units might forget their access code; but you can alleviate this issue if your access keypad has letters imprinted onto each key like a telephone. Studies show people remember passwords much more easily than long numbers.

Hybrid Systems

There is a fourth option: the hybrid system. Hybrids will include two of the above technologies, typically magnetic and numeric, and offer the best balance of technology and usability. For example, you could provide alphanumeric codes to residential renters and issue magnetic cards to your commercial clients. Commercial clients prefer the control of a magnetic-access card that works like a key. Employees can only access the company storage unit when their employer provides them the company access card.

Hybrid systems typically include an information screen so tenants can see their options. This brings up a good point: An information screen on any entrance keypad provides a greeting message and instructions to your tenant. If the tenant is denied access, the screen can clearly explain why.

Every keypad--and the gate operator or door strike it controls--should have built-in backup power. The same is true of the controllers or computers required to operate the keypads. Having backup power throughout your access system ensures no one is locked in your site during a power interruption. Ask your security vendor for the options it provides.

Determine Your Needs

Once you have chosen the technology that is right for your facility, you can decide how much security is actually needed. Keypads should be used to control the site's entry gate, elevators, building-access doors, and access gates to any fenced-in areas. You can eliminate the driveway exit keypad by using a ground-loop sensor to allow "free exit." However, free exit means you will never have an access log of which tenants are on site at any given time. If you want the option of individual door alarms, having an entrance and exit keypad is a necessity. Without an exit keypad, your alarm system can only guess when the tenant has left the facility, and the unit is ready to be re-armed.

Some of your tenants will need assistance using your security system. The easiest solution is to add a hands-free intercom system. The intercom should be tightly integrated into the keypad enclosure with a call button as durable as the keypad. If the keypad includes a pinhole camera, your manager will be able to see with whom he is talking. Premier security systems have kits to easily self-install these options when, and if, they become necessary.

If your access system integrates with your management software, the process of activating and deactivating tenant codes becomes automatic. Integration requires special hardware and software from the keypad manufacturer and management- software company. Both companies will charge for this service, usally a total of about $1,000. After that, you will still be dealing with two very independent companies with their separate support contracts.

Some companies will offer a package deal that includes management software, two keypads and everything needed to integrate the entire system. There are several companies that will help match your security needs and budget. You too can offer great customer service and first-class protection, all at a coach price.

Doug Carner is the vice president of marketing for QuikStor Security & Software, a California-based company specializing in access control, management software, video surveillance and call-center products for the self-storage industry. For more information, call 800.321.1987; e-mail doug@quikstor.com; visit www.quikstor.com.

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