Fortunately there are alternative access control software solutions that are designed to be backwards compatible with virtually any new and/or legacy controllers. This provides significant savings relative to equipment and installation costs, resulting in a higher return on investment and lower total cost of ownership.
Improve Efficiency By Keeping Good Records
Here is a simple tip if you elect to pursue upgrading legacy access control systems as a new business opportunity: keep good records of everything you install.
Often, technicians go into a facility and there is no record to document what access system was originally installed and how. This creates a tremendous amount of work that can be easily avoided for future upgrades.
Good installation records will make your staff more efficient by speeding up processes and reducing manpower costs, and your customers can benefit from a portion of the savings you can pass along to them. Plus, you’ll always look like the smart guys in your customers’ eyes, which can result in greater opportunities to provide services.
Software, Not Twisted Pair, Often Determines System’s Fate
The presence of analog twisted pair cabling is often used as the initial “excuse” for a rip and replacement versus a retrofit. But analog cabling is not the culprit; it’s really the software. Many of the access control installations that we’ve upgraded feature two- or four-wire localized infrastructure using traditional twisted pair with 485 or 422 protocol. In these instances, the system is typically comprised of a series of controllers that have embedded software to control specific entrances.
Essentially, the intelligence in the system is distributed to the access location entry points, with data sent back to a centralized location for system control. In this scenario, we can replace the controllers and install new remote interface cards so that all operations are controlled centrally by an enterprise access control solution. Although we are replacing the old controllers, we are able to use the installed readers, and more importantly, the existing wiring, which saves time and money.
With legacy access control systems that feature centralized architecture, all the system intelligence resides in the software. In most cases, these legacy systems are also most likely running on twisted pair cabling that can be utilized by the new system. In some instances, we can re-engineer the existing controllers installed throughout a facility so they also do not need to be replaced, as well as keep the installed readers. This yields extremely high cost efficiency as only the centralized software is being replaced at the head-end. This scenario yields the highest cost efficiencies.
The key to remember is that virtually every access control system is different. Some aspect of the installation, hardware topography or software programming is different from one location to the next. This has been a longstanding problem for system designers and integrators when looking to integrate multiple previously autonomous access control systems onto a single control platform.
With new software solutions, even systems that span separate buildings in different locations can be efficiently upgraded — even if they have different hardware topography — by using one or both of the previously described methods. More importantly, systems with different topography can even be integrated without ripping and replacing multiple systems. The larger the deployments to be upgraded, the larger the incremental savings.
When Managed Services Become a Possibility
The availability of best-in-breed access control solutions that enable legacy systems to be upgraded and/or integrated presents a major opportunity for access control dealers and integrators to cultivate new business. There are scores of businesses in every city across the United States that use dated access control systems. The ability to cost-effectively upsell these businesses — large and small — with the latest access control functionality and capabilities presents a significant opportunity for new business development.
What’s more compelling is that there is no need for concern as to the brand of legacy products or a system’s topography. The new software is the critical component, and is by far the easiest component to deal with from an installation perspective. It’s the new software that also holds the key for future business development with these new customers as they utilize their access systems for more business purposes like time and attendance.
Backwards compatible access solutions also provide the advanced architecture for dealers and integrators to offer access control as a managed service in facilities with multiple tenants, or in adjacent business like those found on Main Street, USA. New access control software solutions make this possible with multiple client functionality capable of managing and controlling several systems on a single backbone.
It’s not often these days that you can make something out of nothing, but with the right access control technology in your portfolio, you may be surprised at how much you may be able to expand your business and profits.
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