“We offer managed access control in order to grow our RMR. We are finding there is a segment of end users that are interested in procuring access control as a service. This includes hosting the software and managing all or part of the system,” says Tim Feury, founder of Marietta Parkway, Ga.-based Altec Systems and a PSA Security Network Board member. “The major benefits to the end user are lower upfront costs and the ability to outsource the responsibility of the day-to-day management of the systems. By doing this they secure their building, save money and are able to have their employees spend more time on growing their business rather than managing a security system.”
According to Rob Simopolous, vice president of Portland, Maine-based Advance Technology, many of today’s decision makers are too busy doing their normal daily activities to focus on their access control systems, which they typically find to be rather complex.
“Most server-based access systems are not easy to use. Many of them are the same software interface for four doors of access as with 2,000 doors; we just can’t expect all our customers to have the technical knowledge to use a system to control access to doors in their building,” he says. “Our managed access control system allows our customers to focus on their daily job, while we run the access control system for them.”
Advance Technology makes it easy for clients by allowing them to phone, E-mail or fax the company’s remote engineering team to make changes on their behalf. Among the routine tasks are doing customers’ data entry or system changes including adding/deleting cards, running access control reports and changing access levels. More recently, the integrator has begun monitoring the systems as well. Door-propped and forced alarms prompt Advance to contact the appropriate supervisors onsite to respond. System health is also monitored 24 hours a day to provide alerts for a low battery, AC power fail or controller offline. This allows the integrator’s service department to proactively respond to get it repaired.
Simopolous has found that many clients are also interested in hosted access system options to achieve even more benefits. In these applications, the server and software resides in the cloud, at a secure datacenter and is redundantly protected. Using this software/security as a service (SaaS) approach means customers don’t have to make a large investment upfront in dedicated servers, software, licensing and setup.
“Our team constantly conducts system updates, patches and anti-virus protection on the hosted servers,” he says. “It’s on our engineers to perform these tasks that in a traditional system would lie with the customer’s IT group. We can also provide a hybrid system that allows customers to do some administration tasks via a Web browser from anywhere in the world with an Internet connection.”
Advance Technology additionally offers managed ID badge services. Upon request, the integrator assembles and prints customers’ ID badges within 24 hours. Such a service allows clients to reduce costs associated with the hardware and labor they would incur doing it themselves. “Badging printers are costly devices to purchase and also to maintain! They constantly need to be cleaned and repaired,” says Simopolous. “With our managed ID badge services our engineers custom design badges for our customers to suit their needs.”
Going It Alone or Partnering?
There are two main paths from which to choose as the means for an integrator to add managed access to their portfolios.
One option is to build a network operations center (NOC) sufficient to handle access control servers and become a third-party datacenter. This is a significant investment, not only in the hardware and real estate, but also in creating the necessary dedicated and fully redundant network architecture.
The advantage to this method is that integrators can choose the product they wish to use. However, there are also many risks and disadvantages. They would need to ensure that their systems are not only up at all times, but are also fully secure. They would need to handle all the system upgrades on their own. They would need to develop a way to access the system remotely for their customers and their staff in charge of managing the database updates. They would still be subject to ongoing license fees from their manufacturer. So the question becomes whether or not the flexibility of managing it internally is worth the investment of time, money and ongoing maintenance.
The alternative, and probably the best fit for most systems integrators today, is to partner with a manufacturer that provides hosting as a service. PSA Security Network offers integrators a turnkey approach that not only covers that part of it with vendors like AMAG and Brivo on the hardware side, but also Integrator Support on the services side and Susquehanna Bank for financing solutions. The latter allows integrators to bundle hardware, labor and ongoing hosting/managing fees into one simple monthly payment.
“I’ve been a strong supporter of integrators looking to increase their RMR and managed access control is a way to do just that,” says PSA President/CEO Bill Bozeman. “PSA has established partnerships with key manufacturers who make this possible and are confident this solution will be more and more common in the years to come. PSA-TEC and other PSA education programs will be greatly focused on the topic of managed services, as education is critical in this phase of adoption.”
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Managed Access Control