By migrating to the cloud, access control systems see a significant increase in benefits, says David Stanfield, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Brivo.
Why does a bird fly south for the winter? Because it’s too far to walk.
That children’s joke, though simple, holds profound truths, even for access control migration to the cloud.
Birds migrate during the fall for better climate, food sources, breeding opportunities and survival rates for hatchlings.
They fly in flocks for energy efficiency, security from predators and greater speed. Individual birds can easily join or leave a flock.
Unlikely as it seems, migration from on-premises access control systems – or even mechanical locks and keys – conveys many of the same advantages as bird migration.
Moving to the cloud offers users a better climate by freeing IT staff from administrative burdens such as server upkeep, patching and antivirus upgrades, allowing administrators to focus on optimizing the IT infrastructure for enhanced productivity.
Analogous to birds migrating to locate more food in temperate areas, companies moving to the cloud find increased storage, anywhere accessibility and extra features.
As for breeding opportunities and nursing hatchlings, the comparison is that the cloud offers a much wider array of software integrations.
In addition, both a flock and the cloud are more efficient, the latter by offering economies of scale, by enabling remote management and by having redundancies and around-the-clock staffing that eliminate system downtime.
Cloud-based systems also provide enhanced security because cloud suppliers use experts dedicated to essentials such as upgrades and updates and ensure secure applications.
With experts constantly monitoring developments across the internet, cloud systems also offer greater speed in patch management, software upgrades and vulnerability identification, saving precious minutes between a simple fix and a complete takedown of the network infrastructure.
Finally, just as birds can join their congregated multitudes at will, cloud-based systems are scalable, enabling users to add as many doors, facilities or users as they need.
Of course, the bird migration analogy only goes so far.
Migrating your access control system to the cloud offers a bevy of other benefits.
Cloud-based systems, such as access control, identity management, customer management, human resources and facilities management work better together, creating a cohesive ecosystem, versus trying to integrate on-prem outliers.
The cloud also offers enhanced flexibility, regulatory compliance, lower upfront costs, enhanced customization and all-around improved user experience.
Consider the case of Urban Outfitters, a retail clothing chain with more than 500 stores and 23,000 employees in North America, which recently moved physical security/access control for its large-scale distribution centers and call centers to the cloud.
John Owad, Director of Loss Prevention, Logistics, at Urban Outfitters says that the switch made the system more user friendly, thus improving user experience.
It also simplified operations by digitizing processes to be more efficient and secure.
Remote management capabilities for the system, as well as its integration with Active Directory, has allowed the retailer to more efficiently distribute its employees across and within sites.
The security team has been freed from managing a database, enabling them to focus on their core mission.
Finally, the access control system has integrated with Urban Outfitters’ visitor management system, including building visitor screening questions into the check-in process.
Another advantage of cloud-based systems is that they don’t require an expensive IT infrastructure.
However, what if you already have the servers, control panels, readers, locks, power supplies and alarms? A good provider or integrator will be able to transition that hardware for the cloud.
For example, Brivo has developed a Mercury Provisioning Software tool to convert the three million on-premises Mercury-based panels in the world for cloud use.
Users can retain their original hardware and avoid an expensive and disruptive rip-and-replace cycle.
The open-architecture tool offers a clear, built-in, easily navigable path for enterprises and other users to reap the benefits of the cloud, avoiding being caught in the talons of a single provider.
Staff, tenants and other system users do not have to encounter baffling new technology interfaces or reconfigured systems.
The seamless transition advances the all-important user experience.
For example, when Brivo worked with the owner to upgrade physical security at a luxury, 11-storey mixed-use apartment building in New York City with high-profile residents and visitors, it was able to use some of the existing hardware and wiring, reducing the cost of migration to the cloud.
Key fobs were replaced by an app on user phones for building access and building managers can now grant or withdraw access at the push of a button when someone moves in or out.
Through integrations with the access control system, the building provides amenities such as package management, guest access and a 24/7 remote doorman.
The migration worked around several challenges, including a wide array of uses and access privileges in the building.
For example, each floor is individually owned and contains a blend of commercial and residential units.
The system was created to be flexible to accommodate multiple user groups and access levels while maintaining the building’s air of luxury.
With the rise of the internet of things, proptech and big data, organizations are striving to amass, collate, analyze, leverage and monetize the millions and billions of bits and bytes that pour into their networks daily.
Access control systems and their integrations – occupancy sensors, video management systems, identity management systems, lighting and power controls and so on – alone contribute a wealth of data.
That data includes who came in and went out of specific areas, where and when; which partners or vendors have the best and worst on-time records; who is logged into network systems and from where; who tried to download data to which they didn’t have privileges; who never logs off their computer when leaving their work area, etc.
No one has time to sift through that data manually.
Cloud providers such as Brivo enable organizations to mine data for insights, efficiencies and revenue opportunities.
For example, since the COVID pandemic, the Downtown Austin (Texas) Alliance has used Brivo access control data to track the extent to which employees are physically returning to workspaces.
The Alliance can use that data to assist small businesses that rely on foot traffic from office workers, as well as adjust the alliance’s cleaning and ambassador programs as necessary.
Many companies lack the internal resources to carry out a seamless cloud migration alone.
They will need trusted relationships with project third parties.
That’s why it’s critical to partner with vetted consultants, installers, integrators and dealers.
During the search and evaluation process, organizations should consult with colleagues, read online reviews, peruse industry trade publications and perhaps even visit sites where the partner helped perform a migration.
Ability to do the job right, with the least disruption and most cost-effectiveness, is only part of the mission.
Partners – consultants, integrators, installers – should be able to clearly articulate both the features and benefits of the cloud setup but also what value it brings to the organization.
That might include improved user experience, cost efficiencies and enhanced tenant benefits, such as remote room scheduling.
As just one example, when Block Real Estate, which manages dozens of buildings throughout Kansas City, Missouri, moved from mechanical locks and keys to the cloud, it partnered with Watchmen Security.
Block, Watchmen and Brivo worked together to perform the changeover when building engineering costs were at a low point. They also consolidated an army of security and life safety suppliers into a single supplier.
Watchmen, understanding that it needed to provide a full platform to build a strong relationship with Block, was able to articulate the added benefits of the new system to meet Block’s evolving needs.
The suite of functions at Block properties now includes smart readers, touchless mobile credentials, visitor management, occupancy monitoring, health and safety features, integrated video surveillance, smart locks and intercoms.
The system has helped reduce costs and win and retain customers, giving it a competitive edge in the Kansas City rental market.
Based on a qualitative study, Watchmen showed Block the difference in costs between the 25 Block properties that had migrated to the cloud versus the one building that hadn’t.
Total engineering cost for the 25 updated buildings was $1,500, compared to $6,000 for the unconverted building.
That works out to be a potential $150,000 per year in savings.
The Arctic Tern migrates an amazing 90,000km every year, north from Greenland to the Weddell Sea in the Antarctic.
Migrating access control to the cloud need not be nearly as arduous.
Organizations should clearly understand the benefits of the cloud, maximize existing infrastructure, plan to capture and harness abundant data and partner with the right professionals so they can soar high into the cloud.
This article was originally published in the Special February Influencers Edition of Security Journal Americas. To read your FREE digital edition, click here.