Choosing A Key Card Entry System

Recent advances in access control technology mean the days of having to issue a costly metal key to people are over. The era of metal keys has come to a conclusive end as key card access door locks and control systems become more affordable and user-friendly—translating to better security, easier access tracking, less sleepless nights spent wondering about how many copies of a key have been made, and no more calling the locksmith out first thing in the morning to rekey a lock.

Man using key card to gain access to buildingIf you’re considering a switch, continue reading for a comprehensive guide to selecting and implementing a modern key card access system. We’ll cover everything you need to know including the benefits of key cards over keyed entry systems, the variety of system types available, and customization options you should consider to enhance security and efficiency for your business or organization.

What are key card entry door systems?

Key card entry systems allow a card to be issued to employees, members, or tenants of a property that is electronically coded. These systems can be used in the same manner as a traditional lock and key. However, instead of turning a key, the users just have to swipe or insert an electronically coded card to gain access. Typically no larger than a credit card, these cards are easy to carry and make it more convenient to gain entry into a particular location. It’s also easier to manage keys that are lost or otherwise compromised.

A key card can work like a hotel room key where it is placed into the reader and then the door will open. It can also work by pressing the card onto a sensor at the front. There are various key card access control systems, each with its own benefits and drawbacks. Much of it has to do with where you are trying to let people in.

The advantages of a key card entry system for businesses and private organizations include:

Enhanced Security

Key cards can be programmed with specific access permissions, which limits access to certain areas within a business to authorized personnel only. These features make key card access systems more secure than metal keys, which can easily be copied.

A modern key card door lock system will also keep real-time logs of when and where each card was used. This makes security audits and monitoring access much easier and allows you to respond quickly to security incidents.

Access rights on key cards can be customized for each user, allowing for flexible and dynamic control over who can enter specific parts of a business at particular times. This way, you can deny access to sensitive tools or equipment only to people who are qualified or authorized to use it.

Easy Access Management

Key card access control systems make it easy for administrators to issue, revoke, or change access permissions without needing to physically change locks. Key cards can be issued on a regular basis so that you can control and edit access at your convenience. With traditional keys, a lost key would require a lock change to maintain security. However, if a key card is lost or stolen, it can be deactivated remotely, thus preventing unauthorized access.

For example, if you are controlling access to a club, you can issue cards when people join. When the annual dues roll around for everyone, new cards can be issued based on who has paid their dues. The old cards will then be deactivated. This means that even if someone holds onto an old card, it won’t allow them entry.

Reduced Costs Over Time

Key card access systems are one of the most affordable and manageable ways of maintaining security. While the initial setup for a key card system might be more expensive than installing traditional metal key locks, commercial key card door locks often pay for themselves relatively quickly. Why? Simple—because they eliminate the need for lock changes whenever an employee or member loses their key or leaves the organization!

Because key cards are also generally easier and faster to use than metal keys, the savings your employees or members experience in time and improvements in efficiency can pay significant dividends over the years.

Integration with Smart Building Systems

Modern businesses and other organizations have a lot of benefits to reap from smart building technologies, such as better energy efficiency and electricity cost savings. Key card access systems can be integrated with other smart building systems like HVAC and lighting, allowing for more efficient management of resources based on actual building usage.

How to Choose a Key Card Access Entry System Access for Your Business

Key card access systems come in all shapes and sizes, with many different types of electronic locks they can be connected to. Selecting the right one for your business means taking stock of what your property needs in a key card door lock system and which of the various types of mounting setup, electronic door locks, and cards will suit the unique security and access control needs of your property.

Weigh Your Options for Key Card Door Lock Systems

Since there are various types of electronic locks including strikes and magnetic ones, you have to consider how you want to control access and whether you want things to be automated for people entering or not.

Different types of key card access door locks include:

  • Magnetic Locks (Maglocks) use an electromagnet and an armature plate to secure doors. They are very strong and often used in high-security areas, and require power to remain locked. As such, they are typically fail-safe and will open when the power is cut rather than remain locked.
  • Electric Strikes replace the standard strike plate on a door frame with an electrified strike that can be configured to lock the door either when power is applied (fail-secure) or to unlock when power is applied (fail-safe). They are compatible with various locksets and can be used on different types of doors.
  • Electromechanical Locks combine mechanical locking mechanisms with electrical actuation. They can be configured to operate as either fail-safe or fail-secure, and are often used in office buildings where both security and flexibility are needed.
  • Electronic Deadbolts are similar to traditional deadbolts but are operated electronically and are easy to integrate with key card access control systems. These deadbolts are typically fail-secure, remaining locked even if power is lost.
  • Wireless Electronic Locks operate on battery power and communicate with the central system via wireless protocols (e.g., Wi-Fi, Bluetooth). They offer flexibility in installation and can be easily integrated with existing key card systems, making them a useful option for expanding access control systems without extensive wiring.
  • Smart Locks offer connectivity features such as remote access, real-time alerts, and integration with smart home systems. They can be used with key cards as well as mobile apps and biometrics, providing a high level of customization and user management options.

Choose the Right Key Cards

Key cards come in many different types as well, using different technologies to encode credentials and communicate with their key card access systems. Some of these include:

  • Magnetic Stripe Key Cards: These cards have magnetic stripes, like credit cards. They are the most economical option for key card entry door systems and are widely used, but are the least secure type of key card because they can more easily be cloned by a magnetic stripe writer.
  • Proximity Cards: These cards are more secure than magnetic stripe cards. That’s because instead of a magnetic stripe, they use Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) to communicate via radio signals without actually making direct contact with the card reader. They work like the NFC tap-to-pay features found in smartphones and certain modern credit cards.
  • Smart Cards: These cards incorporate chips that can hold more data than just a magnetic strip on its own, providing more flexibility in your access control system. The chips are also encrypted for enhanced security compared to magnetic stripe and proximity cards.
  • Biometric Systems: These key card access systems use fingerprint, facial recognition, or other biometric data to grant or refuse access, like unlocking your phone with your fingerprint or face. Biometrics can either replace key cards altogether or provide an extra layer of security on top of your key cards.

Find the Right Mount

In your search for the right key card entry system for your business, you will also want to look at the different types of mountings that are available, such as:

  • Mortise Locks: Installed inside the door, providing a clean appearance and strong security.
  • Cylindrical Locks: Fit through the door, easier to install, and commonly used in commercial settings.
  • Wall-mounted Readers: Used for more secure areas, often controlling electric strikes or magnetic locks.

Mounts for key card access door locks, especially outdoor gates, need sturdy housing that both protects them from the elements and ensures they can be easily used. For example, pedestal mounted all-weather reader housing can be used to ensure that employees or members can unlock and open a gate from their car. If the reader is outdoors, pay attention to weather conditions and ensure your choice of housing is sturdy enough to give you years of reliable performance.

You will also have to look at manual versus electric access control—some units will allow a door to be opened automatically once you scan your key card, while others will still require you to turn a knob to open the door.

Consider Customization Options

Card printing should also be considered when you explore key card entry systems. You may want a specific color on the key card and have your own design printed on it. This will allow people to keep track of their cards if they have multiple key cards in their possession, and will also build club loyalty while giving your members something they can hold as tangible, visible proof of their membership.

In addition to branding, card customization can also involve adding security features like holograms, watermarks, or embedded NFC or RFID chips to make the cards more versatile and harder to clone.

Balance Security and Budget

Cost anxieties are one of the biggest barriers to upgrading your premises with modern key card access systems. You want a system that gives your premises the protection it needs and makes your business easier and safer to run, but your budget is not unlimited.

Take careful stock of what you actually need in a key card entry system for your business. For some corporations and organizations, what might be overkill or bells and whistles to you could be mission-critical to them. How large is your building? How many people would use your key card access system? Are you expecting to expand your operations in the near future? What specific security issues are you concerned with?

The cost of new key card access control systems includes not only the upfront installation costs of new commercial key card door locks, but also the costs of maintenance, future expansions or upgrades, and the cost of individual cards—especially customized cards with high-security options. Next to that, you’ll have to compare that to the cost savings you’ll experience and improvements in convenience and efficiency.

Find the Right Key Card Access Systems for Your Business—And Your Budget

As you explore the various options at your disposal for electronic access control, the advantages should quickly become apparent. Whichever options you choose, there’s one advantage you can count on: affordable, effective access control technology from Card Lock™ Company.

We’ve been in the business of building cutting-edge access control systems for private clubs and organizations of all shapes and sizes for over 70 years, starting with key card access systems for veteran clubs and fraternal organizations after World War II. Since then, we’ve continued to provide the best access control technologies America can produce, with a commitment to dependable, reliable, and customized solutions and ongoing support that fit your property’s unique security needs and resources.

To get started, reach out to us today to schedule a security review.

(Proximity) RFID, Access Control, Electric Strikes, Security Solutions
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