What Are The Advantages And Disadvantages Of Physical Access Control In Security?

Last updated: January 21, 2022


Physical access control acts as a barrier to prevent unauthorized people from entering the area and is the backbone of enforcing physical security. Some physical access control systems include locks, fences, access cards, biometric readers, key fobs, etc. They can be classified into two types:


  • Traditional systems
    • Advantages:
      • Dependable
      • More secured
    • Disadvantages:
      • Pricey
      • Location-specific
      • Requires a lot for installation
      • Self-contained
  • IP or Cloud-based systems, which have two categories: 
  1. Network-based system
  2. Web-based system
  • Advantages:
    • Affordable
    • Scalable
    • Functional
    • Great security
    • Mobility
  • Disadvantages:
    • Network dependent
    • Prone to hacks

Types of Access Control Systems

Now let’s get into detail and discuss the two categories, along with their advantages and disadvantages. 

Traditional Systems

The manufacturers install a credential scanner at the door or access point and a control box above the door. The control box interfaces with the credential scanner, door locks, the system’s computer, and occasionally with cameras. Therefore, everything is connected to each other.


  • Dependable. These systems, which are frequently referred to as legacy systems, have been in operation for years. They have established themselves as effective and rarely encounter difficulties.
  • More secure. The dispute over whether traditional systems are more secure than IP systems continues. Moreover, hard-wired, proprietary systems are less prone to hacks and hence are perceived as more secure by some.


  • Pricey. Private systems necessitate specialized hardware and, in most cases, multiple control boxes. Due to the necessity of being near the entrances, most control boxes are limited to controlling a few. One control box may be required for each entry.
  • Location-specific. The arrangement of the control boxes indicates that each is designed precisely for that area. Transferring a control box involves additional effort to make it functional in a new place.
  • Requires a lot for installation. Numerous systems demand electrical power as well as system-specific wiring.
  • Self-contained. Due to the nature of many of these systems, integration with other systems and functions is challenging.

IP or Cloud-based Systems

Modern workplace access systems are now internet-based and do not require a control box. Instead, verification occurs at the credential scanner, connecting to a network that stores all important data. Obviously, the credential scanner needs electrical power and network connection, which can be provided over the same wires.


IP-based systems can be classified into two subcategories: 


  • Network-based systems – Connected to the organization’s network via a wired or wireless connection. It is controlled by software stored on the organization’s servers and computers.
  • Web-based systems – Administered, updated, and kept on the manufacturer’s servers and accessed via the Internet.


  • Affordable. For most organizations, fewer pieces of equipment to acquire per entrance equates to a lesser cost. Eliminating control boxes has a noticeable effect.
  • Scalable. Lower installation costs mean that scaling up is considerably easier as the organization grows.
  • Functional. Because the system is network-based, it is much easier to upgrade, add features, and interact with other software than a traditional system.
  • Great security. Determining whether IP systems are more or less secure than older systems is challenging. A breach in an IP system leaves the rest of the doors intact, whereas in a traditional system, if a multi-door controller fails, all entries it controls fail.
  • Mobility. Web-based systems, for example, enable users to modify settings and lock and unlock doors from any location with an internet connection. Even network-based systems have this functionality, as long as the user has network access, either on-premises or via VPN.


  • Network dependent. Many critics are concerned that if the network fails, the security system will fail as well. Given how reliant organizations are on their networks today, preventing or swiftly resolving disruptions is critical. While downtime does occur, most control systems are intended to save data in the event of an outage.
  • Prone to hacks. As with network downtime concerns, an access control system is only as secure as the network it is connected to. If a hacker gains access to the network, they will very certainly obtain access to the door lock system as well. This may be particularly concerning for web-based systems, as information is theoretically flowing in large chunks across the internet. 


To get more information on physical security, check out the rest of SIA Online.

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