Hybrid Access Control in Campus Environments
- By Kris Houle
- May 15, 2023
Only a few years ago, the idea of moving to the cloud was met with guarded optimism. But today, the shift is becoming more of a reality. An increasing number of campus organizations, whether corporate or higher education, are starting cloud migrations. Cloud-based video management systems are a popular starting point, but access control solutions are also becoming more popular. The benefits of cloud and hybrid systems are becoming better known.
Why Consider a Hybrid System?
There will always be a need for on-premises appliances. The trouble is that there can be more work and costs involved in maintaining the infrastructure. Getting ongoing IT support, handling hardware and software updates, and optimizing device performance are resource-intensive tasks.
Over the long term, all these things add up and can become too costly.
In general, cloud-based or hybrid systems are more flexible, scalable, and cost-effective than on-premises systems. Cloud-connected sensors can be deployed anywhere with internet access and managed from a central location. You don’t need to have servers at each location.
A cloud system also makes it easier for organizations to keep pace with changing technology. When you partner with a reputable open-architecture software vendor, you gain access to security and feature updates as soon as they are available. And when new hardware innovations enter the market, your system is ready to accept them.
A Cost-Efficient Solution for Large Campuses
Enterprise customers with large campuses are often slow to adopt new technologies. However, many are now recognizing that making the switch to a hybrid-cloud system allows them to realize cost savings.
Choosing a hybrid-cloud approach to access control allows campuses to migrate slowly over time. They don’t have to undertake a costly and complex mission to rip and replace the whole system at once.
Instead, campuses can begin by extending the functionality of on-premises, server-based systems by building a bridge to the cloud. This may entail adding devices with cloud-based software and storage or implementing cloud solutions at remote sites. They may run specific applications in the cloud while keeping others on-prem.
With cloud systems, there are fewer physical server installations to deploy and manage. On larger campuses and in multi-site installations, the cost savings add up quickly. This is especially the case when you factor in the labor cost and IT resources required to maintain and update those servers. A hybrid-cloud approach allows you to reduce or even eliminate many of those expenses.
If a company lacks the internal IT resources to effectively mitigate cybersecurity risks and manage complex computer systems, offloading some of these responsibilities to a reputable third party is often a solution. Cloud software manufacturers have dedicated teams devoting 100% of their attention to preventing, monitoring, and responding to cyber threats. In most cases, companies can also get better uptime from a cloud-hosted system than would be possible to manage internally.
Unifying Disparate Systems
On-prem systems are often installed and managed independently from each other. Access control is managed in one place, video monitoring in another, and so on. When you want to integrate or unify multiple systems, it can be challenging—especially when you’re working with multiple deployments or locations.
A hybrid solution allows an organization to keep in on-prem appliances where required and introduce cloud components into the system as needed. The flexibility and scalability of the cloud simplify expansions. From a front-end perspective, nothing changes for the operator. They can manage all components, whether cloud-based or hosted on-premises, within one interface.
Perhaps one of the most exciting aspects of a unified, cloud-based, or hybrid access control system is that it can go far beyond just locking and unlocking doors. It can collect data from multiple other sources to help with business operations.
With a cloud or hybrid solution, the opportunity for unifying different data sources is amplified. In addition to connecting to access control and video monitoring systems, the system can pull in data from other devices. This includes temperature or humidity sensors used by building management systems, on-prem intrusion monitoring, or even information systems from human resources.
Seamlessly interconnected disparate systems unlock the potential for intelligent solutions that can streamline operations, improve employee and customer satisfaction, and increase efficiency. For example, you can turn on lights for certain floors when a specific person badges in or automatically adjust access control permissions when an employee changes roles.
In hybrid systems, sometimes the cloud portion of the solution is used mainly for data aggregation. The cloud system communicates over the internet to the on-premises solution but isn’t part of the hardwired, closed network. Intrusion management, for example, can be an on-premises system that communicates via the cloud to an access control solution that is either on-premises, hybrid, or cloud-based.
Enhanced Cybersecurity through the Cloud
Cybersecurity fears still hold some organizations back from embracing cloud technologies. Although there are more points of connection to the internet in a cloud-based or hybrid deployment, a modern system can be configured to be resilient to cyber threats.
In an on-prem system, the responsibility is entirely on the person or team managing the system to ensure cybersecurity. Updating and patching software, changing passwords, and other cybersecurity chores are time-consuming. They are easy to put off or forget when you’ve got so many other important things to do.
A cloud software provider can take care of many of these tasks more efficiently and effectively. They have the resources to assign dedicated staff to monitor and respond to cyber threats and can push updates to connected devices automatically.
In the event of a breach, response time is much faster with a cloud system. When a security risk is flagged, cloud software providers are contractually obliged to dedicate resources to deal with the concern immediately. They are also motivated to ensure they have dedicated staff with the right skills to move swiftly to fix any issues.
The leaner your IT team is, the more helpful it is to outsource some of the responsibilities for enhanced cybersecurity. Even if you have in-house expertise, it is good to rely on trusted vendors to offer support and collaboration.
Tips for Successful Implementation of a Hybrid Access Control System
Hybrid cloud architecture helps you optimize your physical security system by leveraging both on-premises solutions and the cloud. A hybrid security system won’t look the same for every business. That’s because you have the freedom to optimize your physical security installation in ways that best fit your organization.
If you’re considering implementing a hybrid access control system, begin by realistically assessing your goals, resources, and constraints. Do you have the resources to host, maintain, and secure your servers and hardware? What are you trying to connect? Are those systems cloud-ready? How many of your systems can you bring to the cloud?
The strength and resilience of your network is also a big factor to consider. Cloud-based systems require internet access to operate. If the internet in your area isn’t reliable, you may want to maintain critical systems on-prem to ensure continuity of operations.
Hybrid-cloud solutions give you an opportunity to be more strategic in your physical security deployments. You can choose which installations would benefit from on-prem solutions versus those for which a cloud option would be a better fit. Overall, a hybrid system can reduce the strain on your budget and your team’s time while providing a cybersecure, scalable solution.
This article originally appeared in the May / June 2023 issue of Campus Security & Life Safety.