Question 1. What are the differences between high-end and entry level Access Control?

The main differences between high end and entry level Access Control Systems are in the areas of resilience, panel capacity and functionality, multi-user capabilities and inter-operability. Most entry level systems are designed to work on an existing workstation with simple open source databases with a lack of automatic backup structures and some "security through obscurity" on panel communications. They are generally single user products with panels that range from single door to four door controllers.

The high end solutions are all multi-user systems that can integrate client's existing database structures or install standalone if required and will use commercial encryption platforms like 256 bit AES for communications. The panels will be 16 or 32 reader units which allows for more advanced features like building-wide anti-passback, integration of multiple security devices like CCTV, visitor management, intercoms and lifts across multiple buildings and time zones.

Cloud solutions are the new hybrid that allow all the functionality of a high end solution with the system maintenance function undertaken by the security contractor. This gives the end-user all the power and flexibility without having to worry about system maintenance, backups, upgrades, hardware refreshes etc.

Question 2. What's the difference between high-end and entry-level CCTV systems?

The main differences on CCTV solutions come down to disk drive specifications, hardware quality and specifications, availability of analytics and integration capabilities.

Entry level systems tend to use much cheaper workstation specification disk drives, have smaller CPU chips that are made to work harder and have limited or no analytics capabilities to detect and report any behaviours. The systems also typically do not integrate with any access control solutions.

The high end systems typically have separate system and data disks, often dual power supplies, server specification hard disks and data centre specification CPU chips to handle more cameras per server and run behaviour analytics on incoming camera streams.

Cloud systems use the end-user's broadband to upload camera images to data centres for storage and viewing. The cloud value proposition is that you get the data security and functionality of a high-end solution at the entry level capital cost and don't have to worry about disk failures, hardware refreshes, firmware upgrades etc.

Question 3. How secure are cloud based security systems?

Cloud based systems built from the ground up are, in general, more secure than the physical NVR and iOs/Android app architecture that most of the entry level systems use. Poor passwords, vulnerabilities in the cheap TCPIP chips built onto the recorder and software vulnerabilities in the apps have allowed a number of high profile breaches.

Cloud based solutions use IT security standards that far exceed the physical security equivalents to ensure maximum protection, resilience and smooth operation. Cloud adoption is rapidly increasing, both for access control systems and CCTV recording.