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Visitor Management

by Benchmark

Access control is a very beneficial technology, allowing authorised persons to gain entry and egress when permitted, whilst also keeping unauthorised persons out. However, it is vital that visitors to any site are also granted access, and controlled, in a fashion that leaves them with a positive impression. Benchmark considers the important issues when specifying a visitor management solution.

Access control solutions can be summarised quite simply, with regard to their core activities. Authorised people are granted access and egress during appropriate times, and to relevant areas of a site. Unauthorised persons are not! Admittedly, such a description underplays the diverse additional benefits available from the technology, but it highlights one important issue: the systems aren’t naturally designed to deal with visitors!

Access control is an important part of many businesses’ security solutions, but there is also a need to allow visitors to the site to be adequately managed. It is imperative that a reliable and effective system of visitor management is at the heart of any company’s access strategy, but there is more to it than getting guests to sign in and out.

It goes without saying that any company wants to ensure that the only people walking around its premises are genuine members of staff or invited visitors. The potential implications of unauthorised access include threats to staff, damage to premises or the theft of property. To safeguard against these risks, it is customary for businesses to implement a system to monitor and control the access of visitors and contractors.

The vast majority of businesses have some form of access control in place for staff, and demand is increasing for an integrated approach to effective management for both staff and visitors. The issue of allowing communication between visitors and on-site personnel can be achieved using video or audio-based door entry systems. These allow communication and automated door opening. Once on site, the visitor then needs to be effectively managed.

The main options are for all visitors to be escorted, which is both time-consuming and restrictive. It does mean that if visitors are left alone, or are trusted by the person they are visiting, they could end up having the free run of the site. It is then up to other personnel to either challenge the visitor, or to leave them freely roaming!

One approach that counters this is to issue visitors with a badge during their visit.

Identity crisis?

The onus is on the end user to take care of visitor ID solutions, and it is important that they both understand the risks, and the choices to reduce those risks. Inevitably, this is likely to involve a degree of additional investment, but implementing a visible corporate image into staff and visitor ID can prove beneficial. The need to identify staff and visitors shouldn’t be viewed in isolation.

Common sense dictates that the first defence against unauthorised entry is to ensure that the company promotes a culture of security. Initially, access control is used to prevent visitors wandering into or around the building. However, once in a secure area, a policy of strict ID management makes every employee the eyes and ears of the visitor management system. The benefits range from ensuring that protected entrances are secure to questioning those without ID.

The introduction of visitor ID on the same level as staff ID is an effective method of fostering this attitude, helping to give a means of clearly identifying everyone – a definite bonus for larger organisations. It also has the added advantage of presenting a professional approach to visitors.

Most high quality access control systems will include the facility to create photographic ID badges. This will either be a core function, or will be available as an add-on module. Cards can incorporate a customised design with logos, photos and additional information. This can be enhanced through the use of cardholders and branded lanyards, ensuring ID is visible and helping to effectively display the ID cards. Where necessary, the cards can also contain limited access credentials.

Ensure integration

There are standalone ID card creation software packages, but selecting a choice that integrates totally with an access solution can make a big difference in establishing a complete level of security appropriate to the business. Compatibility with other elements of the access control system is vital. Similarly, user-friendliness is essential: printing a card or pass should be quick, both for the staff member producing it, and for the visitor.

Where an extra level of security is required (and where the budget for visitor management allows), many innovations have been developed that are difficult to duplicate, and these solutions can readily be incorporated into cards or passes to provide an extra level of protection.

If the range of anti-counterfeit and authentication technologies are too costly for visitor management, including elements such as a photograph, or using a time restricted pass, can still enhance protection.

Security should not be weakened to allow for a more rapid throughput. Whilst it is true that few people like to kept waiting, a good visitor management system should balance security and throughput.

On-line systems are available that create an efficient and effective reception area, by offering the capability to pre-book visitors, delivering fast searching and production of passes on arrival. These visitor management systems can incorporate a range of additional features to assist security such as email notification to relevant parties of a visitor’s arrival, emergency fire reports of all visitors and contractors on-site and signature verification.

Paper-based systems remain popular and are a first step for many. These can often be customised – and enhanced with branded accessories – to reinforce security. Given the quality of today’s printers and cameras, photo-based paper passes can be created in seconds.

In summary

Whatever the level of security adopted, and it can range from state-of-the-art electronic systems with many layers of authentication, to simple and cost-effective solutions, staff will feel safe and included and visitors will feel welcome and looked-after if an integrated approach is taken.

Access control for permanent staff is radically different to visitor management. However, the two systems should not only work in harmony, but should also sit alongside each other to provide a fully interoperable solution.

Most manufacturers of access control systems not only offer the hardware to protect a premises, but also offer software add-ons that simply incorporate additional benefits like photo ID and visitor management.

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