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The Basics of Door Monitoring Systems

Your buildings contain important gear and resources. If you haven't deployed an electronic door alert system, you're not doing everything you can to protect your valuable building contents. But reading this article is a good step to prepare your door security system project.

Every System Needs Two Core Components

A door alarm and control system, as the name implies, is composed of two basic parts.

First, your doors will be monitored with an electronic alarm system. Note that this is not the same as a home security system - some of them are now DIY stand alone door alarms. While you may or may not use some elements like a loud alarm bell and siren, the key objective here is a fast front door alarm sent to your central office (or other security command center), or a door alarm phone notification, or email notifications, or even phone call alerts.

With a door access control system in place, you'll be alerted whenever a remote door is opened without proper authentication or at a specific time of the day or week. You can also set up your door alarm management system to directly alert the police or your own Security teams.

Building Access System application diagram
In this diagram, the Building Access System alarms a door with keypads and proximity access readers connected to it. It leverages the remote monitoring infrastructure of T/Mon and NetGuardians, but standalone configurations are also available if you have no network to monitor.

Authentication brings us to the second key component of the system: electronic door control. While monitoring door alarms is nice, an electronic door control alarm system is a good step to you can make toward maintaining security at your remote buildings.

The Problem With Traditional Metal Keys to Manage Access

Physical metal keys are outdated. Keys can be easily copied. Keys can be given away. Keys can be lost.

Keys may be used at any time of the day or night, regardless of how bad access in the wee hours of the morning might seem.

An electronic, database-driven access control solution solves each of these problems. Proxy key cards are much harder (bordering on impossible) for the average person to copy. A proximity key card that is given away or lost can be shut off within the access database instantly. Proxy key cards can be limited to certain hours of the day and week, reducing your vulnerability to after-hours intrusions.

Proximity cards can also be set to expire at a pre-set time. These allow you to give authorized visitors temporary access to your buildings. If a contractor is expected to finish a job within three days, for example, you might set his key to expire in four days and to allow access to a single door only during normal business hours.

Motion Sensors and IP Video Surveillance Cameras are a Great Addition to Your Security Solution

A good security alarm system also includes a variety of related security systems. For example, monitoring infrared motion sensors go hand-in-hand with door monitoring. It's also common to have IP cameras pointed at your front doors to provide more detail about the person entering your building.

In fact, a good IP camera can trigger automatic frame capture and archiving whenever a door alarm or motion sensor is tripped. What's more, it's even possible for an IP security camera to pull frames out of its temporary buffer when such an alarm occurs. In this way, you can actually archive a number of frames before a triggered event occurs, then a number of frames after the triggered event occurs.

One good example of a secure door alarm and control system is the Building Access System from DPS Telecom. The core of the system is built around the Entry Control Unit (ECU), a small box that sits inside your buildings near the doors you want to alarm and control. The ECU accommodates an electronic door lock (either an electrically actuated strike or a magnetic plate) connected to the door control, a magnetic door open sensor to trigger door alarms, and 2 keypads and/or proximity card readers.

How you send door alarms back from your ECU depends on the scope of your door alarm and control system. You might have just a few doors (maybe you're just controlling entrance to your server room, for example). It's quite possible that you'll use the ECU's built-in web interface to manage all door alarm alerts (email/phone/SNMP) and authorized user keycards/keycodes.

Entry Control Unit (door alarm and control device) with LAN capability
The Entry Control Unit (ECU) sits inside your building and powers/controls your door alarm sensors and control gear (keypads and proximity card readers).

A Central Master Station Unifies Your Large Access System

If you have a larger system, however, it's much more likely that you'll manage many ECUs using a central T/Mon master console. T/Mon is a central server for network alarm management and BAS management. T/Mon is an important tool for anyone using more than a handful of ECUs. It provides a means to database authorized users a single time and then broadcast those authorized user files to every ECU in your network.

T/Mon is also a good way to monitor door alarms in a larger door control scheme. T/Mon can be used to filter unimportant alarms and send you only the suspicious door alarms that require human attention. T/Mon will still log all entries and exits to help you look at events after an incident has occurred.

One very important facet of the BAS stems from its origins as a network management accessory. DPS Telecom started by specializing in remote monitoring and control systems for network staff. The Building Access System made sense because it provided physical security and monitoring for servers and other network assets.

The ECU LAN Evolved Naturally For Office Locations

Of course, DPS was asked by users who only wanted to use door alarm and control and had no network to monitor. This led to the development of standalone door alarm and access control systems that did not include the features (or the cost) of a full-fledged network monitoring system.

Today, this means that you have a lot of choice and opportunity if you choose to deploy the DPS Building Access System. If you only need to alarm and control doors, the T/Mon BAS and/or LAN-based ECUs will provide dedicated door alarm and control without any of the remote network monitoring features that you will never use.

You Can Deploy Remote Monitoring and Building Access Together

If you do have a network spread out across a variety of remote sites (a certainty if you work for a telco, utility, or transit company), the BAS presents an opportunity for you to "kill two birds with one stone".

In this case, it would be ideal for you to purchase the T/Mon LNX instead of the T/Mon BAS. This is the full-featured network alarm management platform that will allow you to monitor and control your doors, your network gear, and environmental alarms like temperature and humidity from the same central console.

Client Story: Shaun Plans a Pilot Program for HQ

Technical advisors at DPS often receive requests for door alarm systems and information. Here's an example of one such request, which should help to focus your thoughts as you prepare for a door alarm deployment.

"Shaun, we do have the ability to execute these projects separately, but it will be more cost-effective (and require no extra time) to complete some of them simultaneously.

Given the likely scale of the final solution, I want to do a pilot first at the HQ.

Please provide info and a quote for door access control for the main server room. This should comprise (to my untutored mind) the electronic locking mechanism, a proximity card reader and an initial 20 proximity cards. We'll need the software to program the cards and system and to log the traffic.

The remote boxes of your Building Access System are also capable of environmental monitoring. I recommend that we take care of both server room access control and server room environmental monitoring in the first phase of the project.

This advantage does not exist for the private areas of the bank and the clock-in system. These could be done efficiently in later phases.

The bank has 22 branches currently, please consider 25 as the initial number to be covered. The server rooms all have only one door.

At this stage I think it sufficient to monitor only the ambient temperature. We may monitor single equipment at a later stage. Humidity may be of interest."

Client Story: Jon Wants Building Access and VoIP Order Wire

Here's another request for you to consider.

Jon has an interest in the Building Access System. They have something similar, but it's not integrated with alarm monitoring. Their techs would "love it". Also had an interest in Stay-Open Mode for remote sites, so technicians can unlock a door for several minutes or hours until they complete the job.

  • VoIP OW: Their technicians have to visit some sites where cell coverage is poor. They used to have phone lines out at those sites, but the cost (considered real in Accounting even though they're the phone company) was too high. I discussed the NG 216 OW product, and Jon seemed interested. I gave him and Amy copies of the product summary.
  • Monitoring wind speed, especially during hurricanes.
  • Monitoring temperature, so he doesn't have to log into other gear just to get a measurement.
  • When a business customer calls in to report a service problem, Jesse currently has no way of knowing if the Network Interface Unit (the last point they control and are responsible for) is up or down. That information would allow them to accept/reject customer requests for service instantly. If the Network Interface Unit was operating correctly, the problem would have to be on the customer's side.
  • Would like a way to isolate repeater-to-repeater issues so techs don't have to visit each site in sequence to locate the problem. They would like to pinpoint those problems remotely.

Jon wants to learn ASCII rules so he can modify them to bring in more detail about the exact card that has failed or the customer(s) affected. He wants to integrate a lot of disconnected systems into one overarching monitoring system.

The company is looking for a new trouble ticket system for logging work performed on a single equipment, for specific customers, and/or by specific employees.

Recommended Door Alarm and Control Gear

Central Manager: T/Mon LNX or T/Mon BAS.

Building Access System.