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Cloud Access Control vs. On-Premise: What's the Difference?

Cloud-based vs. on-premise access control

When it comes to Access Control, there are two main types of solutions: on-premise and Cloud-based (or Access Control as a Service, ACaaS). So what's the difference? And which is the best option for your organization? Let's explore the key differences between these two types of Access Control systems and help you decide the best solution for your needs.

What is access control on-premise?

Physical Access Control systems on-premise are installed and operated at the location, typically by a security integrator. These hard-wired systems require a computer server with the necessary software. In addition, organizations need the hardware to be controlled by the software. The hardware requirements for on-premise access control systems include controllers, sub-controllers, card readers, power supplies, and electrified door hardware. The base software may come in different varieties or colors, and the system type is dependent on the installation size and the features required by your organization stakeholders.

What is access control as a service?

Cloud Access Control, also known as Access Control as a Service, or ACaaS, is an innovative new service that allows companies to outsource and scale their access control software needs. Using ACaaS, the software and data are stored at powerful data centers rather than locally on your servers. Since the hardware components are the same as those used for on-premise access control systems, AcaaS is a great way to significantly reduce operating costs without compromising security standards.

Investment Analysis Access Control On-premises vs. ACaaS

Many organizations only consider the up-front cost when deciding which solution would be most beneficial to their stakeholders and staff. These organizations may ask security integrators for on-premise access control system estimates and their cloud equivalents, yet they fail to see the big picture. Deciding on new technology for your organization is a significant milestone, and you should always evaluate the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) when choosing which system is best for your business.

When considering the costs of an on-premise system, it is vital to consider upfront fees and long-term expenses like regular maintenance, upgrades, cybersecurity, utility cost, cooling cost, rack space, etc. With this in mind, there can be significant cost differences between using a Cloud-based solution or purchasing an on-premise system.

A common mistake is to compare the on-premise upfront cost with simple math of the ACaaS monthly fee times the on-premise depreciation time. Unfortunately, this simple math doesn't provide an accurate total cost of ownership or ROI. Instead, ask your security integrator for a TCO analysis to help you make a more informed decision.

Key benefits of on-premise security systems

  • Greater security and privacy: On-premise systems are installed and operated onsite, so your data is always kept secure and private as long as you harden your platform and keep it up to date.

  • More control and customization: On-premise systems give you more control over your security system and can be customized it to meet your specific needs. Cloud-based systems are more limited in customization options.

  • Higher performance: On-premise systems typically have higher performance than Cloud-based systems, as they don't rely on the Internet connection or power outages.

  • Increased reliability: On-premise systems are less likely to experience downtime due to Internet connection issues since their functionality does not rely on the cloud.

Disadvantages of on-premise systems

  • On-premise or legacy access control systems are becoming less secure every day. Legacy systems are outdated and vulnerable to hackers who know how much time it takes for each server location or firm's IT department to have access control capabilities. Hackers can exploit these vulnerabilities because they're already familiar with the decades-old technology used in these legacy security methods, making them an easy target.

  • They can be expensive to purchase and maintain

  • It would be best to have a dedicated IT staff to manage them.

  • They can be challenging to scale up or down to meet your organization's needs.

  • They are less flexible than cloud-based systems.

Key benefits of access control as a service

  • Remote management: One of the most significant benefits of using cloud systems is making changes remotely. All locations are configured and managed from a dashboard available 24/7 anywhere in the global network, giving you total control over your building while away. For example, some access control providers allow authorized personnel to unlock doors remotely using your smartphone or internet connection, so there's no need to go on-site constantly.

  • ROI increase: ACaaS is a cost-effective and flexible solution for any organization, whether small businesses or multi-site enterprises looking to get better results from their investments in technology.

  • The easy button: Most Cloud-based access control systems run on an open platform, enabling integration and automation across the enterprise - helping companies adapt in time as needs change without major overhauls or rework of existing processes.

  • There is no need for an IT staff: the cloud service does all your work.

  • Reduced upfront costs: Cloud Access Control typically has a lower up-front cost than an on-premise system, as there is no need to purchase and install software or server hardware.

  • Increased flexibility and scalability: Cloud Access Control can be scaled up or down quickly to meet your organization's needs. This flexibility is not available with on-premise systems.

  • Reduced maintenance and upgrade costs: Cloud Access Control requires minimal maintenance and upgrades as the service provider handles all maintenance. On-premise systems, however, require regular maintenance and upgrades, which can be expensive and time-consuming.

Disadvantages of access control as a service

The benefits of access control in the Cloud are compelling but not suitable for every business. For example, companies with compliance requirements or high-level security needs must ensure that their provider can meet these standards before fully committing to using this technology.

  • Remote Access; It could be an advantage, but also it could be a disadvantage. Businesses should also consider how users access the system remotely.

  • Monthly or Annual Recurrent Fee; The subscription-based SaaS model may not be the best fit for all organizations. This type offers greater clarity and visibility into costs, with fewer hidden fees or surprise expenses than other models based on usage factors such as the number of users enabled per month/year, respectively.

  • Limited customization options; There are limitations regarding customizing access control as a service (ACaaS). For example, your options for the different hardware components that make up an ACaaS solution are limited.

  • Interruption fears; If the third-party server has an error, it could affect your access control system. However, most cloud providers have backup power sources and local controllers to keep them up and running when you lose electricity or Internet service.

  • Compliance concerns due to internet connectivity (HIPAA, GDPR).

What is the best access control solution for your business?

The best access control system for your building security is a big question. Unfortunately, there's no easy answer before deciding which solution will work best for your organization because it all depends on what you want out of your project.

On-premise access control systems have been a tried-and-true legacy system used to provide security to organizations for decades. Some people say on-premise access control systems are more secure and reliable, but they do come at a higher cost. Therefore, this is probably the best route if you can afford it or have an IT staff to manage your on-premise system. However, access control as a service ACaaS is gaining more popularity by the day due to its flexibility and many cost-saving benefits including improved performance, scalability, and reliability without in-house software installation or maintenance fees. Access Control as a Service offers businesses a lost-cost way to introduce their security systems to the cloud.