Online or Offline Doors?

Friday, 6th March, 2015

The Cost vs Security Dilemma

The Problem:

Many users of access control solutions require a system which is fully “online”, that is to say all the doors are constantly monitored to see their status and provide an audit trail of who has been where and when. However, this type of door access system can be quite expensive and this sometimes puts organisations off implementing.

For some, the cheaper alternative is to use “offline” door controllers.  These are each manually configured to show which people are able to gain entry through any particular door.  This system is much cheaper than an online solution but is more onerous to manage. 

Whenever someone has their access rights changed or revoked a controller has to be taken to each door to manually update the memory on the lock.  The same is the case if a room has its status changed so that different people have access to it.  This often means there is a delay in completing the process during which overall security is compromised.

The Solution:

The AIT alternative is a combined solution of online and offline door controllers with a distributed intelligence network via the keys carried by users themselves.  These keys are most often smartcards but can also be fobs, wearable devices or in some cases NFC equipped telephones.

Distributed intelligence means that each time a user passes through an online door, the door updates the key with its record of usage and with any changed or revoked access rights to other users.  When the key is then presented to on offline door, the key passes the new access rights information to the door controller.  The door also updates the key with its own usage record and any critical information such as low battery warnings.  Next time the key is presented to an online door, that audit trail is uploaded to the system. Remember that these actions are carried out in under a second with every user’s key as they pass around the building.

In practice, this system is much faster than standalone offline door systems without the added expense of a fully online system.

Another option, which can be used on its own or in conjunction with the distributed intelligence solution, is that of a wireless network. The wireless network doors offer the immediate control, reporting and auditing that full online doors have but at a much lower cost than the full door controllers.  This is due to the use of similar locks and handles as those used in the offline solution.  Each wireless hub offers a full 128bit AES encrypted signal for up to 8 doors, so strategically placed hubs offer huge flexibility where security needs dictate an online access control solution.

The Benefits:

Let’s take as an example, a college campus or company building that has 20 doors that need some form of access control on them.  3 of these doors are external all the others are internal doors. This means that with the distributed intelligence network we don’t need all the doors to be online.  If the external doors and specific higher security areas, a server room for example, were online and the remaining offices, classrooms etc. were provided with offline controllers the saving would be over 50%. These savings could be the difference between installing access control and continuing without.

Similar savings are offered by the Wireless Network doors and the fact that the same handles and locks are available means that from an interior design perspective, a chosen theme can be maintained throughout an area, regardless of the security level required on each door.  Designers and architects also enjoy the fact the Wireless network does away with the need to run cables to each door.

Further savings are made with the installation costs with an offline or wireless network controller much easier to fit and configure.  This also means that it is quick and inexpensive to make any ongoing changes or additions to the system as a whole.

These typical savings are based around an example 20 door scenario they are, however, scalable up to 64,000 doors on a single network.  Additionally, there is significantly reduced energy consumption, which offers a monetary saving and can be a contributory factor towards ISO14001 accreditation.

Not all doors are suitable to be offline and our consultants will perform a full survey and advise what the best mix is in your particular case.  AIT is a technical solutions provider and we are able to integrate door access control with many other solutions such as Human Resources or Student Management systems, Cashless Vending or Print Management etc.  We are also able to link to a Microsoft Active Directory so that a Security or IT manager can update a record in one place and it would automatically disseminate to the system thus reducing management overhead for the total system.

It is obvious why this innovative answer to the question of “online” or “offline” is being used by universities and the education sector, major corporates and government organisations across the UK and the world.

What's Next?

For more information and on this and how AIT can integrate your new access control solution with existing services please contact us at or call 0113 273 0300 and speak to one of our access control solution consultants.