September 23, 2020

Cloud-Based Access Control – Everything You Need to Know

[9 Minute Read] 

Access control is commonplace in most organizations. It provides reliable and effective security without the risks of physical keys or costs associated with physical security personnel. However, a newer, more powerful player has entered the market: cloud-based access control. If you’re still utilizing an on-premise system, it’s time to consider upgrading to this more powerful alternative.

What is cloud-based access control?

It’s access control without the large investment in IT infrastructure. The system allows you to store, process, and manage all of your data in an off-site data center. With all of the data in the cloud, you can access your information from any device, anywhere, anytime.

Cloud-based access control simplifies your security, integrating multiple systems into a simple, user-friendly interface. Add or remove users, get real-time updates, access audit reports, edit door schedules, and more without extensive training or high costs.

openpath security features

Openpath's mobile credentials enable hands-free entry.

What kind of organization should use the cloud?

Physical access control is a must for many organizations, but investing in expensive local servers, hardware, and IT personnel to manage it isn't always feasible for smaller organizations. With this in mind, small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) or those on a tight budget can benefit the most from the cloud.

Additionally, most cloud-based platforms are easy to learn, so anyone on your team can manage it; no on-site specialists are needed. The lower ticket price and ease of management make cloud-based security a smart decision for SMBs.

Another great candidate for cloud-based access control is any organization that requires a lot of flexibility because you’re:

  • Expanding your footprint (i.e., start-ups or growing enterprises)
  • Have people that require access to multiple locations (i.e., coworking spaces or companies with a mobile workforce)
  • Continually adding, removing, and updating users (i.e., most organizations today)

A cloud-based platform is essential in these instances because it's designed to be more agile and better accommodate your needs.

Is the cloud secure?

A hotly debated topic, cloud-based systems are continuously evolving, becoming more secure day-by-day, but many organizations are still resisting them. It comes down to management preferences and confidence. 

On-premise systems require the end-user to maintain and manage the data, giving them complete control. They are responsible for setting user permissions, installing firewalls, updating antivirus software, and guarding against cyberattacks. 

This level of control may be a pro or con, depending on your organization's needs and bandwidth. 

For large organizations with robust IT departments, on-prem solutions can give additional peace of mind. However, if mismanaged, on-prem servers can pose a serious security threat. 

Utilizing the cloud means entrusting someone else with your data. For smaller organizations or anyone who doesn't want to maintain infrastructure, a cloud solution can provide the necessary security with minimal upkeep. 

There are clearly pros and cons to cloud-based and on-premise systems. Ultimately, since people manage them both, and people can make mistakes that compromise security, neither method is inherently more or less secure. The safest solution depends on how your organization wants to handle its data.

Why should you consider cloud-based access control?

Do you use any of these platforms? 

Dropbox, Google Drive, Amazon Web Services, Salesforce, Slack, Zoom, Marketo, YouTube, LinkedIn, Prezi, Pandora, Evernote, Skype.

Then you’re using the cloud! 

You’re also using the cloud when you check your bank balance on your phone, or when you send emails from your tablet. You're constantly using cloud-based applications, so why not move your access control to the cloud too?

(Labor is moving to the cloud too… Click here to learn more.)


If convenience alone isn't enough to convince you, cloud-based access control will increase efficiency, improve security, streamline processes, and ultimately make your organization more competitive. Here’s how.

Top 8 benefits of cloud-based access control

rhombus access control system

Rhombus System's sleek user-interface.

1. Remote Monitoring

If you have a smartphone, tablet, or desktop, you can control and monitor your cloud-based access control system 24x7x365. You can manage all of your locations from anywhere, whether that’s your home office, corporate headquarters, or on a beach in Hawaii.


With real-time updates and remote monitoring capabilities, your organization will be more secure than ever. Instantly revoke access if an employee is fired and react to smart alerts (like glass-breaking or after-hours activity) even if you aren’t on sight. Remote monitoring means you can take action immediately to minimize risk and damage. 

2. Greater Flexibility

Perhaps one of the greatest benefits of cloud-based systems compared to on-premise is the additional flexibility they provide. Fluctuating workforces, expanding footprints, and constant changing of user settings are easy to handle with a cloud-based system. 

Control access rights, monitor video surveillance, and manage physical security for multiple facilities from a single, remote location. Cloud-based platforms deliver the information you want and need, on your device of choice, exactly when you need it. Unlock a door in the Ohio office when you're in California, suspend or grant access for an employee in another time zone, and monitor activity logs from your cell phone. 

These platforms are easy to scale from a single door to massive enterprise settings, and the rollout process is quicker. Eliminating custom APIs and the design/installation of extensive hardware drastically reduces the time from conception to completion.

These flexibility perks extend to your employees and tenants as well. They'll have one card- or no card if you use mobile credentials- for all of the locations they're permitted to access. 

3. Automation

Automatic Security Updates

With cloud-based systems, servers and hardware are off-premise and off your to-do list. Suppliers handle all hardware, software, and feature updates so your systems are current with the latest-and-greatest tech.

Automatic Back-Ups

You’re probably familiar with the phrase “cloud sync,” it’s what makes your data available anywhere. It also means your data is automatically backed up and saved in case of theft, malfunction, or disaster. No more manual backups!


Automate Processes

Increase efficiency and eliminate room for error by automating processes like granting and revoking employee access. You can also set up automated alerts to improve response time. Get notified when an individual attempts to access an unauthorized area, there's activity after hours, or unusual behavior is detected. This adds a layer of protection to your organization and keeps things running smoothly without the need for additional resources. 

4. Maintain Compliance 

If you need to submit access logs regularly, a cloud-based system makes it easy to find and download relevant data from any of your facilities. No more going into the office to transfer files from an on-premise system.

Since all cloud data is secured with encryption layers and the servers are automatically updated with the latest security patches and programs, you know that your data management complies with your industry's standards. Regulatory changes will be one less thing you have to worry about.

5. Centralized Data

Gone are the days of logging into a mainframe computer to update employee access and having to go into another system to view security footage. Cloud-based systems, and their flexible integrations, centralize all of your data. View all of your locations and all of your systems on one user-friendly platform.

Cloud based security integrations

Integrate with your most important business systems.

6. Integrations and Customization

On-premise solutions are often proprietary and can be expensive and complicated to integrate. Cloud-based access control systems have APIs so you can integrate with other business applications like HR platforms, visitor management programs, video surveillance systems, alarm companies, analytic software, and more. 

For example, get a Slack message when there’s suspicious activity, use your VMS to gain visual insight on the situation, instantly lockdown the facility if there’s a threat, and export the activity logs to Google Drive to begin investigating.

You can customize security reports and dashboards, set up unique rules and alerts, and create a system designed with your organization’s needs in mind.

(Learn More: Access Control and Video Surveillance Integrations)

7. Ease of Management

Most of the previous benefits add up to easier management. Remote monitoring gives your users the freedom to work from anywhere. A flexible and easily scalable system eliminates the need for complex rollouts and configurations. Automation reduces the required manual work. Centralized data means less time needs to be spent on training and monitoring the systems. Integrations streamline processes.

Yet there are still more features that will make your life even easier. Admin levels mean you can give different control levels to people, delegating management tasks without compromising security. User-friendly, intuitive interfaces make the systems easy to learn. Supporting multiple devices allows your users to access the system however it's most convenient -on a phone, tablet, or desktop. These systems are designed with the end-user in mind.

8. Lower Costs

Cloud-based systems are ideal for anyone with a tight budget - whether that's SMBs where every penny counts or enterprises trying to improve their bottom line. They eliminate high-cost hardware and most operate on a subscription-based model. These subscriptions mean you only pay for the resources you need and use, optimizing cash flow.

Many of the features listed above contribute to cost savings. You don't have to buy new key cards frequently. No more extensive training so personnel can use the software. Service and maintenance fees are minimal or non-existent. You're not stuck with a fixed number of doors or users, so scaling up or down is easy. And all that time you get back can be channeled towards more productive and profitable initiatives.

cloud based access control features

Camio provides a deeper look into your space.

Cloud-based access control features

We've already mentioned dozens of features, some exclusive to cloud-based systems. Below is a more comprehensive list; of course, different vendors will offer various features. Take note of what functionality you want, and a consultant can help you select a system that will suit your needs.

  • Open APIs
  • Encrypted credentials for smartphones, cards, fobs, and smartwatches
  • Custom alerts and activity notifications
  • Lockdown capabilities
  • Tiered admin levels 
  • Remote monitoring
  • Visitor management
  • Identity management
  • Instant guest passes
  • Remote unlock/lock
  • Real-time reporting
  • Compliant data management
  • No dedicated IP or subnetwork required
  • No server limitations
  • Door scheduling
  • Customizable user permissions
  • Tailgating detection 
  • Works offline
  • Access logs
  • Hands-free building access
  • Occupancy tracking
  • Easily scalable
  • And more!

Many of the platforms you encounter daily rely on the cloud because it's secure, convenient, and gives your organization a competitive edge. Cloud-based access control is no different. It can improve security, reduce expenses, automate workflows, and increase productivity and efficiency. Your entire organization will reap the benefits from the ease of use and additional insights. 

Still, selecting a system that suits your needs for the right price point can be tricky. If you'd like to explore potential solutions, our team of experienced security professionals can help you find the best solution for your organization. Click here to Contact Us and get a free consultation.

Learn more about access control costs and start building a budget with the Access Control & Surveillance Purchasing Guidebook.

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About the author 

Abe Fleming

Abe Fleming is the Director of Sales & Marketing at Automated Systems Design, Inc. He a results-oriented business development and technical sales leader with over a decade of progressive experience developing and managing sales teams.

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