Access control systems protect businesses by allowing them to decide who can access their facilities and how, whether it’s a single consultant who needs to protect their office full of sensitive data or an enterprise with multiple locations and employees with varying levels of security access.
We reviewed the best access control systems based on reputation, ease of setup and use, special features, cost, and more. Here are our top five picks.
Best Overall : Kisi
A relative newcomer to the marketplace, Kisi offers simple software and hardware solutions, secure cloud-based management, and robust integrations, making it our choice as the best overall access control system.
Lots of integrations
Not very customizable
No emergency options available
Kisi is an internet of things (IoT) company that built the first prototype of its keyless entry system in 2012. It’s our choice as the best overall due to its easy-to-use app, real-time cloud updates, and extensive third-party software integrations. Kisi gets high reviews from major software review sites with customers pleased at how easy the system is to set up, use, and scale.
Kisi provides businesses with a central controller and door reader hardware with cloud-based remote management features. The software allows users to access sites via their mobile phone, encrypted card, or key fob at door readers. Kisi also offers advanced solutions including restricted elevator access, thermal scanners, 24/7 health monitoring, geofencing, and more.
Kisi also makes it easy for administrators to set custom access permissions, schedule unlocks, grant access remotely, and monitor the entire system using a cloud-based dashboard. As a cloud-based platform, Kisi’s software automatically stays updated across all connected devices. It also integrates with third-party apps, including Google Calendar, Google Workspace (G Suite), CISCO, Mindbody, and more, making it easy to grant access to employees and visitors.
Pricing for Kisi’s door readers, central controllers, and cloud-based software is based on the number of access points and users you have. Third-party research, however, shows the following prices for the company’s hardware devices:
- Kisi Reader Pro: $599
- Kisi Reader Pro Outdoor: $699
- Kisi Controller Pro: $899
Best for Single Users : ISONAS
ISONAS offers a pure IP access control system that works on an existing network with no costly wiring. It’s choice of a cloud-based or local network dashboard and affordable pricing for one- to five-door installations make it the best for single users.
No biometric reader option
Doesn’t pair with fire and alarm systems
Founded in 1999, ISONAS is the first company to bring an IP-to-the-door access control system. Pure IP access control allows ISONAS systems to be used on your existing network connection with a combo reader and controller that eliminates the need to wire each door to both a reader and a system hub. ISONAS also offers hardware that can convert older access control systems into IP systems compatible with its software.
ISONAS’ offers reader-controllers and readers for ID cards, badges, fobs, and PIN-based entry. It’s software also lets users access readers using their mobile credentials or via proximity and integrates with third-party video management, badge printing, and directory systems.
Users can choose two software solutions with their ISONAS hardware. The first is Pure Access Cloud is fully hosted with reader-controllers preconfigured to the cloud. The second is Pure Access Manager, on-premises software that lets you manage your access control system from any device in your network.
Although you need to contact ISONAS directly to get an accurate quote for its hardware and software, we were able to get some pricing information from third-party sites. Our research shows that a Reader-Controller is $817. A one-year, one-to-five-door license for Pure Access Cloud costs $412, while a 251+ door license is priced at $4,120. ISONAS also offers web-based training to help you with setup.
Best for Large Teams : Honeywell
A global provider of security products, Honeywell offers fully integrated and scalable access control systems for unlimited users and guests, making it our choice as the best for large teams.
Supports unlimited cardholders
Uses third-party contractors and installers
No mobile phone access options
Honeywell’s first product was a thermostat when it started business in 1906. Today, the multi-billion-dollar corporation is an international provider of aerospace, building, and performance safety solutions. Its single interface integrates access control, video surveillance, and intrusion protection with unlimited user access, making it our top choice for large teams.
Honeywell’s premier access control system is its WIN-PAK integrated security software. This robust platform combines access control, video surveillance, and intrusion detection through a browser-based interface. WIN-PAK can be scaled from a single site business to multi-regional enterprises with no limits on the number of users. The software also supports third-party integrations, including biometric readers, point-of-sale (POS) systems, visitor management, and HR applications.
Honeywell also offers a variety of control panels, keypads, expansion modules, and sensors for just about any security need. While its door controllers are compatible with major security products in the marketplace, this versatility can decrease the security of Honeywell’s systems.
As you would expect, Honeywell offers security readers that can be accessed with ID cards, key fobs, biometric recognition, and smartphones. Its system also integrates with alarms, fire safety, video surveillance systems, and more.
Honeywell does not sell or support its products directly, relying instead on third-party vendors, contractors, and installers. As a result, you will need to contact a Honeywell sales team to get a quote for products, software, installation, and maintenance.
Best Identity Authentication Access Control : HID Global
HID Global provides physical and digital security access solutions to governments, universities, hospitals, financial institutions, and companies in over 100 countries. We chose it as the best for identity authentication access control due to its sophisticated multi-factor authentication.
Biometric security options
Custom ID cards and badges
No cloud-based option
Requires a local server
HID Global began in 1991 as a division of the Hughes Aircraft Company tasked with creating technology that could identify radio frequencies. It soon moved into developing access control and proximity card readers and currently provides access control systems around the world. It takes our top spot as the best for identity authentication access control due to its multi-factor biometric authentication technology.
Although HID offers standard security badges similar to other providers, it takes security one step further by using the same level of encryption as electronic passports and major credit cards. HID also offers sophisticated access via smartphones and watches as well as applications targeted to specific industries, including education and hospitality.
Most impressive of all is HID’s biometric security features that combine unique physical ID data with a secure card for the ultimate in multi-factor authentication. Without getting too technical, it uses multispectral fingerprint imaging to capture fingerprints on both surface and subsurface levels using multiple wavelengths, angles, and orientations, and can even verify that a fingerprint scan is from living tissue.
One downside is that HID does not offer cloud-based software, requiring a system to be locally hosted on a local server which you must provide. Pricing is also not available without requesting a detailed consultation with a sales rep.
Best for Wireless Access Control : SALTO
SALTO offers businesses the opportunity to meet all of their access needs with a simple access control system that requires no external power or expensive wiring. It’s our choice as the best for wireless access control due to its easy-to-install wireless locks and readers.
Wireless locks and readers
Mobile access app
Many hardware options
No cloud-based options
Software must be upgraded on site
Must use SALTO hardware
SALTO was founded in 2001 to offer businesses easy-to-install, wireless, battery-operated access control systems. Headquartered in Europe, today, SALTO is one of the top manufacturers of access control systems and our choice as the best for wireless access control due to its wide range of wireless hardware.
SALTO offers users wireless, battery-operated electronic locks, card readers, and wall readers that can be used to protect an entire building. Unlike other access control systems that need to be hardwired to a building, SALTO’s proprietary hardware can be installed easily and with little expense.
Despite its simplicity, SALTO offers users the ability to configure access on a granular level through cloud-based software with devices connected through a local server. Users can even dispense with the need for printing keycards and key fobs by allowing access via the SALTO mobile app.
As a European company, SALTO offers locks unique to different countries. Because all of the company’s hardware is wireless, you can’t mix and match locks and other devices from other providers outside of SALTO. As with most access control system providers, you need to contact a sales rep in order to get a quote for a SALTO system.
Access control systems can be one of the most complicated systems a business can invest in or the simplest. For that reason, we choose Kisi as the best overall due to its ease of use, secure cloud-based software, and wide range of third-party integrations.
Because even small businesses can benefit from access control systems, we chose ISONAS as the best for single users due to its flexible installation options, easy setup, and affordable pricing for securing a small number of entrances.
Security industry leader Honeywell comes in as our top pick as the best for large teams due to its fully integrated security system, connectivity to most security devices, and scalability for any number of users. Also impressive is HID Global’s sophisticated multi-factor authentication which combines advanced cryptography with high-tech biometrics, making it the best for identity authentication access control.
Finally, if you’re looking for an easy-to-install system that doesn’t require you to run a mess of new wires through your building, SALTO tops our list as the best for wireless access control with its selection of battery-operated, wireless locks and wall readers.
|Software||Category||Why We Picked It|
|Kisi||Best Overall||Easy to use, with cloud-based software and third-party integrations|
|ISONAS||Best for Single Users||Easy setup and budget pricing for one to five doors|
|Honeywell||Best for Large Teams||Fully integrated security system with unlimited users|
|HID Global||Best Identity Authentication Access Control||Multi-factor biometric authentication and custom IDs|
|SALTO||Best for Wireless Access Control||Wide range of wireless digital access control device|
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What Is an Access Control System and How Does It Work?
At its most basic, an access control system secures doors with electronic locks that can be opened with special access codes or devices like key cards, key fobs, or even a smartphone.
Each system uses electronic door locks which can only be accessed with a key card reader or keypad. These readers are then connected to a central control hub which in turn is linked to access software that can be used to monitor and control the whole system. Access control systems are typically either hardwired into a dedicated network or connected to an existing network.
What Are the Three Types of Access Control Systems?
Access control systems can be broken down into discretionary, mandatory, and role-based access control.
The least restrictive, discretionary access control (DAC), allows administrators to customize access based on need. It typically grants access permissions based on set lists and directories with administrators being able to pass access controls to other users.
On the other end of the spectrum is the mandatory access control (MAC) system. This restricts the ability of administrators to grant access permissions based on parameters defined by the software or its owner. In this model, users are granted access based on their specific classification level and will have to create a new profile if their access needs change.
Perhaps the most widely used control system, role-based access control (RBAC), grants pre-defined access permissions based on a user’s position or role in an organization. While this is the easiest type of access to set up, it’s also the least flexible as administrators typically can’t grant users access beyond their role.
What Does Access Control Cost?
Because of the differing needs of each business as well as the variety of available devices, the price of an access control system can vary widely.
In our research, the lowest price for the software for a small system that controls five or fewer doors came in at just over $400 per year, while enterprise solutions can range into an annual cost of thousands of dollars. The cost of door readers can range from $600 to $800 per device.
Other costs to consider are consultation, installation, software and hardware upgrades, and maintenance, which can vary by provider.
Can Access Control Systems Save Your Business Money?
Businesses that have sensitive or secure areas with restricted access can save money on more elaborate security protocols with a simple access control system. Think manufacturers that need to secure areas with dangerous machinery that only qualified specialists can use or medical facilities that need to protect patient records.
Similarly, investing in an access control system can potentially save businesses money in litigation or fines that other businesses might suffer by exposing sensitive customer records to unauthorized employees or from visitors being injured by wandering into dangerous areas.
How We Chose the Best Access Control Systems
We looked at over a dozen access control system providers for this review. We started with companies that had a long history or deep expertise in electronic security. Next, we focused on providers with systems that were easy to set up and use, thus providing flexibility and accessibility to a wide range of users.
While pricing was a consideration, we also looked at providers that offered specific solutions or support for specific industries or scales of business. As a result, some of these providers might be more expensive but offer the best solution for the job.