Modernize Physical Access Control
to Close Data Center Cybersecurity Gaps

By: David Ellis

Over the past few years many businesses, government organizations, and schools have made a massive shift to cloud services. According to Gartner, by 2025, 85% of infrastructure strategies will integrate on-premises, colocation, cloud, and edge delivery options, compared with 20% in 2020. The data center industry is therefore anticipating and preparing for an unprecedented growth of operations and facilities.

As demand for cloud services soars, regulations evolve, and cyber threats increase, data center professionals have a complicated new reality to navigate. Their task is to balance operational efficiency with both regulatory compliance and data security requirements.

Notwithstanding the growing demand for cyber- and physical security measures, many data centers are still using dated access control systems. Systems that date back a decade or more can be especially susceptible to cyber threats. Moreover, assigning and tracking temporary access rights manually is both time-consuming and prone to errors.

Access control technology has advanced significantly. Modernizing access control systems enables automated approaches for managing access rights along with providing stronger cybersecurity protocols. You can streamline the flow of employees and contractors moving in and out of your data center while also ensuring top cyber- and physical security measures are in place.

Open architecture systems lay the foundation for scalability

The pace of technological change has accelerated dramatically. Thirty years ago, new analog technologies entered the market every three to five years. In today’s digital world, new options are available more frequently, sometimes every six to 18 months. The decision many companies face is when to adopt these new technologies and when to wait.

This pace of change can be challenging. Many organizations decide to stick with the technologies they know and which seem to work “well enough” rather than rock the boat. Others are reluctant to adopt new technologies simply because they don’t want to miss out on the next big and better thing to hit the market.

But it is a manageable dilemma. A good first step is to transition away from proprietary technology and select an open architecture system. Open systems allow for the integration of technologies from different manufacturers and the addition of technology as it evolves and becomes available. An organization can select options that best meet its current needs and implement select new solutions over time. 

Open systems also allow for hardware to be upgraded gradually. Entire systems do not have to be replaced every time something new is available on the market. For example, if your team isn’t fully confident in adopting a new access control system, you can test and implement it gradually. This may include starting with select doors or certain floors or buildings. You can add on to the system once you’ve worked out any challenges or obstacles.

A significant change in access control is the evolution away from low-frequency proximity (prox) cards as a credential. Prox cards are easily compromised or cloned, so the market is moving towards new security solutions. If your strategy still involves a hard credential, then moving to higher frequency cards, Bluetooth-capable readers, and encrypted control boards is key. The risk of dated hardware and software solutions in conjunction with bad actors equals the potential for large amounts of lost revenue.

But re-issuing credentials can be easier said than done. The implementation of high frequency and Bluetooth-capable readers allows for the use of mobile credentials. With cardless credentials such as these, access can be issued, changed, or revoked virtually.

Biometric credential systems are taking great leaps forward in security, from simple finger, retina, or palm scans to geometric facial-matching systems using video analytics. For security directors, it may be difficult to decide which biometric credential system to implement. A best practice is to pilot the new technology in specific places. Once tested, the new technology can be integrated with your current system if you decide it’s a good fit for your entire data center.

Cybersecurity risks to data centers from legacy access control systems

Access control systems are expensive to replace and can have complex operational impacts when a change is necessary. Security teams are understandably hesitant to adopt new technologies. This hesitancy to upgrade can, however, result in significant


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