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How to choose a visitor management system

ImageA Visitor Management System is a completely automated software and hardware system that manages all on-premise activities for staff, visitors and contractors. With the events in the last decade, now even schools are big prospects and there are others, such as; governments, military, police/fire, companies that have government contracts, high tech, power generation, health care facilities, casinos, banks/financial, retail, oil and gas, pharmaceutical, chemical processing and any company that has ever experienced industrial espionage.

March 4, 2009  By Bruce Gibson

Vulnerable and liable
world has changed. Workplace violence, industrial espionage and global
terrorism threaten the security of personnel and property. When
facility entrances aren’t secure, companies are vulnerable — and
liable. A visitor management system that comprises software tools and
ID validation, combined with physical barriers and a well-designed
lobby, can keep the wrong people out and let the right people in,
quickly and efficiently.

Where to begin
lobby is the single-most important security point in any building or
facility where protection of personnel and property is paramount. A
complete lobby system must be in place that supports security
physically, electronically and procedurally. Visitor management systems
are an integral element of the total system and must be capable of:

  • Accurately
    and quickly capturing pertinent visitors’ personal ID information 
    everything from contact information to (optional) photos
  • Authenticating their ID or credentials.
  • Performing discrete security checks using watch lists.
  • Creating
    one-time-use visitor badges that feature the visitor’s name,
    affiliation, host name and authorized areas of access, as well as the
    badge’s expiration time.
  • Allowing employees to register
    visitors online ahead of time — and be notified electronically or by
    phone when a visitor arrives.
  • Look for the specs
    minimum computer compatibility should work for small companies as well
    as large ones, so these specs are commonly available in most operations
    — Microsoft Windows, 2000/XP Server, 2003/Vista, Pentium III or faster,
    256 MB RAM, 32 MB free hard disk space.

    Look for a system that
    works with all Windows compatible barcode and Prox Card scanners
    including keyboard wedge scanners, USB Scanners and RFIDeas USB Prox
    card readers.


    Ensure that the system makes entering new
    cardholder data quick and easy by integrating support for CSSN Card
    Scanners. Simply scan a driver’s license or passport and data will be
    automatically entered into the appropriate database fields. You need to
    be able to add images, such as: Bitmap (BMP), Photoshop (PSD), TIFF,
    GIF, PNG, JPEG, WMF and PPM.

    Next, make sure it has the
    languages you require, as you may need more than one language per
    location and several others around the world. Also, it should support
    all of the popular databases, so you can connect and manage your
    existing database or create a new one to meet your needs, e.g.
    Microsoft SQL Server, Microsoft Access, Microsoft Excel, Microsoft
    FoxPro, Photo database and other stand alone databases.

    want to be able to add and maintain photos or scanned images for your
    card or label. You should acquire the images from your camera, scanner
    or any TWAIN/WIA compatible device and insert them directly to your
    card or label, save them to your database, or export them as graphic

    There are many different types of barcode formats and each has its own set of advantages.

    system should automatically identify returning visitors, such as
    contractors and consultants, expected visitors and visitors on a watch
    list. In addition, it can also automatically notify the host employee
    of a visitor’s arrival. Ideally, for employee entrances and remote
    entries, you can also look for specs that allow you to register
    visitors through a remote self-serve kiosk. For many companies, it’s
    important to integrate with Microsoft Outlook Calendar or Lotus Notes
    for automated visitor pre-registration. Lastly, you need to easily and
    quickly generate detailed reports of visitor traffic by employee,
    department or building. This will be very practical if there is an
    emergency and you want to know where everyone is.

    Logbooks vs. digital
    digital system provides an audit trail that’s easy to create and
    access. When facilities rely on logbooks, reusable visitor badges and
    security guards to manage incoming visitors, security breaches can
    occur more readily than with automated systems:

  • Information written in the logbook can be illegible — or false. Competitors, hackers and suppliers can read your logbook and gain confidential information about your business.
  • Visitors can neglect to sign out and return their badges;
    unauthorized visitors can use unreturned badges to infiltrate your
    facility and gain access to employees, restricted areas, equipment,
    compounds or proprietary data.
  • A digital system is a more secure way for a lobby guard to authorize a visit and can significantly heighten facility security.
  • Bruce Gibson is President of Express Entry Exit Inc.

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