[IMGCAP(1)]I recently discussed the value of surveillance and, according to a comment on that post, I hit a nerve. While the commenter misinterpreted the column, his concern for the possible violation of staff privacy was something I totally agree on. Positioning of surveillance cameras needs to be done very carefully as to not intrude on anyone’s privacy or give a staff member the feeling that “Big Brother,” i.e. you, is watching.

In reading that comment, however, it occurred to me that there are alternatives to watching, though placing cameras to keep an eye on public spaces like parking lots and the like is still a good idea in some cases. A realistic alternative, however, is to beef up your office’s physical security. In plain language—get better locks and use them.

In today’s world of data hacking, it’s easy to forget that electronic intrusion isn’t the only way that someone can get at your business and your and your clients’ information. One problem with locking doors is that there is a tradeoff between restricting access for people you don’t want to give unsupervised access and those, like staff, that you do.

One approach I’ve found works well in many circumstances is electronic door locks. You’ve probably seen or used the more expensive ones that use an RFID card or badge. You swipe the card against a reader and, with a clunk, the door unlocks. For many firms, these will be prohibitively expensive. But technology has advanced in this area as well.

Mechanical pushbutton door locks have been around for decades. In the last year or so, with the leap in smarthome technology, electronic door locks—which replace existing deadbolt locks—have become widely available, affordable, and relatively easy to install. I use the word “relatively” because the ones I’ve actually tested replace an existing deadbolt lock—the kind where the interior side of the lock has a knob of some sort that you twist to lock or unlock the device.

The ones I actually have in place on my front and back doors are from Schlage’s Connect line. These have 10-key touch buttons and connect to a home hub via Z-Wave protocol. We also have the hub subscribed to a service called Nexia, which provides control over the locks and other Z-Wave compatible “smart” devices in the house such as the thermostats and dimmable LED lights. All of these can be controlled using a smartphone or tablet and use encryption to secure the home against unauthorized access.

What’s nice about the system is that you can program multiple passwords into a lock, or assign a temporary password. Our Schlage locks transmit a text to our smartphones letting us know when a door has been locked or unlocked, and the locks can be operated remotely in the event someone without a smartphone and an authorized password shows up and needs to be let in when no one is home.

Schlage is far from the only vendor of smart door locks. Kwikset, another popular lock brand, has a Bluetooth-enabled deadbolt called Kevo, which I haven’t tested. And Ok-i-dokeys is another smart lock that replaces a deadbolt. This one can operate using a smartphone or, optionally, provides an RFID reader which will allow the lock to operate using a pass card or key fob.

Priced in the $200 range, none of these smart locks are prohibitively expensive. A Nexia account will set you back $10 a month, and lets you control all of the Nexia compatible devices in your office, including video cameras if you want to use them.

Physical security has to be part of your overall security plan along with electronic data security. And access control should play a part in the physical side of security in your practice. Electronic “smart” door locks aren’t a necessity by any means. And recent hacking events have shown that no security plan is foolproof. But investing in good locks—smart or not—is always wise. Any security expert will tell you that you can’t make your practice invulnerable. The ideal with any security system or plan is to make it as difficult as possible for intruders to access your premises or confidential data, while at the same time, not placing an unreasonable burden on you and your staff.

Using data security such as dual-factor authentication where you can is one easy to implement approach. So is maintaining good perimeter and interior physical security. The one area I haven’t covered, but will in a future post, is intrusion and fire warning systems. 

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