Thursday, July 25, 2013

Electronic Key Management Systems: Common Misconceptions — Part 2

Man looking at difficult equation on chalkboardWhen it comes to key control, security is, of course, a top priority. Unfortunately, people often rule out electronic key management systems because they believe they are too complicated. They compromise safety for simplicity and use alternative methods of key control such as pegboards and lockboxes.

We debunked the theory that transactions on electronic key systems take too long in part 1 of this series, and now it's time to dig deeper into the difficulty of key systems.

Are they really as complicated as they seem?

Misconception #2: They're Too Complicated

Pegboards and lockboxes are appealing due to their seeming convenience and simplicity. Simply mount the pegboard on the wall, hang the keys on it, create a log sheet, and you’re done. Electronic key management systems, on the other hand, require installation, software setup and employee training.

Overall Ease of Use

There's more to a pegboard system than simply hanging a key on a peg. The keys must be tracked somehow, which means that someone has to be responsible for updating a log and hunting down any missing keys. Not only does this process require a lot of manual upkeep, but it's also vulnerable to human error. What if someone forgets to update the log? Or what if someone signs the log saying they've returned a key but actually forgets to put the key back?

What seemed like simple key management protocol in theory has just become a logistical nightmare.

Automated systems, on the other hand, track the status of keys without having to manually enter transaction data into a log. Employees can log on by scanning their fingerprint, entering a password or scanning a proximity card, and then remove the key they need (assuming they have the appropriate authorization). Because the transaction data is recorded by software, the accuracy of the data is not left at the mercy of one person’s attention to detail or ability to keep up with the log.

If someone does forget to return a key, the overdue key will be logged. Some electronic key management systems will notify the system administrator via text or email that the key has not been returned. With non-computerized systems, missing keys can go unnoticed for days, weeks or even months, but automated key control systems allow you to identify the person responsible for a missing key right away.


Still, some might object that training employees and learning how to use an electronic key control system is too time-consuming when compared to other methods of key control. After all, there’s virtually no learning curve involved in using pegboards and lockboxes. It’s not difficult to locate and remove a key from a pegboard or lockbox, so employees can easily retrieve the keys they need access to.

We'll be honest: As with any software, electronic key management systems do require training. However, once you've determined your key control goals and know what you want the system to accomplish, the right vendor will train you and your employees how to use the software and work with you to make sure the system is meeting your goals. Plus, once you've invested time in the initial training, the system reduces the risk of stolen or lost keys and saves you time and effort.

So far we've made our argument in favor of how electronic key systems are efficient at gathering transaction data as well as easy to use. But how susceptible are automated key management systems to data loss? In the event of a power failure, for example, would the system retain transaction data? We’ve got an answer for that too. Check out part 3 of this series

Monday, July 15, 2013

What to Look for in a Key Management Vendor

Purchasing a key management system is a major investment, whether your business is an automotive dealership, multifamily property, commercial firm or a government office. As with any major purchasing decision you must evaluate the company you’ll be partnering with in addition to the product itself. Below are five key questions you should ask potential vendors before settling on a key control system.

Does the Vendor Have Local Representation?

KeyTrak Field Manager Aaron Burton
Aaron Burton
Field Manager
In this day and age you don't necessarily have to meet with a company representative in person to purchase a key management system. However, there are benefits to meeting one-on-one with a vendor.

 Meeting with a company employee allows you to not only get firsthand experience with the system but a sense of what the company stands for.

If a vendor has local representation, your interaction with the company doesn't have to end after you purchase a system. Aaron Burton, one of our KeyTrak field managers, explained how he assists local clients.

“Being able to go out and help our clients with additional training beyond my usual sales calls makes a huge difference in what KeyTrak has to offer. Recently, one of our automotive customers needed his newly hired employees trained on the KeyTrak system,” he said. “I was able to go out to that dealership the next day and perform the additional training."

What Type of Support Does the Vendor Offer and How Often Is It Available?

KeyTrak Support Representative Lindsay Stewart
Lindsay Stewart
Support Representative
Your business may only operate Monday through Friday between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., but that doesn't mean that you won't need support after hours. 

“I receive calls from customers all the time who need help with little things,” said KeyTrak Support Representative Lindsay Stewart. “Being able to reach a live person who can answer their questions in the middle of the day on a weekend is a huge benefit.”


Will the Vendor Install the System?

KeyTrak Hardware Installation Coordinator Rob Shockey
Rob Shockey
Hardware Installation Coordinator
Before purchasing a key control system ask potential key control vendors if they offer installation services. This is especially important if you’re implementing the system in several locations and need consistent configurations, as do several KeyTrak clients.

“I recently installed 54 KeyTrak Guardian systems for a government customer, who had more than 50 points of contact across the U.S.,” said KeyTrak Hardware Installation Coordinator Rob Shockey. “They had unique requirements, and our product and our service team were capable of not only meeting their needs but exceeding their expectations.”


Will the Vendor Leave It up to You to Learn the System?

It's important to ask the vendor not only if system training will be provided but how the training with be administered.   

After installing a new system for the client mentioned above, Shockey said that “with the customer’s help and the help of our support groups here at KeyTrak, I was able to customize a huge portion of their training expectation and strategies to ensure they were able to use the key systems in such a way that reports, settings and usage became uniform amongst all 50-plus systems.”

Burton also takes advantage of his proximity to his clients by making sure that they use the system to its full potential. While performing training at a client site, Burton said, “I showed them some features they had not seen before, and they were able to use the system even more efficiently through our in-house software integrations.”

Does the Vendor Outsource Services?

KeyTrak Vice President of Sales Richard Battle
Richard Battle
Vice President of Sales
Not all vendors personally provide service after the sale. Sometimes installation, training and even system support are outsourced.

KeyTrak Vice President of Sales Richard Battle described what it means to be a single-source key control system provider: “Every person is a company employee, including the associates in our hardware and software design, sales, installation, training and service departments. Our customers only have one number to call for whatever they need.”

Working with only one company to meet all your system needs is generally easier because you don't have to work through third-party providers. It's reassuring to know that the same company that designed your system will be available to answer any questions or issues you have down the line.

For more tips on what to look for in an electronic key control vendor, check out our guide to selecting a key control system.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Tiffany & Co. Jewel Thief: Why Employee Accountability Is Essential

Female burglar holding diamond bracelet
former Tiffany & Co. executive was recently arrested for stealing and reselling a stash of jewelry for a total of over $1 million and is now facing up to 20 years in prison.

Because the former exec had authorization to check out jewelry, she had no difficulty obtaining the pieces. To avoid suspicion, she would only steal jewelry pieces that cost less than $10,000, knowing that Tiffany only took daily inventory of checked-out items worth more than $25,000. In four months, she stole over 160 pieces of jewelry and illegally sold them to an international dealer, receiving 75 checks for amounts up to $47,400.

Without a doubt, Tiffany takes measures to secure its jewelry against unauthorized removal, but the tale of the exec-turned-jewel-thief seems to indicate that employees are only held accountable up to a certain point (i.e., if they check out jewelry worth more than $25,000).

This story illustrates an important security lesson: When it comes to securing expensive items such as jewelry, it's vital to keep a verifiable record of each time an employee removes a key to check out these items, making it possible to hold employees accountable and maintain tighter security.