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.

Training

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. Look out for part 3 next month! 


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