Key-based access systems for teachers and staff are going high-tech. However, purchasing the most sophisticated systems may not be necessary. The most important factors to consider when evaluating a system are whether it…

  • accurately keeps track of who has keys;
  • updates those records quickly;
  • provides an easy method of changing locks when necessary; and
  • makes duplication of keys fairly difficult.

Here are the pros and cons of various key-and-lock systems available today:

  • Traditional keys without computerized databases. This is the least costly option, but it provides minimal security. Keys are easy to duplicate, and it is impossible to monitor unauthorized duplication of keys. A professional locksmith is needed to change locks if duplication occurs.
  • Traditional keys that are supported by customized, computerized database systems. This option assigns serial numbers to each key, and the recipient of each key is recorded in a computer database to aid in the electronic tracking of users. The system can be “re-keyed” without the assistance of an outside locksmith in minutes for ease of maintenance.
  • Keys with computer chips. This type of system enables more sophisticated tracking of who is entering each door at any time, but it is much more costly to install and maintain. The database to track key holders is also fairly complicated to build and maintain.
  • Smart cards. This is another promising new technology, but it’s also expensive. Smart cards allow users to carry one card that works for a number of applications, from door access to identification to tracking of purchases. They may provide a level of security not necessary for schools.