Hidden Access Cost: The Database

By: Brian Rhodes, Published on Mar 04, 2013

All decisions have a price, but some cost more than others. Choosing which type of database for your access control system can impact cost greatly, but many do not understand the full impact of their choice. In this note, we examine database selection, and how a fundamental up front decision can impact the system for years afterward.

Which Version?

Most access control systems are available in at least two versions:

  • Cheap: An option using a free or inexpensive database format (SQL Server Express, Microsoft Access, or DB2)
  • Costly: An options (typical offered as 'Enterprise' or "Multi-site') that integrates with a full-burdened instance of SQL.

Pricing between versions can vary by thousands of dollars, but understanding which type is best is more than just a question of cost. In the section below, we review the key considerations that must be weighed

  • Number of Cardholders: The cheaper options often have an upper limit to the number of cardholders they can contain. While this threshold may not be a constraint for small or medium sized systems, it may not be sufficient for multi-site distributed systems.
  • Integration With Other Systems: Because the card holder information often covers every member in an organization, the data is valuable to other applications. A variety of human resources or payroll platforms may need in integrate with the database, but the cheapest database may be proprietary and not allow for outside integration.
  • Dependencies: In other cases, a particular version may require additional database servers or software for use. The less expensive options typically can be installed and configured on a single workstation, but a full version of SQL is very seldom installed as a stand-alone machine. In addition, the maintenance and configuration burden of more complex databases could be markedly different than low-cost offerings.
  • Management Features: Less expensive options do not often include advanced features like backup utilities, failover management, report writers, or corruption recovery utilities.

Deciding which option is best also requires a full look at computing environment behind the access control system. Even when the need for more powerful features requires advanced database options, the end-user must understand additional skill sets needed to keep the system operational.

Using Full SQL

The largest 'hidden cost' of many access systems comes from requiring a full SQL database version, designated as Standard version or higher [link no longer available]. In all, expect an additional $4000 to $8000 even before considering the cost of labor to administrate and maintain it.

Typically, unless a user already employs an IT staff including a System Administrator, the decision to use Standard SQL can be expensive. The skills required to manipulate data tables and maintain the database are beyond casual users. Incorporating a full version of a SQL database solely for the use of the access control system is not common, and the additional labor costs of using SQL can venture into tens of thousands of dollars per year.

Free Options

The 'cheaper' options are built using standalone examples of MySQLSQL Express, Microsoft Access, DB2, or custom proprietary databases. While advanced features are limited and data stability is susceptible to individual implementations, these platforms are developed with the 'casual' user in mind.

Basic Reporting Only

One of the biggest gaps between the two options comes in the flexibility of developing custom reports. When a free or proprietary database is used, the selection of reports referencing the data is limited to a stock group. When full SQL is used, a report writing program like Crystal Reports or SQL Reporting Services Report Builder can be leveraged to develop non-standard queries.

Practical Examples

The examples below do not consider the cost of the extra server and software licensing for full versions of SQL if needed:

  • DSX [link no longer available]: Two versions of software are available, the Access-based WinDSX or WinDSX SQL version. Pricing differs between the two options by ~$1000 USD.
  • Lenel: OnGuard can be configured either as a standalone "SQL Express" version, or as part of a "SQL Standard" install. While pricing is the same for the base software, the upgrade process from Express to Standard is involved and  will require an experienced database administrator to successfully configure.
  • KeyScan: System VII offers two options , a free SQL Express version and an upgrade to Standard SQL. The cost between the two options is ~$1500, with the SQL version offering twice the card holder capacity of the free version.

1 report cite this report:

Access Control Server Guide on Sep 09, 2014
Electronic access control systems need to be managed. The 'server' though can range across: Panel based / 'serverless' systems Combo...
Comments : PRO Members only. Login. or Join.

Related Reports on Access Control

HID Fingerprint Reader Tested on Oct 09, 2019
HID has released their first access reader to use Lumidigm optical sensors, that touts it 'works with anyone, anytime, anywhere'. We bought and...
Fail Safe vs. Fail Secure Tutorial on Oct 02, 2019
Few terms carry greater importance in access control than 'fail safe' and 'fail secure'. Access control professionals must know how these...
Access Control Mustering Guide on Sep 30, 2019
In emergencies, determining where employees are located can be critical for knowing whether they are in danger. Access systems can be used for...
Access Control Course Fall 2019 - Save $50 Last Chance on Sep 30, 2019
Register Now - Fall 2019 Access Control Course. Save $50 through October 10th. Thursday, October 17th is the last day to register. IPVM offers...
Access Control Mantraps Guide on Sep 26, 2019
One of access's primary goals is keeping people out of places they should not be, but slipping through open doors (ie: Tailgating) is often...
Access Control Time & Attendance Guide on Sep 24, 2019
Access control systems can do more than lock doors. With little or no extra equipment, they can be used to track labor hours for employees...
Open Access Controller Guide (Axis, HID, Isonas, Mercury) on Sep 19, 2019
In the access control market, there are many software platforms, but only a few companies that make non-proprietary door controllers. Recently,...
Directory of 69 Video Surveillance Startups on Sep 18, 2019
This directory provides a list of video surveillance startups to help you see and research what companies are new or not yet broadly known. 2019...
Fingerprints for Access Control Guide on Sep 09, 2019
Users can lose badges, but they never misplace a finger, right? The most common biometric used in access are fingerprints, and it has become one...
Assa Acquires LifeSafety Power on Sep 04, 2019
Assa Abloy is acquiring LifeSafety Power, adding to their growing collection of access control brands like Mercury, August, Pioneer Doors, and...

Most Recent Industry Reports

Axis HD Analog Encoder Tested on Oct 11, 2019
Two years after declaring "Everything is IP", Axis has released their first HD analog encoder, the P7304, with support for AHD, CVI, TVI, and SD...
Dahua Celebrates PRC 70th Wearing Communist Party Hammer and Sickle on Oct 11, 2019
Dahua celebrated the PRC's 70th anniversary with a video of various Dahua employees wearing China Communist Party hammer and sickle pins as shown...
Last Chance - Register Now - October 2019 IP Networking Course on Oct 10, 2019
Last Chance - Register Now - Fall 2019 IP Networking Course. The course starts next week. This is the only networking course designed...
Network Optix NxWitness 4.0 Tested on Oct 10, 2019
Network Optix released Nx Witness 4.0, proclaiming new features like a deep learning analytics metadata SDK, increased H.265 support, and UX...
HID Fingerprint Reader Tested on Oct 09, 2019
HID has released their first access reader to use Lumidigm optical sensors, that touts it 'works with anyone, anytime, anywhere'. We bought and...
ONVIF Suspends Dahua and Hikvision on Oct 09, 2019
Dahua and Hikvision have been 'suspended', and effectively expelled, from ONVIF, immediately following US sanctions being placed on the 2 mega...
Hikvision And Dahua Sanctioned For Human Rights Abuses on Oct 07, 2019
In a groundbreaking move that will have drastic consequences across the video surveillance market, Dahua and Hikvision have been sanctioned by the...
Avigilon H5A Analytic Cameras Tested on Oct 07, 2019
Avigilon has released its H5A analytic cameras, claiming to "detect more objects with greater accuracy even in crowded scenes." We tested the...
Crisis At China's Largest VMS Provider, Netposa, Now State-Controlled on Oct 07, 2019
NetPosa, which bills itself as the PRC's largest VMS provider, is in a crisis. The firm is pursuing huge unpaid bills from clients, and its...
Knightscope Sells Just 1 Net New Robot In 6 Months on Oct 04, 2019
For the first half of 2019, US government records show that Knightscope has sold just 1 net new robots ('machines-in-network'), inching up from 52...