Licensing may not be as exciting as a game of high-stakes poker, but how you play your security and access control licensing cards can significantly affect the bottom line. For a growing business, it is crucial to fully understand the costs associated with procuring supplemental equipment needed for expansion, including hardware upgrades or additions, and after-sale support.

Often, costs associated with expanding or upgrading systems are undisclosed when the initial sale occurs, and customers simply absorb the hit to their company’s budget over the long-term as the dealer provides expansion and maintenance for previously-deployed systems. On top of that, expanding a system requires that the dealer either maintain inventory of the needed hardware or delay the job and wait for products or license keys to be delivered. Fortunately, innovative licensing solutions are emerging that provide a stronger supply chain value proposition and an easy path to expansion and upgrades.

When expanding or upgrading systems, all customers are susceptible to a wide range of license fees (in addition to any labor and hardware costs) which can significantly increase the amount you are paying for the enhancements or technology upgrades your company wants and needs. Hidden costs can come from cloud service fees, client or database license fees, hardware license fees, or any combination of these. This means any time you want to expand the number of access points, deploy video integration or maybe upgrade your system with elevator access control, it could cost you on multiple levels. So what affects licensing, and what should you look for in terms of licensing structure?

The first area to consider is the underlying system’s architecture. An embedded network appliance frequently offers advantages over a Windows- or PC-based system for a number of reasons. For one, PC-based systems require a dedicated management workstation, whereas embedded, browser-based systems can be managed from any networked computer or Internet-connected device. Plus, embedded systems are considerably less susceptible to viruses, malware, hacking and software updates, all of which can cause security systems to crash or need to be taken offline periodically. Additionally, an embedded system with an open API is even more retrofit friendly because it allows existing network and security infrastructure to be integrated without the need to replace an entire system all at once.

Expansion of embedded systems tends to be less complicated as well. Many will let you go from four to 32 or more doors just by purchasing and entering in a software license key, no hardware replacement needed. From a licensing perspective, this means less hardware to buy and instant deployment and use. All of this typically leads to lower overall cost, easier installations and better scalability options as your business grows.  

Compliance is another important area to consider when looking at security and licensing. It’s easier and more cost-effective to meet mandatory compliance or regulatory requirements by updating via a licensing system, than it is to replace non-compliant hardware. Look for future-ready solutions with a simple path to expansion and upgrades, solutions that won’t require replacing the hardware simply to meet the compliance needs of the near future. You should be able to gradually add video integration, additional doors and more, just by entering in a simple licensing key code to the system.

Remote management for security and access control systems is more desirable than ever, so if this is an important feature for your organization, it’s essential to make sure remote management is either included right out of the box, available as a software license key upgrade, or can be implemented through extra hardware and additional licensing. Some of the things you may be able to manage remotely include: elevator control, anti-passback settings, threat level status, partitioning, custom reports, administrative audit trails, and an array of video, viewing and other features, immediately, from any Internet-connected device. Each individual function listed above could possibly be saddled with a supplemental license fee, so be aware of what’s included and what’s considered an add-on that you’ll have to pay for down the road.

If you’re working with a security integrator, make sure to ask them to explain how their systems are licensed and what cost impact upgrading or expanding a security and access system will have to your business. Can the equipment for the systems you propose be modified via software to suit a particular need? Or does every piece of equipment have its own unique license key and purpose? The advantage here is that a product carrying a multi-function license allows integrators make any upgrade requested nearly instantaneously even if they only have one licensed product in their possession. When you’re dealing with a “License-to-go” type system, everything on the supply chain management side gets easier. 

Licensing can be a complex topic to understand, but it should absolutely be a major consideration when making enterprise level security decisions. While it may not have a major effect on the physical security of a building; when it comes to total-cost-of-ownership, compliancy, inventory management and system expansion; licensing and flexibility of equipment can be one of the most influential factors.  So ask the tough questions to find a license scheme and system that works best for your business.