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We write articles mainly about visitor management, which helps you to know who is (or has been) in your facility. It is just part of an organization’s physical security processes that protect people and property within and around a building or campus.

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7 questions companies should ask before purchasing a visitor management system

by Paul Kazlauskas

questions companies should ask before purchasing a visitor management system

Protecting the security of your employees, equipment, and business secrets requires an understanding of many variables and having the right tools at your disposal. One such tool is a visitor management system (VMS) for documenting and tracking the visitors that come to your building.

Visitor management is about controlling access and knowing who is in the building at any given time. A VMS is an excellent purchase to help with the security of a facility. Before purchasing a VMS, a security manager should ask the following questions of any vendor they are considering.

1) What is the cost to initially purchase – and what is the 3-year cost of ownership?
Visitor management systems have obvious initial costs that include the software, equipment (such as cameras, scanners, and printers), and badges that visitors will wear while on company property. It is important to realize that some components to a VMS have recurring fees and expenses that may not be so obvious. For example, some software licenses have annual fees after the first year. Equipment, such as driver’s license readers, could come with yearly fees as well. How many visitors do you see on a daily/monthly/yearly basis? You’ll need enough visitor badges to hand out, whether they’re reusable or disposable.

2) Can I select individual features or do I have to buy the whole package?
Many security vendors offer “one-stop shopping”, where you can get all your software, system components, and visitor badges in one purchased “bundle.” That convenience is efficient for your time, but if you don’t need all the features a visitor management system offers, is it efficient from a cost perspective? It may be better to pick a vendor that allows you to choose only the features you plan on using, while allowing the flexibility to upgrade should the need arise in the future.

3) How is the data in the visitor management system protected?
Protecting the privacy of visitors is critical. In many instances, they hand you their driver’s license to be scanned and their personal data is now in your company’s hands. Visitor management systems store the visitor information either on local drives or remotely. That data should be encrypted with password-protected systems. Your company is liable for the security of the data you collect.

4) How much support is needed to keep the system working?
Does a receptionist or security person need to run the visitor management system for it to work efficiently for your visitors? Dedicating a staff member to its use, even if it’s only a part of their responsibilities, is an important consideration because that person could be accomplishing something else with their time. In addition, how reliable is the visitor management system itself? If the software goes down, which employee is going to contact the vendor’s support team when things aren’t working properly?

5) Will the VMS-required equipment work with my office’s systems?
This could mean the difference of thousands of dollars. If the new visitor management system equipment does work with your office’s existing systems, there shouldn’t be any additional costs for infrastructure upgrades. However, if your existing systems need to be upgraded to work with the new VMS equipment (for example, it may be proprietary), the company will have a much larger security investment to make than in the first scenario. Search your options to see if commodity equipment can be purchased from a third party to keep costs down.

6) What kinds of reports/stats are available and what can they tell me?
A major reason why a computerized visitor management system is an upgrade over manual sign-in books is the ability to analyze visitor data digitally. There is complete data on every visitor that has ever been to a facility, and that data can be mined to identify trends. Most visitor management systems can generate custom reports that can be shared with security personnel very easily. Besides the obvious security reasons for knowing who is in the building at any given time, there are other non-security benefits for the visitor data. For example, visitor reports can verify arrival and departure times of contractors to ensure they have been on the job as invoiced.

7) How can the visitor management system improve my company’s bottom line?
In addition to confirming contractor hours, a visitor management system can lower operating costs by eliminating unnecessary staff. Many visitor management systems are built to be self-serving, similar to check-in kiosks at airports. With the right signage and directions, there may not be a need to have a receptionist (though you may want a staff member on hand to assist visitors and to activate time-expiring badges, if you choose to use them).

Finally, a visitor management system helps your employees be more efficient because they stop visitor interruptions from hurting office productivity. Research has shown that it takes about 25 minutes to get back into a task after being interrupted, which means that a once-a-day interruption of even five minutes translates into about 2.5 hours of lost productivity each week.

What other questions should companies ask themselves before purchasing a certain visitor management system? Please join the conversation by adding your thoughts in the “Comments” section below.

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Posted on 7/5/2018

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