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Accurately accounting for visitors is an important part of any physical access control system. Knowing who visited your facility and when is not only important for building security; it’s increasingly an important part of regulatory requirements for organizations of various types, and it can be incredibly valuable in the event of emergencies. An effective visitor management system can also enhance the experience of business partners, clients, job candidates and other guests.

What is Visitor Management?

In the simplest sense, visitor management systems collect and track information about visitors’ access and usage of facilities. Visitors management systems are typically an integrated part of an organization’s comprehensive physical access control program—monitoring and managing individuals’ access to spaces within a facility.

Types of Visitor Management Systems

In practice, a visitor management system can take many forms.

Analog Visitor Management Systems

A front-desk sign-in binder, or a similar type of pen-and-paper visitor management system, is the most familiar and traditional approach. This analog approach to visitor management may still be sufficient for some organizations. But analog visitor management is riddled with problems: It’s slow and inconvenience for visitors; it’s labor-intensive and prone to human error; there is a high risk of fraud; and it is difficult to get real-time visibility or rapidly investigate in the event of a security issue, emergency, or compliance audit. Moreover, with more and more organizations across all segments adopting more sophisticated security protocols — including background checks, employee escorts, legal documents, etc. — a visitor management system that isn’t integrated with your physical access control system is insufficient.

Digital Visitor Management Systems

Advanced, digital visitor management systems have become vastly more practical and cost-effective—and can deliver a much broader and deeper level of value to the business, beyond simple tracking. These systems record visitor access to a centralized log—and many provide additional identify verification capabilities at access points. This digital logging and identify verification dramatically increases security. It also creates a central point of real-time visibility and comprehensive documentation for investigation and compliance audit purposes.

Cloud-Based (SaaS) Visitor Management Systems

Like many technologies, the next generation of visitor management systems are moving into the cloud. Cloud-based visitor management is deployed in the proven as-a-service model, giving an organization all of the benefits and advantages of a digital visitor management system—with the flexibility, scalability, security and computing power of the cloud. Deployment is fast and easy, without requiring capital investments in on-prem hardware or the operating expense of managing the software. Today’s sophisticated cloud-based systems use powerful analytics engines to identify anomalies and enable workflow automation to drive greater security and efficiency. All of this can be scaled in real time as office locations are opened, closed, moved or adapted to the needs of a hybrid workforce.

visitor management system

Why Visitor Management is Important

A visitor management system matters for three critical reasons: security, compliance and guest experience.

  • Security: A visitor management system can provide a detailed record of visitor access to your facilities, including detailed information on which spaces they gained access to. This visitor visibility is a fundamental component of a comprehensive physical access control or facility security program. It allows an organization to investigate a security breach or other issue and to respond quickly in the event of a security or safety emergency.
  • Compliance: In addition to the internally motivated security reasons that organizations choose to implement a visitor management system, compliance requirements increasingly include stipulations around visitor management. For example, many industry regulations (e.g., HIPAA) require reporting who had access to sensitive data. In the case of hard copy records, this can include individuals with physical access. Visitor Management as a Service can prompt visitors to complete required documents such as a nondisclosure agreement (NDA) before their visit. A visitor management system can also assist with public health compliance requirements, such as contact tracing for COVID-19 cases.
  • Visitor Experience: While organizations have good reason (and requirements) to monitor visitor access, they also don’t want to make visitors feel hassled or unwelcome. The right visitor management system can deliver the security and compliance functionality the business needs, while creating a seamless experience for visitors. Here is an example of a next-generation visitor experience enabled by leading visitor management technologies:
    1. Easy pre-registration: Prior to arrival, the visitor receives an email with basic information on their visit, along with a QR code to begin the check-in process when they arrive on-site.
    2. Simplified Check-In: When the visitor arrives, they scan the QR code to automatically sign in—or follow simple prompts at an iPad kiosk. The entire check-in process is fast and contactless.
    3. Convenient Host Notification: When visitor check-in is complete, the host receives notification via text or email, so neither party is kept waiting.

Visitor Management for the Future of Hybrid Work

The COVID-19 pandemic upended many conventional paradigms in the world of work and accelerated other major shifts. Among these, many organizations realized that hybrid and work-from-home are not only possible; they’re preferred and oftentimes more productive scenarios.

Enabling a flexible, hybrid work model requires new technology investments—very often including enhancing or upgrading physical and digital access control and visitor management systems. With workers coming and going outside of the typical 9-to-5, users moving between accessing assets from within and beyond the traditional firewall, and more new employees being remotely onboarded, here are four key solutions that will raise your security standard and enable the future of hybrid work:

  • Passwordless login with single sign-on (SSO)
  • Adaptive risk-based authentication
  • Digital identity proofing for new hires
  • Self-service password reset

With the right partner, your enterprise can offer employees the type of flexibility today’s workforce demands. An effective hybrid workforce plan can not only exponentially expand your labor pool, but also reduce your organization’s real estate needs by up to 30%.

Best Practices for Issuing Visitor IDs in Hybrid Workplaces

Another specific challenge of the hybrid workforce model is adapting visitor management. With fewer employees in the office at any given time—and organizations streamlining administrative staff in the office—businesses should focus on implementing a process for issuing visitor IDs that meets the following criteria:

  1. Scalable: Users submit photos online
  2. Contactless: Organizations remotely validate photo and credential production
  3. Flexible: Users can opt to receive their visitor credentials digitally via email or to have physical credentials mailed to them

What are the Components of a Modern, Digital Visitor Management System

  • Contactless ID issuance: As mentioned above, a modern visitor management system needs to be able to validate visitor identity and issue visitor credentials without requiring hands-on support.
  • Centralized dashboard management: Leading visitor management systems make it easy to manage access to all locations, track real-time activity, and get notifications—all from a centralized dashboard, anytime, anywhere and from any device.
  • Pre-configured integrations: Visitor management is just one component of physical access control, so the right visitor management system should be ready to seamlessly integrate with your existing technologies via API, LDAP, SAML 2.0, Azure AD, Outlook plug-in, Active Directory, Cisco ISE, and more.
  • State-of-the-art digital security: To meet compliance requirements and protect against the increasing risk of cyberattack, visitor management systems must deliver state-of-the-art digital security controls, including storing data in a private dedicated environment and ensuring end-to-end encryption– AES-256 bit in storage and TLS 1.2 in transit.
  • Cloud-based, aaS model: A cloud-based visitor management system gives organizations that fastest and most cost-effective path to upgrading, while delivering the flexibility and scalability to adapt to future needs, and providing continuous access to the latest security updates and new capabilities.

Visitor Management for Health Systems and Hospitals

Visitor management for health systems and hospitals can pose complex challenges. Administrators must balance the desire to connect patients with their family members with the need to control hospital-acquired infections and other concerns. Learn how Entrust can help.

Visitor Management for Schools, Colleges and Universities

School visitor management systems for sprawling campuses with multiple buildings can look much different than visitor management systems for other facilities. Learn how Entrust can help with the unique challenges that schools, colleges and universities face.