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The Ultimate Guide to Physical Security

With the rise in threats, keeping physical assets, data and your employees safe is top-of-mind for today’s business owners. As a result, organizations are prioritizing their physical security systems to ensure the security and safety of staff of physical assets and of proprietary information. 

In this guide, we will discuss the many threats to your business and how physical security solutions can help protect you. From access control systems to video surveillance and analytics we will cover all the latest and most effective security measures. Don't leave your business vulnerable to attack; make sure you have the right physical security protections in place. 

What Is Physical Security?

Physical security measures can include a combination of access control locks, alarms, surveillance cameras, lighting systems and other security measures. It’s important for businesses because advanced security can protect businesses from financial losses due to theft, misuse, or vandalism, as well as potential damage to your reputation. It also helps ensure that employees are safe and secure at work. 

Why is Physical Security Important?

Physical security creates a safe environment and allows for businesses to see hazards and threats before they happen either accidentally or incidentally. It keeps people, property, and information safe from unauthorized physical access

Physical security is critical for businesses because it helps protect against unauthorized entry into the premises and prevents theft or vandalism. Having a comprehensive physical security system in place also ensures that employees feel safe at work. 

What Are Physical Security Risks?

Physical security risks are any dangers that could potentially be a threat to your business, such as unauthorized access, theft, vandalism, or intrusion. They can come from both external sources, such as those attempting to steal intellectual property, trade secrets or physical assets, or internal sources, such as disgruntled employees. The most common physical security threats include:

  • Burglary or theft of physical assets 
  • Theft of intellectual property trade secrets, and confidential data 
  • Vandalism 
  • Cyberattacks 
  • Unauthorized access 
  • Natural disasters 
  • Sabotage 
  • Human error/negligence 

These threats can be anywhere, meaning that no business is truly safe from potential attacks until they have the right physical and cyber security measures in place. That's why it's so important to be aware of the potential risks and steps you can take to protect your business. 

What Are the Different Types of Physical Security?

Modern physical security solutions span a wide array from both traditional methods to all sorts of modern technology.

Cloud-Based Access Control

This type of access control relies on cloud-based technology to allow users to enter certain restricted areas. For example, a building owner may give specific employees access to parts of the office based on their role in the company. This type of activity can be achieved without the need of information technology assets or trained personnel on-premises.

Digital Security Control

This type of access control includes two-factor authentication, biometrics, on-premise systems, and up-to-date hardware.

Physical Security Control

This type of access control includes physical barriers, video surveillance, mobile credentials, and intrusion detection systems. 

These are just some examples of the different types of physical security solutions available. However, physical security controls can be broken down further.

An Overview of Physical Security Control

There are a handful of physical security controls that organizations can implement in their buildings. Some of the most common include the following:

Access Control

This type of security is broader, including the various ways to keep a building secure such as video surveillance, visitor management, intrusion alarms, and other tools that help provide complete situational awareness throughout buildings.

Video Surveillance

This type of security system can be monitored remotely or onsite and includes cameras, DVRs, and NVRs. A video surveillance management system is used to monitor points of entry and prevent unauthorized access. 

Mobile Credentialing

This type of security system uses smartphones and other mobile devices as credentials for entry into restricted areas. It eliminates the need for physical keys or cards, making it easier for businesses to manage access control. It also makes it very easy for administrators to grant or revoke access as needed.

Physical Barriers

This type of physical security includes fences, gates, or walls that are used to create a secure perimeter and deter intruders and those with malicious intent.

Keyless Entry

This type of access control uses digital locks that are operated using a code, key card or smartphone. Keyless entry eliminates the need for physical keys and makes it easier for businesses to manage access control.

Intrusion Detection

This type of physical security includes motion sensors, contact sensors, and other devices that alert you to the presence of an intruder.

Emergency Response

This type of physical security includes alarm systems and panic buttons that alert the authorities in the event of an emergency. In addition, it includes tools for command center operations to provide true situational awareness for near real-time response.

Visitor Management

This type of physical security allows businesses to grant temporary access to visitors, track visitors and ensure that only authorized personnel have access to certain areas. These are just some examples of the different types of physical security solutions available. As technology advances, new solutions are constantly emerging to help businesses keep their premises safe and secure.

As technology advances, new types of physical security control are constantly emerging to help businesses keep their premises safe and secure. Along with that, requirements over time change as well. 

What Are the Requirements for Physical Security?

The goal of physical security is to stay ahead of threats, including silent threats. While there may be regulations regarding fire safety, not every industry is heavily regulated. Federal buildings often have more requirements than a commercial building, making it important for businesses to tailor their security program to their needs. 

Many regulations that affect physical security do not directly speak to security policies and procedures. These include the below: 


These are the privacy standards that govern the European Union. Data collection and storage must face specific requirements. Other regions are following the example of GDPR and implementing similar regulations. 


OSHA requirements are typically associated with manufacturing, construction, and agriculture. Physical security can be used as a tool to keep employees safe. For example: If there is a chemical spill, doors to a facility can be locked to ensure no one can access that area.

8 Top Tips for Ensuring Physical Security

By following the tips below, you'll be better equipped to protect your business from potential threats. The most important thing is to remain vigilant and proactively update your physical security measures as needed. Doing so will ensure that your business, data, and personnel remain safe and secure.

1. Use historical information and predictive analytics

Use the data collected from past physical security incidents to inform your current and future approaches to physical security. This can include tracking trends in break-ins, thefts, or other threats. This historical information can also help security teams patch up vulnerabilities before they are exploited.

2. Ensure proper communication connections for mobile

Use modern systems that can integrate with mobile phones and apps. This provides an added layer of security to ensure that only authorized personnel have access to certain areas, and allows the user to make changes to access levels quickly and easily.

3. Leverage AI to sift through data

There is a vast amount of data being collected through a physical security system, making it hard for teams to quickly determine which threats are real and which are nuisance alarms. Artificial intelligence can help filter this information, so teams can swiftly react.

4. Develop a strict physical access policy

Outline who is allowed access to certain areas of the business and what type of access they have. Make sure that everyone in the organization is aware of these policies and are trained to follow them.

5. Reduce manual access controls

Automate access control where possible. This can include using RFID cards, biometrics, or other methods to ensure that only those with the proper credentials are able to enter certain areas of the business.

6. Embrace cloud-based security

Cloud-based security solutions are becoming increasingly popular due to their scalability, cost-effectiveness and ease of use. They provide an added layer of security not only for physical access control but also for digital information. Additionally, they eliminate the need to own and manage information technology infrastructure.

7. Monitor and update your physical security system

Regularly monitor your physical security system to ensure it is up-to-date and running smoothly. Additionally, update your access control policy as necessary to keep up with trends in physical security threats.

8. Create a disaster recovery plan for if things go wrong

Always have a plan in place to respond to a physical security breach or threat. This should include steps such as immediately notifying the authorities and quickly disabling access so that any threats can be contained quickly.

Concerns in Physical Security

Physical security measures are not foolproof. There are still potential concerns that need to be considered, such as: 

  • Inadequate training of personnel in terms of physical security protocols. 
  • Unauthorized access due to weak passwords or other credentials. 
  • Unmonitored areas due to lack of proper surveillance systems. 
  • Vulnerabilities due to outdated security systems. 
  • Compliance issues due to regulations such as GDPR or OSHA requirements. 
  • The ever-changing threat landscape. 

However, with the right physical security systems and tools, teams can address these concerns to protect their buildings, staff, and IT assets. 

Why is Cloud Technology Important for Physical Security?

As threats become more advanced, security systems need to become more resistant to cyber physical attacks. However, security teams often don’t have the training or internal resources to ensure that their physical access control systems are secure. With cloud-based technology, updates can be done centrally and deployed continuously (without putting the system down for a release). Security teams as a result can outsource the IT component of their systems to reputable companies, who will ensure that systems work properly, and that data collection complies with local laws. 

Using the cloud comes with additional benefits when it comes to simplifying your security. With cloud-based access control, you can access data from different locations. Also, you don't have to maintain your own infrastructure and instead can finance security as an operational expense instead of a capital one. 

Physical Security Examples:

Alexion Pharmaceuticals Needed An Easy Way to Manage Its Global Locations

As one of the fastest growing bio-pharmaceutical companies in the world, Alexion needed a way to ensure comprehensive physical security at all of its global locations in a way that was easy to manage and compliant. The company turned to LenelS2 for a robust system with flexible, leading-edge technology and responsive service. After adopting the LenelS2™ NetBox™ access control system and other tools, previous problems all but disappeared, including bandwidth issues associated with video streaming.

Rochester Institute of Technology Needed To Provide Students and Faculty Access During the Pandemic

As a private research university, Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) needed a way to ensure that only those students, faculty, and staff who abided by the RIT Safety Plan and NY State Guidelines could access campus buildings during the COVID-19 pandemic. To that end, the university adopted the LenelS2™ OnGuard® access control system , using the Blocked Person feature to ensure only health protocol compliant students and faculty had campus access. Through LenelS2, they were able to improve their campus safety and security policies.

How LenelS2 Can Help Build Robust Physical Security

Physical security is an essential component of any safety and security strategy. By implementing comprehensive physical security measures such as access control systems, video surveillance systems, and mobile credentialing solutions, businesses can protect themselves from theft, vandalism, unauthorized entry, and continuously changing cyber threats. Cloud technology is also becoming increasingly important for physical security, as it helps reduce operational costs while making it easier to deploy changes quickly when necessary. 

As the global leader in advanced physical security solutions , LenelS2 can help you preserve existing investments while bringing them together with new technology. Our integration capabilities span a number of organizations in access control, video monitoring, incident management, elevator control, and credential creation and management. 

Our solutions include access control, video surveillance, mobile credentialing, and more. We provide security solutions to small, mid, and large organizations including global enterprises that span a spectrum of industries such as education, energyhealthcare, government, transportation, commercial real estate, data centers, and more. 

Learn more about our security products


Frequently Asked Questions About Physical Security


Cloud technology makes it easier to update your physical security system and deploy changes quickly. It also allows you to access data from different locations, which can be beneficial for remote personnel. Additionally, cloud technology helps reduce operational costs since it eliminates the need to maintain your own infrastructure.

In the past, physical systems were not connected to the internet. With the spread of modern technology including the use of IoT, there is no longer an air-gap barrier between physical systems and the cyber world. As a result, physical security controls and cybersecurity controls have become intertwined, with physical security systems requiring comprehensive cyber protection. Additionally, physical security prevents unauthorized people from accessing your company's intranet or important rooms with vital company information.

A physical security policy is a set of guidelines dictating how an organization’s assets should be treated and protected. This includes assets such as hardware, computers, networks, and buildings. 

An example of a physical security policy is when employees are not allowed to let visitors or guests into a building without a keycard of their own. Or when sensitive information stored on hardware isn’t allowed to leave its designated room. These policies work to keep both data and people safe. 

Physical security risks in cybersecurity include vandalism, theft, compliance issues, a lack of employee education, outdated hardware, and unmonitored areas. 

Common physical security measures include access control systems, video surveillance, mobile credentials, physical barriers, biometrics, and intrusion detection alarms.

An example of a physical security breach can be something as mundane as an employee holding open a door for a visitor and giving them access to a building and information that they shouldn’t have access to. This could lead to theft, vandalism, or even data leaks. 

The most common physical security threat is unauthorized entry, which can cause a wide variety of threats such as theft, vandalism, data stealing, and terrorism.

A physical access control system includes everything connected to the main security system that can work to deter intruders. This includes things like occupancy reports, video surveillance, building lockdowns, and door security in the form of mobile credentials or biometrics. A physical access control system gives organizations the power to control who is allowed where, and protects sensitive data, employees, and prevents theft. 

Choosing the best physical security system depends on your building’s individual needs and the security threats you face. Whether it be access control at the visitor management level, or access control based on room. Overall, it’s important to find a physical access control system that integrates with your building’s existing security control measures. LenelS2’s OpenAccess Alliance Program integrates with over 200 certified product interfaces, ensuring that functionality remains consistent no matter what access control features you use.