What is an access control system, and why do you need it?

If you’re a business owner or an IT manager, security will be top of mind – whether it’s from managing the flow of people in and out of the office or to control who can access certain business assets.

But have you ever thought about the importance of access control for your company documents?

Questions you may not have thought about include: Who has access to your company’s documents? How do you remove people who shouldn’t have access to company documents?

The majority of cybersecurity threats come from outside your business; however, internal problems can also cause significant security breaches.

Employees are relying heavily on mobile and cloud-based storage as we’ve increasingly shifted to remote work during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Unfortunately, with sensitive and personal data living in the cloud, it’s become much easier to expose data.

While the existence of tech that enables cloud-based collaboration isn’t necessarily the threat, the problem crops up when people copy sensitive data from a company account to their personal account. Unfortunately this happens more than we think, with over 45% of employees admitting to taking documents from former employers.

Do you know who accesses your company documents?

The usual day-to-day collaboration that happens in an organization is what leads to these accidental access issues. For example, documents get shared with and created by personal accounts, old vendors can still access documents they shouldn’t, and too many documents have public links that anyone on the internet can access.

Vendor access is an afterthought at most companies. But, not surprisingly, 60% of companies don’t consistently remove a vendor’s access once they stop working with them.

Setting up documents to include public links has become the norm to share documents quickly. People even add public links to confidential documents. As a result, companies end up with tens of thousands of documents with public links in no time.

When people think about document access issues, malicious exploits are what typically spring to mind. But the reality is that many of the document access problems are accidental.

For example 52% of people have accidentally added their personal account to company documents.

Unfortunately, the majority of companies ignore their document access problems and never have enough visibility into who has access to what. This ignorance is precisely what leads to leaks, breaches, and lawsuits.

Next, we explain in more detail what an access control system is, the benefits and why you need one for your business.

What is an access control system?

Access control is a security method that controls who or what can view or use resources in a computing environment, which ultimately minimizes risk to the business or organization.

Typically, there are two types of access control: physical and logical. Physical access control can limit people’s access to buildings, rooms, and physical IT assets. Logical access control will restrict connections to computer networks, system files, data, and other resources.

Any access control system will perform identification authentication and authorization of users and entities by assessing the required login credentials, whether it’s passwords, personal identification numbers (PINs), biometric scans, security tokens, or other authentication factors.

With Nira, our real-time access control system is purpose-built to provide complete visibility into each and every cloud document, employee, and external party that has access to company documents.

Why is an access control system so important?

It is becoming much more critical to have a proper access control system in place as business cyber-attacks become more costly each year.

An Interpol report found that the costs associated with insider-threat breaches reached an average of $7.68 million in 2020. Unfortunately, this number will continue to rise – and with the increase of people working from home, the businesses’ security vulnerabilities spike as it becomes much more challenging to capture cybercriminals.

An access control system is vital because it is an invaluable security method that can control who can view or use any given resource. For example, this could translate to who can access and edit a particular file, what kinds of equipment can be used, or who can access specific devices in an IT security setting.

Access control systems are crucial for business owners.

With the amount of data that businesses have in their control and its potential to fall into the wrong hands, owners and IT managers need to consider having an access control system as part of their IT and business management strategy.

The importance of having access control is never more prominent than when you consider protecting your company data or assets.

From employee onboarding to offboarding, product plans, finance documents, to customer details, the very essence of your business is all centered on data. Every company has data, so every business needs to pay close attention to how they store, access, and protect their assets.

The ultimate goal of an access control system is to provide a level of security that reduces risk to a company.

Without proper access control, companies could leave their staff and their business open to potential problems such as cyberattacks, data theft, or breach of privacy and data protection laws.

The benefits of having an access control system

Here are some of the benefits you can enjoy when implementing robust access control and security measures in your organization:

  • Monitor and protect your most important documents, assets, and resources.
  • Offboard employees by removing access to each of their accounts, including personal accounts that were added to documents.
  • Complete peace of mind knowing that your data is safe and can only be accessed by assigned people.
  • Total visibility – You can see who is accessing your data and when.
  • Modify user permissions and block unauthorized permissions easily.
  • Improved regulatory compliance. Compliance with data privacy laws. Non-conformance can lead to fines, revoked licenses, and, in a worst-case scenario, criminal liability.
  • Enhanced security to keep your business, employees, and assets secure from cyberattacks.

How does an access control system work?

There are three essential ingredients to all access control system setups:

  1. Identifying who is accessing the secured company information, areas or assets.
  2. Verifying the individual to ensure they have the correct permissions to grant or deny access, whether a particular file, document, or resource.
  3. Once verification is successful, the access control system can then authenticate and grant access to the individual – this can be done by using a password, pin, encryption, smartcards, or fingerprints to the relevant asset they want to have access to.

As mentioned before, access control systems identify users by verifying various login credentials, including usernames and passwords, PINs, biometric scans, and security tokens. Once a user is verified, the access control system then authorizes the appropriate access level and allows actions associated with that user’s credentials and IP address.

There are fours types of access control models:

Mandatory access control

People are given access based on different security levels and information clearance. This type of access control is the most restrictive as it only allows the system’s owner to control and manage access.

The end-user doesn’t have control over any of the permissions or privileges. The end-user can only access points that the system owners allow them to access. This type of high-level control is generally found in organizations such as the government and military.

Discretionary access control

This is the least restrictive type of access control, as individuals are given complete control over any objects they own and any programs associated with such objects. These individuals can then determine who has access to their objects by controlling permissions for other users.

Role-based access control

The administrator assigns an individual only the amount of access required to do their job within an organization. This is the most popular access model type for business owners, as it simply allows you to group employees based on the kind of resources they need access to. Plus, it cuts down on the time required to set up or change user access in the system.

For example, if you have three product managers, four accountants, and ten salespeople, you wouldn’t have to create 17 individual security profiles in the system – you’d only have to create three: one for each job title.

Rule-based access control

This rule-based access control is based on a selection of attributes and environmental factors, such as time of day and location, created by the administrator. For example, if your business closes at 6 pm, you won’t need anyone to access your office after 6 pm. With a rule-based access control system, you can set a rule to deny access to everyone from 6 pm to 9 am the following day.

How can I implement a real-time access control system for my business?

Any business that wants to improve its overall IT security and reduce risk should consider having an access control system.

At Nira, we take the security of your sensitive data seriously. We are SOC 2 Type 2 certified, and are audited annually. Security is our highest priority and is an integral part of how we operate.

Set up takes two minutes, and then within 48-hours, Nira will give you complete visibility into the state of your entire Google Drive. No further configuration is required. Access control tasks that used to take hours now just take a few minutes!

Why should you use Nira?

Critical documents

  • Monitor and protect your most important documents, folders, and shared drives, such as sensitive documents owned by the finance team, board meeting decks, and IPO materials.
  • Protect documents owned by company executives, including receiving alerts when access to those documents falls outside of company policies.

Public links

  • Quickly identify all documents with public links, assess their risk, and remediate any issues.
  • Find and close all public links on documents that haven’t been modified for more than a year.


  • Fully offboard employees by removing access on each of their accounts, including personal accounts, and transferring documents ownership to new accounts.

Document retention policies

  • Delete all documents that fall outside of granular document retention policies.


  • Deep dive into document-related incidents and instant remediation without having to jump between tools.


  • Remediate the riskiest document access issues based on notifications from Nira.

Personal accounts

  • Identify all personal accounts with access to company documents, assess their risk, and remove unnecessary access.
  • Identify all current and former employees with personal account access and remove their access to company documents.

    Identify documents owned by current and former employees’ personal accounts and transfer ownership to the company.


  • Automatically remediate document access issues based on company policies.

Third parties/vendors

  • Identify all vendors and third parties with access to company documents, assess their risk, and remove unnecessary access.
  • Fully offboard vendors by removing access for each of their accounts, including personal accounts, and transferring document ownership to new accounts.
  • Identify public links and unauthorized access on confidential documents owned by vendors.


We hope this article has given you plenty to think about when it comes to the importance of access control systems, why you should have one, and the benefits when it comes to safeguarding your company documents, assets, or resources from unauthorized access.

The main points to remember are:

  • An access control system is essential and should be incorporated into your overall IT security plans.
  • Access control systems protect against breaches of privacy, cyberattacks, and data theft.
  • Access control is a valuable security method that can be used to monitor who or what can view or use any given document, asset, or resource.
  • The biggest goal of an access control system is to provide a level of security that minimizes risk to any business.

You’ll see how simple, quick, and easy access control can be. If you have any questions or need help reviewing your current setup or implementing new access controls for your files or data including systems you have in place, contact us to request a demo.

Nira currently works with Google Workplace, with more integrations coming soon.