Magnetic Swipe Cards vs Barcode Cards

How you choose to regulate access to your buildings or offices is a question involving finances, convenience and quality. When you think about security at a given property, you have to think about each potential threat or vulnerability that could exist for that specific security risk. One such important decision is whether you wish to use magnetic swipe cards for your staff and visitors or whether barcode cards are actually better. A close investigation of each will illuminate a better view of how the two options compare and contrast from one another.

Magnetic Swipe Cards

In this method, the magnetic strip on the card actually stores the information about the individual carrying the card. When the strip is read, the machine is able to use decoding software to uncover what information is contained within the strip. Magnetic swipe cards are real veterans in the security space, having been in mainstream public use since the 1960s. Access to information is fast, but a dedicated hardware reader is also required.

The downsides to the magnetic swipe cards solution versus a barcode scenario is the longevity of a single card’s viability and integrity. In many cases, magnetic swipe cards are best for use cases such as libraries and gyms. The reason for this is simply the frequency of swipes. A gym or library should have fewer uses by orders of magnitude, as opposed to in an office where card swipes could happen potentially dozens of times weekly. Frequent use and improper storage of magnetic swipe cards will likely yield you a damaged magnetic stripe rather quickly. If you have users of the cards who may have difficulty maintaining their card’s pristine condition, a laminated barcode card might be another option worth exploring.

Barcode Cards

With a barcode card, the logistics are slightly different than that of the magnetic. With this type of card, you also benefit from the comfort of knowing that it has been in use for over thirty years. On barcode cards, information is not actually stored in the card, but rather in a central database within your organization’s network. When the card is scanned by the reader hardware, it deciphers a value from the information in the barcode that the naked eye couldn’t determine. This value is a reference in your company’s internal network. That reference will point to a file containing the pertinent information to the cardholder. Provided there is no latency in the connection between the system scanning cards and the network containing user data, there will be a near-immediate feeling to how fast the data comes in.

You should be extra careful to make sure when ordering cards and readers that they are on the same barcode platform and that they are fully compatible. Newer barcode readers employ a form of ‘2D’ barcode reading, whereas older systems are on what is known as a ‘1D’ protocol, thus making it impossible for newer cards to be read on the older hardware.

Which is Best?

Which choice is best is going to come down to the specific use cases involved, the type of circumstances and the various variables at play, including budget. A simple and working understanding of how these technologies compare and contrast is fundamentally valuable to know in advance as a business owner or decision maker in the area of security hardware.

For more information on magnetic swipe cards or barcode cards, contact our team of security experts at Avon Security Products!

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