Physical vs. Logical Access Control: What Is The Difference?

Physical vs. Logical Access Control: What Is The Difference?

by Mike Boehm on November 07, 2022

Access control systems are put in place to prohibit unwanted individuals from entering a building or system. There are two main forms of access control: physical and logical. 

Physical Access Control

As the name implies, physical access control systems are designed to protect physical access to a building or area. Card readers on locked doors is an excellent example of this. When a nurse walks up to the hospital she works at and scans her company access card on the card reader, the system will physically unlock the door to that building. If that same nurse tries to use her company access card on a drug cabinet that she does not have access to, the system will not unlock, thereby physically denying her access. These are both examples of physical access control at work.

Thus, with a physical access control system, an organization can have a variety of access points in their facility to protect different areas within by establishing different levels of clearance. The physical access control system can recognize the individual user based on the specific building access card being used and either grant or deny access depending on the clearance level of each card/user.

Logical Access Control

Logical access control is slightly more complex. It acts as an extra layer of security—like a password on a laptop that already has antivirus protection. Logical access control protects the systems within the organization. After card readers and building access cards are set up, they are connected to a system within the organization that will protect sensitive company information. Data systems need as much protection as a physical building and that is why logical access control is so important within an organization.

Proximity card suppliers are starting to delve more into the side of logical access control through using biometrics. Biometrics does not require physical access control items such as door entry cards since it relies on the users’ unique fingerprint or facial recognition to access a system.


To summarize, physical and logical access control systems live in a sort of symbiotic relationship where they both benefit from each other. For instance, a building could be physically protected through door entry systems and door entry cards, while—from the logical side—your informational database will be protected through passwords, antivirus software, and possibly biometrics. Proximity card suppliers often supply both the physical and logical side of access control. While technology continues to evolve, so does access control; the processes and procedures will only continue to grow safer in order to protect buildings, systems, and more.