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Avigilon Alta vs. HID access control

In reviewing access control systems for your building or workplace, there are two main categories: legacy on-premise or modern cloud-based solutions. HID Global is a legacy access control provider with a decades-long presence in the industry. HID offers a range of different access control products, including on-premise systems, controllers, readers and mobile-based options. Both HID and Avigilon Alta have mobile credentials that work with smartphone apps, tablet apps and wearables like the Apple Watch. When comparing access control companies for enterprise or small business, consider the different features and functionality you need now, and will want in the future.

Quick look: key differences between HID access control and Avigilon Alta 


Avigilon Alta


Cloud-based technology

Not all HID access control systems function with their cloud-based software 

Touchless entry

Avigilon Alta’s Wave to Unlock offers a convenient hands-free unlock experience 

PIN code access

Compared to the HID Signo™ Keypad Reader, Avigilon’s Smart Keypad Reader is more secure with capacitive touch keys 

Intuitive software

Avigilon Alta’s management software is user-friendly and customizable 

Video capabilities

HID does not offer video surveillance and needs to integrate with VMS providers 

All-in-one solution

Avigilon offers advanced built-in features in one sleek device

The leading solution in access control

  • Multi-tech readers support mobile, PIN codes, key cards and fobs

  • Touchless and remote unlock backed by 99.9% reliability

  • Intuitive cloud software with real-time remote management

  • 5MP video and smart AI intercom with mobile monitoring

  • Open standards for frictionless integration across all systems

  • Scales to secure a single entry or entire enterprises with ease

  • Standard wiring and PoE options with easy snap-in installation

  • Automatic updates, offline sync and encryption at every level

Comprehensive HID access control review

HID is a long-time provider of on-premise access control systems. This technology has been around for decades, relying on on-site servers to run the access control system. A cloud-based access security system enables greater flexibility, scalability and interoperability. HID does offer some cloud-based products. However, you have to pick and choose carefully. Not all of their products are designed for full cloud management, and many still lack the flexibility to integrate with other non-HID systems. 

On-premise vs. cloud-based access control

There are a few limitations to be aware of with legacy access control: 

  • Onsite maintenance — On-premise legacy access control systems need in-person maintenance. Every time there’s a problem with the hardware, or you need to update your system, you’ll have to roll up a truck and be there to let the service staff into the building. 
  • Limited flexibility — Legacy systems are often cumbersome when it comes to interoperability. Most legacy hardware products will only support certain types of credentials, limiting your options. In addition, legacy systems are harder to integrate with your IoT devices and applications, as they don’t run on truly open platforms. 
  • No central reader management — Because HID door readers are installed on-the-wall,” they have to be individually configured and updated. Without a centralized management platform, a technician will need to visit each reader at each location for initial setup and any maintenance or upgrades.

However, high-security applications such as federal government buildings and financial institutions have specific security requirements that can only be met by on-prem systems. HID offers solutions for secure identity management, including pivCLASS and FIPS 201 compliant cards and authentication software. Similarly, Avigilon Unity Access, formerly Access Control Manager (ACM), is an on-premise access control option with the same certifications for federal and government contractors, with additional flexibility. Unlike many HID management options, Avigilon Unity Access is 100% browser-based, so there’s no software to install and no dedicated workstation needed. 

Going with a more agile, modern system like Avigilon Alta ensures you always have the best door access control and protection available. Avigilon Alta was designed for full cloud management, using the most secure encryption available. With instant updates in the cloud, you’ll always be running the most advanced security software on the market, and there’s no need for on-site maintenance or servers. Built on a truly open platform, Avigilon Alta is equipped to easily and seamlessly integrate with other applications and systems to customize a security solution for your unique business. Avigilon Alta also prioritizes your data security, meeting strict compliance standards and end-to-end encryption at every level. 

Comparing HID readers and hardware

Because HID is a legacy provider, they have a wide range of reader and controller hardware available. However, they are not all compatible, and some are designed for very niche applications. Only specific HID readers support mobile credentials, for example, while others are designed to only work with prox cards. If you choose readers that support the credentials you use right now, be aware that the same hardware may not have the ability to support your future needs. Installing the wrong readers could be a very costly mistake. Nobody wants to have to replace their entire deployment after a year just because the readers no longer support the new functionality in the market. Not to mention, if your technology becomes obsolete, you’re increasing the risk of a security threat at your building.

An easy way to future-proof your building’s commercial access control is to use a system with a multifunctional product line. All Avigilon Alta readers have multi-technology support for all the credential types you need now, plus the technology that will be available in the future. The Smart Readers support touchless Wave to Unlock, plus mobile credentials via the smartphone app (iOS and Android), tablet apps, Apple Watch, plus encrypted key cards and fobs. Don’t want to part with your old credentials just yet? Avigilon Alta is backward compatible with legacy systems, including HID® Proximity cards, giving you added flexibility.

Device tampering and physical security breaches happen, and one way to prevent them is to have anti-snooping features in devices. Like HID’s Signo™ Keypad Reader, Avigilon Alta offers a PIN-based access option with the Smart Keypad Reader. The Avigilon keypad reader has features that prevent security breaches, such as capacitive touch keys. This feature reduces the wearing down of the buttons, which makes it easier for individuals without permission to see which numbers are frequently entered based on the marks. Another anti-snooping mechanism is the LED light that illuminates the entire keypad when a number is pressed. The inability for people standing nearby the reader to see exactly which numbers are entered can prevent unauthorized entry. 

Another factor to consider when choosing access control hardware is style. Many legacy providers are still using bulky gray bricks for their readers. If you’re trying to give your office an upscale, elevated look, your access control should be equally sleek. Avigilon’s Smart Readers and Pro Series Video Readers are award-winning for design, and the Embedded USB Smart Reader can be installed for an invisible” finish behind walls and mounted flush in elevators and turnstiles. 

Access control and video surveillance with HID

For organizations that want to add visual verification to their security system, HID access control solutions do not have any built-in video capabilities. Installing additional security cameras and using a third-party video management system is required with an HID security system. This means additional hardware at the door, plus separate systems for video surveillance monitoring and access control. 

For a more integrated solution, a platform like Avigilon Alta offers multi-technology door readers with a built-in camera. The benefit of this type of system is that you get live, high-definition video of every access event, directly where it occurs. Only one device is needed, and all the reporting is monitored in a single remotely accessible dashboard. Avigilon Alta’s ONVIF-compliant video platform also integrates with the leading commercial VMS providers, including Cisco Meraki, Rhombus Systems, Camio and Milestone. Plus, the cloud-based access control software means you can monitor any number of locations or buildings, all from a single device. 

Access control user experience and reliability

Cloud security and mobile credentials aren’t the only important factors when reviewing access control systems. The system should be easy to use and needs to be reliable. Make sure that the system you choose is compatible with the devices your employees and tenants use, and that the unlock experience is consistent. If your staff can only unlock the door 80% of the time, you’re going to have a lot of complaints coming your way. While HID does offer mobile credentials, not all HID readers have 100% compatibility with the most common mobile devices. Recent HID Mobile Access reviews say that the mobile app is not very reliable for either iOS or Android devices, and many users experience frequent bugs and app downtime. 

Avigilon Alta’s app and software was designed to be easy to use and reliable for both administrative teams and for end users. With patented Triple Unlock technology, which races Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and cellular signals for every unlock request, unlocking the door is fast, frictionless and 99.9% reliable. Plus, Avigilon Alta’s access control system features fail-safes and backup power options, so it still works even if the Internet is down, during a power outage or the cell service is spotty. When reliability matters most, Avigilon Alta provides a consistent user experience.

Flexible access methods are also important for usability. While HID has different readers for prox cards, mobile access and PIN codes, not all readers support every credential type. In order to upgrade an HID access system to mobile, there’s a good chance some readers will need to be swapped out. The HID Signo™ reader line supports touchless unlock with a Twist and Go” motion, but this is not intuitive and will take some training for users to understand. Avigilon Alta’s touchless access uses Wave to Unlock, either with a hand or mobile device for a more intuitive touchless unlock experience. For more enhanced security, Avigilon Alta offers an option to use multi-factor authentication (MFA), available on all Avigilon Alta readers. When enabled, MFA requires users to present multiple credentials before entry is authorized. Avigilon Smart Readers, Keypad Readers, Video Readers and Video Intercom Readers also support any combination of mobile, tablet, smart watch, high- and low-frequency key cards and fob credentials. 

Enterprise access control features

Access control for enterprise applications brings a unique set of challenges. With hundreds or thousands of users across multiple locations, selecting an access control provider that can centralize and streamline your operations is essential. 

Scalable systems and operations 

Avigilon offers a full line of access control hardware that’s completely scalable, including a Single Door Controller, elevator boards, and 4‑door and 8‑door Smart Hubs. These products are designed to be modular and work with all Avigilon products, making it easy to add or remove entries on your network whenever you need to. 

In addition, Avigilon Alta offers a robust enterprise software management package, designed specifically to cater to the needs of multi-site businesses. Features include the award-winning Flexible Lockdown solution for proactive emergency response, granular site-specific permissions and a Rules Engine to create custom event triggers. 

Elevators, turnstiles and parking garages

People need secure, convenient access across all the different types of entries and spaces in their workplaces. HID readers and boards can be used in many different commercial settings, but not all their hardware supports contactless and mobile credentials. All Avigilon Alta readers and controllers have full mobile and touchless access capabilities. Easily install and configure access for all your entry types in a single dashboard, with support for destination dispatch elevators, popular turnstile systems and parking gates. Plus, the open standards mean integration with best-of-breed technology partners is seamless and simple.

ID badges

HID offers legacy access control features for enterprise, including badge printing and traditional fob-based access methods. While Avigilon Alta doesn’t have their own badge printing devices, you can easily design and print custom ID badges with your own badge printer or the InstantCard integration. Both Avigilon Alta and HID also support digital badges that can be stored on a mobile device.

Visitor management and intercoms

Another consideration for enterprise businesses is visitor management. HID offers a separate visitor management platform in addition to their access control. However, the guest credentials are still key card-based, and visitor sign-in is still done on a communal kiosk. While these experiences are expected, they don’t offer added convenience. Avigilon Alta includes digital visitor passes, which allow admins to send a Guest Access Link by text, email, or via a messaging app like Slack or Facebook Messenger. The guest’s Cloud Key credential works just like the Avigilon Alta mobile credentials, with fully customizable permissions to limit when, where and how long the guest will have access. This tool is great for admins managing visitors remotely, as they don’t even need to be on-site to let someone into the building. Integrate Avigilon Alta with your tenant management platform to enable digital sign-in for a completely contactless visitor experience, too.

Another popular visitor system HID does not have is intercom functionality. At the time of this review, HID readers have no built-in video or audio capabilities. While HID is often a supported access method for popular video intercom systems, it’s still another piece of hardware and software to manage for all your locations. The Avigilon Video Intercom Reader Pro solves this problem with a single device at the door. The combination Smart Reader, video camera and doorbell intercom uses AI-powered voice recognition to route visitor calls, with an intuitive mobile interface for visual verification via video calls, and features like voicemail, reception profiles and remote door unlock.

Open standards and integration support

The past few years have highlighted how important adaptability is for any business. However, legacy systems often lack the agility to quickly make technology upgrades in response to emergencies or developing situations. With hardware and software that require on-site management and a limited number of available integrations, legacy access control providers are not well-equipped to adapt to new challenges.

An open architecture and cloud-based system allows providers to pivot quickly, paving the way for innovative solutions to follow new protocols and solve problems quickly. With no need to be on-site to update the system or integrate new software, fully cloud-based platforms like Avigilon Alta empower businesses to take initiative and streamline their operations. The App Marketplace makes taking advantage of an open ecosystem easy, with 40+ apps from leading technology partners to create a more efficient, interoperable system with best-of-breed solutions. Connect access control to video surveillance systems from top providers such as Cisco Meraki and Milestone, plus tenant and workspace management apps, identity providers like Okta, visitor management solutions and more.

The ultimate guide to access control

Learn everything you need to successfully future-proof your physical access control system with this buyer’s guide.

Alternatives to HID access control

If you prefer a more modern access control provider over the legacy options, Avigilon Alta offers multiple solutions with a wide range of features and capabilities to fit your needs. If you prefer an on-premise security system, Avigilon Unity Access is a great option, with fully browser-based management that eliminates cumbersome software clients. Plus, it’s certified and compliant to meet federal standards for security. 

Many companies opt for PIN-based access for its convenience, but this access option comes with security concerns, as PIN codes can be seen by people standing nearby the keypad reader. Avigilon offers a more secure PIN-based entry without sacrificing convenience, with 4- to 16-digit PIN codes that are unique to each user. This prevents the PIN codes from being easily guessed by unauthorized users and offers strengthened protection. 

The Avigilon Alta cloud-based software features offer remote management capabilities, which is great for enterprise businesses looking to centralize their operations. Avigilon Alta’s open platform seamlessly integrates with all the tools you use to run your business today and will use in the future. With hardware that’s designed to be fully scalable and modular, you can easily secure a single door and up to hundreds of entries across locations. Plus, with everything managed online, you get the most up-to-date software and security instantly. With Avigilon Alta, you get reliable, convenient access control with advanced security features to protect your most valuable assets.

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