Brivo Access Control Examined

Author: Brian Rhodes, Published on May 10, 2012

Does hosted access offer advantages over traditional panel based door access control systems? Brivo Systems, a US provider of 'hosted access' solutions, is the most prominent provider and advocate of a different approach to electronic access control. In this note, we examine Brivo and how they stack up against their traditional 'host bound' access control counterparts.

Hosted Advantages

Aside from being functionally equivalent to mainstream Access Control offerings, Brivo claims its product has several advantages over traditional 'host bound' systems:

  • Hosting eliminates the cost of the main panel/ server, and subsequently prevents IT operation and overhead costs of that equipment
  • System access is possible from any internet connected PC [though note Brivo suffered service interuptions from a DNS issue in May 2012]
  • Data is protected in two real time redundant data centers located in Virgina and Colorado, maintains a degree of 'disaster proofing'
  • Software updates are distributed system wide from the cloud, rather than being site dependent

Software Overview

While not limited to a specific number of doors or locations, Brivo says their 'sweet spot' typically is multiple sites with less than 30 doors at each location. Brivo's primary product offering is named 'ACS', and several versions and add-on functionalities are available:

  • ACS 'WebService': offsite SaaS hosted solution, where edge controllers communicate with a remotely located central database
  • ACS 'OnSite': similar to 'Webservice', with the exception that solution remains online only within the LAN and all information is locally stored on system controllers
  • ACS 'OnSite Aparato': For larger deployments concerned about 'cloud' security but still wanting web-accessiblity of system, 'Aparato' is an appliance based version of 'WebService' intended for deployment within a end-user's LAN. Aparato is not hosted externally, but 'hosted' internally.
  • OVR 'WebService': Brivo's video surveillance module is an integrated AVHS instance (covered in a previous update), permits users a cross integrated cloud-based video platform with ACS 'WebService'.

ACS includes mainstay access control features, like antipassback support, 128 bit encryption, user-defined database fields, elevator controls support, and facility door lockdown features. Brivo is SAS70 Type II certified and FIPS 201 compliant according to government regulation. 'Aparato' supports a 'Guard Tour' feature that permits system readers to be used in a 'guard clock' fashion that log the travel of supervised security patrols within a facility.

Hardware Overview

ACS5000 EDGE Controller: Brivo ACS works with a customized version of HID's EDGE controller. The Brivo EDGE unit suitable for remote administration and control of 1 door. The EDGE controller is suitable for standalone deployments, and is PoE powerable.

'IP Door Controller', or 'IPDC': The 'next generation' of door controller is the IPDC, with expanded capability of controlling up to 2 doors. Like its EDGE predecessor, the IPDC is PoE powerable.

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ACS5000: Brivo's primary panel, the ACS5000 is sold in a several versions preloaded with controller boards. UL listed and FIPS 140-2 versions are available, and regardless of initial configuration the basic chassis is expandable to control up to 30 readers per enclosure.

Readers: Compatible credential support is broadly based to include the following types:

  • Standard 26 Bit
  • Generic 34 Bit (Even or Odd Parity)
  • HID Corporate 1000 (35 Bit)
  • HID 37 Bit (with or without Facility Code)
  • Casi-Rusco 40 Bit

Readers supporting these general format are compatible with Brivo and this list covers the majority of card credential formats used today.

Pricing

Brivo reports cost targets of $500 per door (less labor and locking hardware) and $15 per month hosting service fee per door. However, pricing for discrete hardware and hosting services is not publicly available. 

Comparison

Brivo's up front costs are significantly lower than traditional systems. When including the additional hardware and installation labor cost, a typical Brivo controlled opening costs around $750 - $1200 per opening, compared to $900 - $2000 per opening cost for traditional hardwired 'host bound' access controlled opening.

A cost/benefit analysis shows that for a 8 door access control system, Brivo has a lower cost of ownership until month 10 or 12. This estimate assumes that for an 8 door system, a traditional 'hardwire' system costs an additional $1200 in hardware upfront. The monthy 'hosting' fee for the same number of doors costs around $120 per month.

However, traditional systems will have their own upkeep/maintenance costs that need to be factored in as well. A traditional 'hardwired' access control system requires several components not required by a hosted Brivo system for operation. These elements include:

  • Master Controller 'Headend' panel, including power supplies
  • Dedicated communication cabling from door controller to 'Headend' panel
  • Dedicated workstation to store the database

These components can add several thousand dollars in cost and ongoing maintenance to a traditional 'hardwired' access control system. For a typical 8 door system, the additional cost of these components can add $75 to $150 per opening.

However, using Brivo requires the user to pay a recurring 'hosting' fee for each door, typically around $15 per month. This fee covers the cost of moving the same functions addressed by the 'Headend' panel to the cloud.

Other costs associated with Brivo are local internet connection and general network administration, however most enterprises view these as general overhead costs, since they already apply to general commercial computer networks.

Acquisition costs aside, a Brivo system provides an access control system whose 'headend' is web accessible, decentralized, backed up, and maintained with a high system 'uptime' in a professional datacenter. However, these benefits can be obtained when using a 'hardwired' system with additional costs and configuration.

The most economical choice between the two options will depend upon the IT strengths and resources of individual end users. If a customer is rather 'light' on IT resources and competency, Brivo may ultimately be a better fit despite it's higher lifetime costs. However, if a customer already has a well-developed IT infrastructure and support team in place, they will likely capture 'hosted' benefits at a lower cost.

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