Lenel S2 access control and card reader review

See why customers choose Openpath’s cloud-based, mobile solution over legacy access control from Lenel. 

Openpath vs. Lenel Access Control

Lenel, or LenelS2, is a legacy access control provider with a global customer base. The company, which was acquired by United Technologies Corporation (UTC) in 2005, has multiple access control products and services. UTC also purchased access control company S2 in 2018, further expanding on the available Lenel lineup. Lenel’s access control products include a range of proximity door readers, access control boards, and the OnGuard System software, along with cloud-based software like its Elements and OnGuard Cloud Extension systems. Lenel also offers video management software and visitor management services. 

When choosing the right door access control for your business or institution’s needs, there are a variety of factors to think about: Access control software preferences, hardware needs, and integration compatibility, to name a few. While Lenel offers a variety of smart readers, video management, touchless entry, and cloud-based solutions, your organization may find the complicated product merging and limited software capabilities a disadvantage in comparison to other systems. Before selecting an access control system for your organization, keep in mind the following fundamental comparisons to better understand the benefits and potential challenges of the Lenel access control system.

Quick look: key differences between Lenel and Openpath
Lenel
Openpath
Cloud compatibility

Lenel's cloud hosting is limited. Some systems require local servers to operate.

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Open integration

Lenel can only integrate with certified partners and does not support mobile SDK

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Digital guest pass

Lenel does not support digital visitor access with customizable time and entry

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Customer support

Openpath offers top-rated 24/7 customer support with high satisfaction rate

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All-in-one technology

Openpath combines a camera, intercom, and reader in a single device

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Openpath’s reliable video access control
  • Multi-tech readers support mobile, key cards, fobs, and more

  • 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 Lenel access control review

More organizations are moving toward cloud-based software as it allows for increased flexibility and customization of access control needs. Lenel offers some cloud-based solutions, including its Elements system and OnGuard Cloud Edition. Elements is a comprehensive access control solution designed specifically for the cloud, which Lenel says is ideal for small and medium businesses. For larger enterprise organizations with branch offices, you must connect the Elements system to OnGuard, Lenel’s core access control software, using the Elements OnGuard Connector. In this case, enterprises will run the OnGuard system at their main facilities, while branches will be secured by the Elements system. This isn’t a fully cloud-based solution and may result in a complicated setup or management process. 

In comparison, Openpath’s cloud-based software is seamless to configure and run, no matter the size of your organization. You can access Openpath from any web-enabled device in the world, making it quick and convenient to administer credentials, customize entries, or revoke access across any user or location. This solution can increase efficiency and decrease costs thanks to its scalability, allowing you to add or remove specific features as your organization grows or changes.

Cloud-based integrations for customizability

Integrations are essential to creating a flexible, IoT-connected organization. Centralizing security management through cloud-based automations is a growing trend, especially for enterprise businesses that want better ROI on their technology investments. The one-size-fits-all solutions are often expensive and cannot adapt to changing business needs. Both Openpath and Lenel can support integrations with many other apps, platforms, and building systems. However, Lenel requires technology partners to create a certified interface through their OpenAccess Alliance Program, so your options for customization will be more limited. 

Openpath is built with a truly open architecture, allowing limitless customization via API and mobile SDKs, with many popular integrations like Ava, Avigilon, Cisco Meraki, G Suite, Okta, and more, available out-of-the-box. Plus, the Openpath interface is easy to navigate, which makes enabling new features and integrations quick and simple.

On-premise access control management

Lenel is best known for its legacy, on-premise access control solutions. Locally hosted software has been the norm for decades, especially for large enterprises, organizations with legacy systems already installed, or federal and government institutions that may be required to have an on-premise system. Lenel’s on-premise solutions like NetBox, NetBox Extreme, and NetBox Enterprise support control and event monitoring like cardholder management, event, and alarm monitoring. The largest difference between these NetBox offerings is the size of your organization and amount of sites needing access control management. All three of the NetBox systems can be integrated with Lenel’s video management systems or approved third-party video management systems. 

Openpath offers a variety of solutions for access control management, including on-premise options, too. The on-premise Access Control Manager (ACM) solution is FIPS 201-2 compliant and meets the PIV requirements mandated for U.S. federal government employees and contractors. It’s also a 100% browser-based system, remaining accessible across any approved web browser with no required software installation. Openpath’s web-based access control also comes built with an open architecture that allows for smooth and easy integration of third-party devices and systems. This includes (but is not limited to) integrations with Avigilon Control Center for proactive video monitoring and security, and wireless lock integrations that support common smart locks from brands like Schlage, ASSA ABLOY, and SALTO. 

Video and intercom capabilities

Having several different layers of security and flexibility for your access control doesn't have to be overly complicated. In fact, it may be preferable to have a system that meets the many needs of an organization all in one piece of hardware. At the time of this review, Lenel doesn’t offer hardware that combines key features like video and intercom functionality. Lenel has its VRx video management system, but it’s a completely different product that exists separately from its access control system solutions. 

Openpath offers software and hardware that merges seamlessly for additional layers of convenience, customization, and—perhaps most importantly—security. The Openpath Video Reader Pro is a smart reader with a built-in high resolution camera to access footage and monitor real-time video through Openpath’s Control Center or the mobile app. Even more, the Openpath Video Intercom Reader Pro provides all of the aforementioned functions with the addition of an AI-powered door intercom system that allows guests to initiate calls, communicate with tenants even if they aren’t at home or in the office, and interact with the intelligent voice interface to route calls to the correct person at the correct time. 

If on-premise access control is preferable, or if your organization already has Avigilon video security, Openpath’s on-premise ACM offering easily integrates with Avigilon Control Center for a completely unified video and access solution, making installation and management simple and streamlined.

Mobile access and touchless entry

Lenel’s mobile user experience, BlueDiamond, enables the use of smartphones for authorized touchless entry. The BlueDiamond Multi-Tech Readers are the only Lenel door readers that work with the mobile app-based entry, so existing Lenel readers will not support smartphone credentials. Like Openpath, Lenel’s BlueDiamond readers also support proximity and smart cards for backward compatibility with older systems. 

The mobile system is managed through the Lenel OnGuard access control system. Depending on the software version installed, you may still have limited cloud-based management capabilities. Once new users are set up in the OnGuard system, they can download the app to activate their credentials, and tap to unlock when near a reader. Openpath offers a similar cloud-based experience, where all administrators have remote access to the management system, so they can add or revoke new users at any time, from anywhere.

While Lenel does offer “hands-free” access methods, they require some initial setup from the user. In order to use the feature, users need to either enable pre-configured travel routes and commonly used entries in the app, or register a specific read-range distance for each entry. With Openpath, touchless access is enabled on the administrator side with a single click, with no extra work for the end user. Openpath’s Wave to Unlock feature also provides additional security by having users show intent to unlock, minimizing the chance for an accidental unlock and potential security threat. Lenel’s mobile readers use Bluetooth (BLE) signals to unlock. In comparison, Openpath uses a patented Triple Unlock technology, which simultaneously races Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and cellular data signals for a faster, more reliable unlocking experience.

Another advantage to Openpath access control systems over Lenel is the ability to send digital guest passes. Lenel users will still need to escort guests in person or give them a temporary card credential to use on the premises. With Openpath, users can create customized visitor credentials in the app, set specific time ranges and permissions, and send them via email or SMS to guests. This feature lets visitors open the door using their phone, without having to download the Openpath app. 

Hardware requirements and considerations

Looking at the different hardware options in this Lenel access control review, the company has a few product ranges designed for various applications. However, only certain readers Lenel sells support mobile credentials, and others are designed to only work with proximity key cards. Like many other aspects of Lenel’s product lineup, the need for installing several pieces of hardware may make for a complex, convoluted installation. Even more, if you choose readers that only support the credentials you use right now, that same hardware may be obsolete in a few years—a very costly mistake. Nobody wants to have to replace their entire deployment after a year to have the best protection available.

A better option for your building’s physical security is to install a system with a future-proof product line. Openpath Smart Readers and Smart Hubs are designed to be multifunctional and support all credential types on the same system. Another benefit to a system like Openpath is that it’s backward compatible with legacy systems, giving you added flexibility and cost savings. Lenel’s access control systems are only compatible with Mercury controllers, meaning you’ll also have to replace the backend hardware if your existing system is made by anyone else. 

For many modern spaces, aesthetics is also a deciding factor in choosing new technology, and the bulky brick-like access control readers offered by legacy providers just don’t cut it anymore. Openpath’s multi-technology Smart Readers are award-winning for its slim, sleek design and can mount flush with the wall for a streamlined finish. The readers are easy to install as it is compatible with any legacy wiring, as well as common third-party Wiegand readers. Openpath’s Pro Series Video Readers and Video Intercom Readers also feature a slim, sleek look, and can be adjusted for the best viewing angle during installation. In addition to the sophisticated hardware lineup, Openpath’s Embedded USB Smart Reader fits harmoniously with your existing physical architecture. The Smart Reader can be installed on a single gang box, in turnstiles or elevators, or even into a wall for smooth, subtle usage. Unlike the Embedded USB Smart Reader, much of Lenel’s hardware will be visible in your organization’s locations, and none of the current reader designs feature USB ports. 

Access control pricing review

In terms of cost, access control is a big investment for any size business. When comparing access control system costs, there are a few key components to consider: 

  • Initial hardware investment: the up-front cost of control boards, hubs, and door readers

  • Installation: the cost for installing a system will depend on the existing wiring or hardware, and whether or not your new system can use what’s already in place. Work with a certified access control installer to get a quote for installation, and ask if the hardware is backward compatible. 

  • Credentials: if you are using a legacy system like Lenel that requires smart cards or prox cards, your budget should allocate funds towards purchasing new credentials for all employees, plus additional spend to replace cards over time. Because a mobile access control system relies on a user’s smartphone, there’s no added cost for credentials. 

  • Software: a legacy access control system like Lenel that requires software hosted on-premise will charge an up-front fee for licensing. Keep in mind that on-premise systems will need regular in-person software updates, which will incur added costs. Many cloud-based providers use a Software as a Service (SaaS) model, with a set annual subscription cost that includes regular software updates.

  • Maintenance and training: if you host your access control on local servers, those servers will need regular maintenance either by hired staff or an outside technician. Lenel offers training courses for their customers and partners, but the class prices are steep. With new updates, staff will need to be trained on how to configure the software to support new features. With a cloud-based solution, the servers are maintained and serviced by a third party, with that cost included in the subscription price so there are no surprise fees.

Because Lenel generally targets enterprise customers, their solution can be expensive for smaller deployments. Organizations with less than 50 doors to secure may want to consider a more cost-efficient option like Openpath. With hardware like the Single Door Controller, which supports up to two entries, and modular access control boards in 4-door and 8-door options, Openpath is an affordable access control option for both small and large businesses. If scaling up or back is a concern, Openpath’s cloud-based solution may be more cost-effective in the long run as well.

For enterprise organizations that want more flexibility and a future-proof security system, Lenel’s siloed products will likely be more expensive in the long run. In terms of security ROI, scaling to new locations, including adding new sites, doors, and users is often a time-consuming process. With Openpath’s cloud-based, intuitive software, scaling up or back is a matter of clicks, instead of weeks. Plus, flexible, interoperable technology is more efficient, helping your organization do more with less investment.

Guide to holistic enterprise security

Learn how to create a comprehensive security strategy for multi-site enterprise organizations by merging physical and cyber security systems.

Alternatives to Lenel access control

If a legacy access control provider isn’t the right fit for your business, Openpath offers a wide range of features and capabilities customizable for your specific needs. The scalable solutions are designed to secure anywhere from a single door, up to thousands across multiple locations. Openpath's access control software is also more affordable, with annual subscriptions that are based on usage; add new features or scale back at any time based on business. The feature-rich cloud software offers fully remote management, which is great for both small and enterprise businesses. The easy-to-use interface lets administrators add new entries, issue and revoke credentials, adjust schedules and permissions, and set custom alerts all in just a few clicks. And, if your organization is in need of an on-premise solution, Openpath provides a 100% browser-based system that allows for greater flexibility, customization, and security.

Openpath’s open API architecture and mobile SDKs seamlessly integrate with all the tools you use to run your business. The ability to create holistic building security means you can do more with less investment, increasing ROI while maintaining flexibility. A truly open platform like Openpath paves the way for smarter, safer, more adaptable buildings. Plus, with everything managed online, you get the most up-to-date software and security instantly over the cloud, with no face-to-face communication or in-person maintenance required. Openpath provides reliable, convenient mobile access control with advanced security features and dedicated customer support to safeguard what matters most.

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