Honeywell NetAXS security card panels

I work at a facility that uses a LOT of Honeywell card-access panels, mostly the N1000-4x type, and for several years we’ve been happy with those (though seriously, only 4 doors per $2000 panel?!). When they came out with a new panel with built-in Ethernet, we started purchasing those instead. The NetAXS 4 panels saved us from having to buy a separate Ethernet to RS-232 and RS-485 devices, and we loved how quickly they would initialize compared to the old panels.

However, we ran into a pretty major brick wall recently. Our campus has several buildings, with several floors, and several departments. One building houses a number of different tenant organizations. This means that we have a lot of different access levels, 108 to be exact. The software we use to manage the panels is called Winpak SE 4.4, and it began complaining immediately after we updated from version 3.3 that some of our NetAXS panels may not function properly, and that they are limited to 128 access levels. WTF?! None of us recalled seeing anything in the adverts about a limitation on how many access levels could be used. And why in the world would a newly designed panel have such a tiny limitation when its older version had virtually no limit?

Now 128 may sound like a lot until you find out that every card given a custom access to a particular door counts as an access level, we tend to run out very quickly on a popular door. This seems to be the primary way that levels are used up. A single card can only have a single assigned access level, so we have to do custom levels quite often.

We could replace the new panels with the old panels. But at $2000 a piece, that is a chunk of change.

ANOTHER HUGE ISSUE: We recently had a lot of difficulty getting the panels to download access levels. Through several calls to tech support and trying new firmware and OS files, and several emails sent, we found that our database (which started back around 2003, I think, and has gone through several upgrades) probably has a bit of corruption. How it manifests is that we see cards repeatedly being given “Host Grant” on the Event View. Host Grant is designed to check with the server and download a card to the panel if it is authorized, but not yet downloaded. The cards were being downloaded, but because no access levels are ever downloaded to the panel, the panel is continually using Host Grant. That is, the cards are downloaded, but because they have no permissions, they can’t do anything. So the panel checks with the server and it says, “Sure, let that card through that door” or “No, it isn’t authorized”. This creates about a 2 second pause between the card being read and the lock opening.

Tech Support had us create a new access level with appropriate permissions for each of our existing levels, isolate the cards in each level and assign them to each new matching level. This creates new fresh access levels that the panels can read just fine. They immediately were downloaded to the panels and everything began working as designed. That solved some big issues when people couldn’t get through doors when the network was down. Now the panels store the information and can work independently of the server most of the time. I also had to go through each custom access level that touched a new panel, remove the custom setting, then add it again. 5 hours later everything is working normally.

ANOTHER ISSUE: If we have an “active shooter” situation, we’d like to be able to shut down access to a site, or lock all the doors. That isn’t an option in the Winpak software without doing some major cartwheels. The software has been out for at least 15 years, so they’ve had ample time to work on it. All Honeywell ever seems to do is release a new version without new benefits other than support.

ANOTHER ISSUE: The Winpak database isn’t a pivot table. If you want to search for specific things that Honeywell doesn’t offer as a prefab search, you are out of luck. It runs off of a SQL Server Express database, but the forms they offer for searching often leave out things we’d like. If it is in the database, we should be able to search for it, and create custom searches.

So, we did get some good help eventually from Tech Support that resolved a big issue. But we still would like to see some major improvements in the software soon.