Vision Net's Gary Evans Uses T/Mon To Create A Regional Multi-Network NOC

Gary Evans, Vision Net network enginneer, monitors multiple networks with TMon
Gary Evans, Vision Net Network Engineer, monitors alarms from multiple companies through T/Mon remote access

How can small telephone companies economically monitor their remote sites 24-7? To solve this problem, Vision Net of Montana has created a regional NOC that provides after-hours and weekend monitoring to the state's rural telephone cooperatives.

To build Vision Net's NOC, network engineer Gary Evans needed a monitoring system that could integrate alarms from a wide variety of equipment, while maintaining detailed visibility of each alarm. Evans is tackling this challenge with the T/Mon Remote Alarm Monitoring System and DPS Telecom's custom engineering services.

The result has been cost-effective 24-hour monitoring for Vision Net's clients and an opportunity for Vision Net to offer value-added network monitoring services.

Problem: Small telephone co-ops needed 24-hour monitoring under their control

A joint venture of five independent Montana telecoms, Vision Net provides advanced network services throughout the state. Vision Net's owner companies and other small telecoms faced a common problem - they needed 24-7 monitoring, but running a 24-hour NOC was cost-prohibitive.

Vision Net's member companies used to deal with this dilemma by outsourcing their alarm monitoring. Evans said there were several problems with outsourced monitoring:

  • Unintegrated legacy equipment: "There were several different hardware brands involved, and it was difficult to get flexibility with that older equipment," said Evans.
  • Misleading alarms: "There were lots of nuisance alarms. Our alarms didn't have a lot of detail, so it was sometimes unclear whether an alarm was important or not. On some equipment, a major alarm wasn't serious; on other equipment it was the complete opposite. We actually missed alarms, because people would misinterpret what was actually happening." said Evans.
  • Poor monitoring service: The worst problem was that Triangle was dependent on an external service that didn't always meet its needs. "Our monitoring service missed alarms very often. It was inexpensive, but you get what you pay for," said Evans.

Solution: Vision Net creates a T/Mon-based regional NOC

Evans and co-worker Bill Welch found a way out of these monitoring dilemmas ... they brought network monitoring in-house with the T/Mon Remote Alarm Monitoring System, which gave better visibility and control over the network.

Because of his experience with T/Mon's capabilities, Evans felt comfortable recommending T/Mon to telephone cooperatives throughout Montana. "I feel pretty safe pushing DPS products. I can show these other companies it's a good product for monitoring," said Evans.

In time, several Vision Net companies added their own T/Mon systems, which enabled Vision Net to offer after-hours remote monitoring services. "We monitor the client companies' networks with their own T/Mon systems," said Evans. "Using T/Mon's remote access capabilities, we can connect over Vision Net's statewide data network and log on to their master units."

Results: T/Mon provides detailed visibility of diverse equipment

In their current role, Vision Net's NOC has to monitor widely different types of equipment from several different companies, and they have to provide detailed, relevant alarm data so dispatchers can make informed decisions about after-hours dispatches.

T/Mon has provided the tools for meeting these challenges:

  • Integrating diverse legacy equipment: "We're monitoring a wide range of equipment, from legacy gear like old Dantel equipment all the way up to more advanced protocols like SNMP," said Evans. "One of the things I like about DPS is that there's a wide realm of what they're compatible with."
  • Detailed alarm monitoring: "Alarm detail is critical to our customers," said Evans. "It gives us the information to make better decisions about whether a callout should be made or not. Our customers need to keep a handle on unnecessary callouts. For these phone companies, unnecessary callouts of their technicians results in excessive after-hours labor costs. Alarm detail helps prevent this, while also giving the technician an idea of what he'll be working on to clear the alarm, so he's better prepared for the situation."
  • Individualized alarm filtering: "One of the best things about T/Mon is the ability to customize each individual company's alarm inputs," said Evans. "Every company wants their own unique rule set: 'Don't call us on this alarm, ignore this, definitely call us on criticals, call us on a major if it stays set for 20 minutes, but if it goes in and out, don't even worry about it.' We can take each feed from a specific phone company and write rules for each.

New custom development project will expand Vision Net's monitoring capabilities

In the future, Evans foresees an increased demand for Vision Net's remote monitoring services. To expand Vision Net's NOC monitoring capacity, Evans is working with DPS Telecom to develop new software that would enable T/Mon to collect alarms from other T/Mon systems.

"In our NOC we have several monitors, and each one is remotely connected to a different company's T/Mon," said Evans. "As we grow, we could easily end up with 10 companies to monitor. Then we would have a whole wall of TVs and people to physically look at the monitors."

"We want to consolidate all the networks from our client companies onto one T/Mon alarm summary screen. We can have just one alarm window per company, and then when we start drilling through that window, the client's whole network will open up. It will be a very nice, clean package for us to monitor," said Evans.

When the new T/Mon software is completed, Evans added, Vision Net will be able to offer some value-added services to its remote monitoring package:

  • Economical monitoring for smaller companies: "There are little telephone cooperatives that only have one thousand subscribers. They can't buy an entire alarm system, but they can buy NetGuardians for their sites. If we have our own T/Mon, their NetGuardians can report directly to us," said Evans.
  • Customized databasing services: "Once our people get very fluent in programming T/Mon, I think it will be valuable for these phone companies to have those services. They won't have to worry about their people trying to take expensive time to tweak their system."
  • Tech support: "We can help our client companies design their monitoring systems and provide them with a turnkey setup," said Evans. "We can help them through any problems they might have, or any changes they might want to make to the system."

"I feel confident going into the future with DPS," said Evans. "With DPS we can work out a solution for just about anything out there. If DPS doesn't already have a solution, they're very good at providing a custom solution."


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