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T/MonXM Tip: Use ASCII Alarm Processing for Fast, Accurate Diagnosis of Network Problems

When a major or critical network alarm happens, you might as well set a ticking clock and cue the Mission: Impossible theme, because every second that elapses until the alarm is cleared is going to cost you money. When you consider revenue losses due to network outages, repair costs, technicians' salaries, windshield time - a serious network problem can cost you thousands for every minute it's not corrected.

Here's where high-quality network alarm monitoring can save you a lot of money. If you know exactly what the problem is, where it's located, and how to fix it as soon as the alarm comes in, you can clear it fast, and you can solve the problem right the first time.

What you need is a monitoring tool that can quickly and accurately determine the root causes of network problems and identify the right way to solve them. If you're a T/MonXM user, you may already have this tool - ASCII alarm processing.

What Are ASCII Alarms? How Are They Generated? Why Are They So Powerful?

ASCII alarms are alarm reports that take the form of plain, readable English text. Like any English message, ASCII alarms can take any form and include any information. This is quite different from most of the other communication protocols used in network reliability management, which generate alarms in specified formats and contain rigidly limited information.

Nearly any kind of network equipment is capable of generating ASCII alarms. Some common types of equipment that generate ASCII are channel banks, PBXs, SONET equipment, digital switches, logging devices, RTUs, routing platforms, DSUs, CSUs, and NIUs.

If you're unsure whether you're equipment will output ASCII alarms, look for an admin, craft, logger, or printer port on the unit. These ports can be connected to any device that can display, print, or process ASCII text.

ASCII alarms are powerful and useful because they provide detailed, in-depth information about your equipment. A device's visible front-end monitoring interface may just be a handful of scan points or summary alarms that don't tell you the exact nature or location of problems. But that same equipment will log every event in detail in its ASCII output, providing you with a rich source of information for troubleshooting.

Taking a Sip From a Fire Hose

The only problem with ASCII output is that it's a constant flow of information, not all of which will be useful to technicians trying to diagnose a problem. You need a way of reducing this torrent of data into a manageable and meaningful information source.

Most methods of monitoring ASCII alarm data don't produce meaningful information that you can act upon. Traditionally, ASCII output is sent straight to a printer or logging device. At best, ASCII information is sent to a terminal where it can be extracted, but only if you know the right command strings.

Neither of these methods is adequate for proactive, real-time network monitoring. For alarms to be actionable, you need automatic and timely notification of events as they happen. And unless you want a constant stream of nuisance alarms, you need the flow of data reduced to only the information that's relevant to you, prioritized by severity.

How T/MonXM Makes ASCII Better

T/MonXM's optional ASCII Processor Software Module, available for T/Mon NOC, turns that mass stream of meaningless ASCII text into a useful monitoring tool.

The ASCII Processor automatically parses the ASCII flow, continuously scanning for alarm data. When an alarm message is recognized, the ASCII Processor extracts the relevant information according to user-specified rules.

The extracted ASCII information is then converted into a standard T/MonXM alarm, which, just like any other alarm in T/MonXM, has a defined severity level, site location, and description, detailing exactly what event is happening, where it's happening, and how urgent it is.

T/MonXM's ASCII alarms also support all the other powerful functions of your T/MonXM system. ASCII alarms can be sorted into windows by severity, site, equipment type, or any other criterion you choose; ASCII alarms can be used as inputs in derived alarm formulas; ASCII alarms can be used as triggers for automatic e-mail and pager notifications.

Plus, T/MonXM can accept ASCII input from multiple devices, even if they have completely different message formats. Different ASCII rule sets can be created for every type of ASCII device in your network, and it's easy to create rules with the optional Auto-Databasing ASCII Software Module.

ASCII devices can be connected locally through a serial connection, or over LAN, even if they're distant from your IAM/TMonXM system.

Best of all, T/MonXM's ASCII alarms can be associated with detailed text messages, telling your monitoring staff exactly what to do and who to call in case an alarm happens.

So with T/MonXM and the ASCII Processing Module, you can:

  • Access detailed alarm information from many different types of equipment
  • Parse ASCII data and extract only the information most useful to you
  • Have immediate visibility of the severity and priority of ASCII alarms
  • Immediately send ASCII alarm information to anyone in your organization via e-mail or pager message
  • Use ASCII alarm data to automatically trigger corrective actions
  • Give your staff detailed instructions for correcting the alarm

This is exactly what proactive alarm monitoring should do - acquire and capture useful information that will correct problems quickly, keeping your network running reliably with lower repair costs.

Order the ASCII Processor Today

You can immediately extend the usefulness of your IAM/TMonXM system with the ASCII Processor Software Module. Call 1-800-693-0351 and order now.

Get the Full Story on How T/MonXM Will Protect Your Network and Your Budget

ASCII alarm processing is just one of the network reliability tools available with T/MonXM. The latest edition of T/MonXM, Version 4.2, contains over 50 separate improvements, each of which is designed to improve your network reliability and add value to your business.

For more on what T/MonXM can do for you, check out the complete T/MonXM story.