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Nearly all telecom operators have alarm monitoring systems. The question is whether those systems are robust and flexible enough to meet their real needs in a cost-effective manner. The following chart will help you determine if your current system is as good as it should be.
Basic Monitoring System
Reports that a generator is down; operator must be watching the console to learn of the problem.
More Advanced System
Reports the generator is down and automatically switches to a backup battery; operator still must constantly watch the console to learn of problems.
State of the Art
Reports generator failure; checks to determine if backup battery is good; differentiates between minor alarm of a down generator and critical alarm of down generator AND bad battery; responds to critical alarm by paging and/or emailing support personnel.
Having some alarm monitoring is better than having no monitoring at all, but it's even better to have the best alarm monitoring possible. Advanced alarm monitoring features like these can make the difference between a minor incident and major downtime and that's a crucial edge to have in today's competitive industry. Here's a breakdown of some advanced features you should look for:
Some alarm monitoring systems will beep and flash to let personnel know there is a problem. Others systems will notify your Network Operations Center (NOC) hundreds of miles away from the incident. All of this is essential, but it's even more important to immediately notify the closest person able to fix the repair. This will speed repairs and minimize downtime. If this is important to you - and it should be - then you should consider an alarm monitoring solution that is capable of paging and sending emails to immediately notify repair personnel.
The heart of intelligent monitoring, derived alarms allow you to create custom alarms based on the analysis of multiple incoming alarms. In our example above, we listed two alarms (down generator and bad battery) that created a derived alarm which we'll call "Critical Power". More advanced techniques take into account dozens of alarms, giving you extremely detailed visibility to the true health of your network.
Similar to the derived alarms, derived controls apply rule sets to incoming alarms to control complex automatic responses to emergencies. There are two types of derived controls: echo and formula.
An echo derived control creates a one-to-one relationship in which a particular alarm input is echoed by a relay. For example, if your alarm monitoring device senses that a tower light has gone out, you can have a backup light automatically turned on in seconds.
A formula derived control monitors multiple alarm inputs and evaluates them by a user-defined formula to determine if a relay should be activated. Derived control formulas use Boolean operators to specify under what conditions relays should be activated. Our generator failure example might be written like this:
If ( (generator=down) AND (battery=bad) )
then ( (page=technician) AND (backupGen=start) )
This is just a basic example, but it gives you an idea of the power of derived controls. And this power is easily expanded, because derived control formulas can themselves be used as terms in larger derived control formulas. Using derived controls, extremely complex and intelligent responses to emergencies can be completely automated.
Derived controls can trigger a control relay latch on a NetGuardian RTU - or an SNMP GET command to any SNMP device.
What happens when your alarm monitoring system does its job but the person who is supposed to respond doesn't? Even the most competent and reliable technician can be sidelined by a dead pager battery or a cell phone that's out of range. But neither your boss nor your customers will accept an excuse, however justified, for service disruptions.
Alarm escalation addresses this problem. With a network monitoring system that supports alarm escalation, you can create a list of people to be notified if an alarm is not acknowledged. For example, suppose that the first person notified in the event of an alarm is the technician on call. If that technician does not acknowledge the alarm within a user-specified time, a backup technician will also be notified. If the alarm is still unacknowledged within the next specified period, a repair supervisor will be notified.
Does your system measure up?
Consider these automated response features when you're evaluating your network monitoring system. If your system doesn't have these capabilities you're risking downtime-and giving your competitors a crucial advantage.