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Infrastructure Management: Improve Your War Room Command Center

Your command center, or Network Operations Center (NOC), is the heart of your network management. It's here that you collect alarm conditions and sensor readings from across your network, filter out the unimportant alerts, aggregate and present information to your operators, and dispatch technicians to your remote sites to perform maintenance and repairs.

But how do you set up quality infrastructure management services that avoid common (and expensive) mistakes? If you already have a control center in place, what can you do to improve its performance?

Image of a Network Command Center showing rows of desks with computers and workers monitoring their remote network. Workers are ready to dispatch a technician when critical alarms are triggered.
An effective command center for your remote network monitoring will keep your network online, your customers happy, and your revenue flowing...

NOC Setup Checklist: 4 key elements of an effective command center for remote network monitoring:

  1. Clear, intuitive alarm display.
    The faster you can react to network threats, the more uptime (and revenue) you can preserve. Choosing a poor-quality alarm display that's confusing and complicated can lead to network downtime and upset customers. Look for an alarm master that can display alarms on an intuitive geographic map on your command center's big screen ("war room" display). Viewing alarms on maps makes it much easier for operators to visualize what's happening in your network and dispatch technicians appropriately. This is also helpful for new operators without a lot of experience.
  2. Support for multiple users. You have a sizeable network and lots of customers. To keep it online, a wide range of people will need access to aggregated alarm data both within your command center and when out in the field. That's why it's so important to choose a master station that supports many simultaneous users. Ideally, your operators will access the master station remotely via LAN from their individual workstations. While map-based interfaces are typically installed software applications, it's also handy to have a Web interface (especially if it includes Web 3.0 functionality). Your technicians can have access to the network from anywhere (including from their laptops when out in the field).
  3. Mobile alerts for very important messages - or after-hours. Do you have a 7x24 staffed network command center? If you don't you need an alarm management platform that will send alerts (text, voice, email, etc.) to your on-call technicians after hours. Even if your control room is staffed at all times, you can still benefit from receiving outbound alerts for important alarms. For example, you might set up critical alarms to automatically escalate to a supervisor's cell phone if they are not acknowledged within 5 minutes of being received by the master station.
  4. Telco-grade hardware platform with redundancy. Your network infrastructure was expensive to build, and you spend more money each day to maintain it. Your customers all depend on your ability to provide reliable service. Considering all this, don't even think about running your command center's network management software on a consumer-grade PC workstation. Instead, look for a telco-grade hardware platform in a metal chassis containing redundant hard drives (RAID). For larger networks, the ability to run a redundant pair of master stations in different location is also valuable.

Other elements to consider for an effective command center for remote network monitoring:

  • Filtering of nuisance alarm conditions.
    There's a lot going on in your network. If you and your team have to go through every single alarm message, you're going to quickly become overwhelmed. As a result, you're going to subconsciously start tuning out these alarms. Therefore, you'll eventually miss a critical alarm that's truly important. That's why a good system will use rules that you design to automatically filter out unimportant "nuisance" alerts. It will only show you the alarms that truly matter. The best systems can also combine multiple conditions (ex. Simultaneous power losses at a cluster of sites) into a single alert ("NW region commercial power failure"). This will allow you to have better management and control over your network's alarm conditions and notifications.
  • Ability to automatically respond to threats according to rules you define. Things can change quickly in your network. Some critical conditions require a very quick response. In these cases, the best course of action is to program your command/control system to automatically respond. For example, if commercial power has failed and your battery plant is below 20% capacity, you can program a good system to automatically latch a control relay at the site and activate the diesel generator. Command and control systems never fall asleep and never get distracted. Of course, you should still find a system that will notify you when it has taken automatic corrective action. This will tell you what the problem was and what action has been taken.

DPS Telecom Command Center Alarm Master Station Recommendation: T/Mon LNX

For a good example of a centralized alarm master station for your command center, take a moment to review the T/Mon LNX equipment specs:

  1. View your alarms on zoom-able geographic maps using T/GFX software, built using Microsoft MapPoint(R).
  2. Support dozens of simultaneous users across T/GFX, Web 3.0, and other intuitive interfaces.
  3. Send automatic email, text, and voice alerts to technicians after hours.
  4. Trust field-proven hardware in a powder-coated aluminum chassis and field-proven software running in an ultra-stable environment. Optionally, run two redundant master stations simultaneously using T/Mon NRI synchronization software.

T/Mon Master Alarm Stations (LNX, SLIM, MINI, and BAS) are designed to give you full visibility, control, and management over your network. Software modules can be purchased and installed on these Master Stations for different applications. Simple models are available, but please know that DPS can also tailor a perfect-fit solution just for you. As a result, you will reduce and prevent your network's downtime and keep your customers happy. You'll be at ease knowing that your network is being monitored by a proven solution and that your customers are being serviced with maximum uptime.

Other T/Mon Alarm Master Stations to consider:

Do you have less than 10 remote sites to monitor?

Here are some Remote Telemetry Units (RTUs) that may interest you:

See Also: