As you read this, preventable waste is silently devouring your profits, increasing your budget consumption, or even putting lives at risk.
Poor situational awareness happens when your remote monitoring system isn't correctly designed, installed, and provisioned. Your Network Operations Center (NOC) engineers don't receive clear, up-to-the-minute intelligence about every remote site.
Think of the wasted budget dollars:
When you don't have a high-level remote monitoring and control system for your network operations, you're leaving money on the table.
Fortunately, you can follow a few steps to get big benefits from quality remote site monitoring equipment.
I've worked with one client who has been very active in improving his system. He's been installing new sensors and improving gradually over the last six years.
He's reached a point where he can confidently say that the after-hours call outs are down over 75% from when he started.
Think of the tremendous savings in play here. You're slashing a lot of overtime hours, either completely or by converting them into regular-time hours.
Even if you know exactly when to send someone to a site, you also need to have a complete understanding of the work to be accomplished.
You need a remote network management system that will send detailed alarm messages to give you total situational awareness.
Sending the right person with the right tool or part is easy when you know precisely what's wrong beforehand.
Furthermore, a smart remote network monitoring system will be able to send different alerts to different people. Technicians will respond to equipment failures. Security teams will respond to break-ins.
Here are some common sources of big equipment damage:
Solving these problems isn't rocket science. You can detect all of them with just a remote monitoring device and simple sensors:
In one simple analog reading, a temperature sensor will detect HVAC failures, a rising heat load, seasonal shifts, and even fires.
Monitoring the voltage outputs from your rectifier, generator, and battery plants will tell you if anyone is outside the proper range. Some RTU boxes even have internally wired analogs, so you can automatically monitor the power supply that feeds into their input(s).
Putting magnetic contacts on your site door(s) and adding a few simple motion sensors goes a long way. You can even loop wire around valuable components like battery cells. If the wire is cut, you'll get an alert. This can also be done with fiber.
Especially when combined with temperature, monitoring the air flowing from your HVAC vents will tell you about any failure or degraded performance (ex. clogged filter).
All causes of service-affecting outages share a common root: poor visibility. You stand a good chance of stopping them if you just have good remote monitoring of some pretty basic things. Some of the most important items to monitor include:
If your various pieces of equipment have alarm outputs, capture that data. Contact closures can indicate "Low Oil Pressure," "Card 7 Failed," "Power Offline," etc.
Simple environmental sensors will track the environment around your equipment since the equipment itself probably doesn't monitor these values directly.
Simple door and motion sensors tell you if someone is at a site when they shouldn't be (including "inside jobs" that occur after normal business hours).
Whether radio systems are the core of your service or used for your data backhaul, they're important to monitor. Bringing that data into your monitoring system will give you 7x24 situational awareness of this critical communications gear.
A good HVAC controller will collect very granular data about your cooling cycles. This enables you to generate a wide range of efficiencies.
Even your most sensitive equipment can probably function without issue at a warmer temperature, even if that temperature would make a human uncomfortable.
A smart HVAC controller will also be able to say, "Hey, someone's at the site. Let's cool it off a little bit until they leave." This makes site visits comfortable for your team while cutting power consumption the vast majority of the time.
To optimally use your HVACs, you have to balance two competing factors.
First, you want to have longer cycles so you don't cycle on and off excessively.
Conversely, you want shorter cycles so you're not excessively fighting to maintain really low temperatures. Newton's Law of Cooling describes the exponential harm a poorly chosen cooling window does to your power consumption.
These two factors are why you need to strike a balance between long HVAC cycles and short ones. A good HVAC controller that keeps detailed logs, combined with data analysis tools, will help you strike the optimal balance.
If your HVAC units have clogged filters or otherwise aren't cooling effectively, they're not doing their job. Simply visiting the site to perform some required maintenance will quickly solve this problem, but you have to detect that you have a problem in the first place.
No organization on the planet could justify 7x24 staffing of every building, hut, and cabinet. The main importance of monitoring system is that it will collect data from all of your multiple locations, process it, and alert your staff in the correct way. Serious alarms will be clear and obvious.
If you do this right, your remote management solution will do what any good technology does: fade into the background.
Network monitoring and management isn't exceedingly complex, but there is a fair amount to learn. I recommend that you:
Andrew Erickson is an Application Engineer at DPS Telecom, a manufacturer of semi-custom remote alarm monitoring systems based in Fresno, California. Andrew brings more than 16 years of experience building site monitoring solutions, developing intuitive user interfaces and documentation, and opt...
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