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If I Buy a New RTU or Master Station, Do I Have to Upgrade Everything Else at the Same Time?

By Morgana Siggins

December 4, 2019


Perhaps your monitoring systems are aging out. Or you’re considering expansion to remote sites and need reliable surveillance. Regardless of your reasoning, you have been looking to buy a new RTU or Master Station, but have been hesitatating.

You believe factors, such as budget restrictions or installation costs, will exceed your annual budget. And may, therefore, conclude that an all-inclusive system upgrade is simply not feasible.

With logistics, planning and some help from this article, you will learn not only how to upgrade your systems to the latest RTU and Master Stations, you’ll do so without upending your budget.

Let’s take a look at how one can smoothly and gradually transition to an upgraded network monitoring system in just a few budget cycles.

What Are Your Present Monitoring Needs?

  • Which mission critical equipment must be monitored?

  • What type of monitoring is most needed for your business?

Determining which devices and protocols you need to monitor is the first step in developing a modern monitoring system. You must take the time to determine your exact visibility needs, otherwise your new monitoring system may not have the right capacity. By completing a full network survey, you’ll identify all the protocols in your network, ensuring that your modern master and remotes will be able to monitor all your devices.

Knowing what type of monitoring you need is also key. A detailed investigation of your sites can reveal unique monitoring needs that can’t be met by off-the-shelf monitoring. After conducting a thorough summary, you’ll be able to request a custom solution from a vendor who will tailor your monitoring solution to the requirements of your individual sites. This is the ideal time to ask yourself: “what other things do I want to monitor?”

Keep in mind that your situation is unique. Your immediate needs are not going to be the same as another company’s, even if they are in the same industry.

For instance, if your competitor already has a network operations center (NOC) available 24/7, perhaps they have no need to receive personalized alert notifications. However, if that doesn’t apply to you, having alerts notify you and/or your techs during after-hours and weekends is critical.

Find a Solution that Supports Your Polling Frequencies

In order to achieve maximum visibility, you must be able to see all of your sites, even those that are polled over legacy frequencies. Ensure that any monitoring solution you are considering supports all device frequencies as incompatibility will have an enormous impact on your systems capabilities.

One way to ensure compatibility is to document known specifications. It’s not enough to know you frequencies in loose terms, ie of 0-4, 4-8, or 8-12. Check your user manual for specific mark and space frequencies. This can sometimes be found on the manufacturer’s label or the specific part numbers themselves. If all else fails and you have a frequency counter, you might be able to force the modem to transmit test tones and measure the result.

Don’t Deploy a System that Can’t Import Your Existing Database

Deploying a system that cannot import your existing database will cause you serious problems and expense. It probably took years to populate your existing data, and it would take weeks, perhaps months to manually export all your data. Dedicating resources the first time was expensive enough. Migrating a second time is an unnecessary, error-prone expense you should avoid.

Your new equipment should be making your legacy migration easier, not harder, so make sure you find a system that is compatible with your database backend.

Extract your Legacy Alarm Point Database Immediately

Exporting your alarm database is one of the most critical first steps and needs to be done as soon as possible. Until then, your mission-critical database is in the hands of a legacy master.

This is problematic as when the legacy master fails, the lack of a database would cause major visibility issues. Rebuild your database is definitely a time consuming , however an outage caused by poor visibility can be devastating. Protect yourself from these threats by exporting your database immediately. You’ll also be ready to import your database when your new monitoring system arrives.

So, how do you export the database? It varies, depending on the master you have. With some, you will only have the ability to backup the information. Other databases are more comprehensive and possess an export option.

Understand Your Transport Topology and Capitalize on New Network and Master Station Capabilities

When you have a good understanding of your transport technology, you can better utilize the advanced monitoring capabilities of your modern master.

Your old system may bridge five legs into a single feed because that’s all your legacy master can poll. However, with a multiple port master, each leg could have its own port, giving you better network segmentation at 5 times the polling rate.

Protocol Mediation Can Help You Smoothly Incorporate New Devices into Your System

What if we told you that the first stages of your monitoring upgrade could be easier and more cost-effective? Yes, that’s possible when you have the right devices.

As you know, protocol is the determined “language” that your equipment speaks. The protocol rules say how devices in a network will configure, broadcast, and receive data.

A person that only speaks English won’t know how to engage with a person that only speaks Chinese. For this same reason, all the equipment inside your network should “speak” the same protocol. After all, the goal is to have successful communication exchanges between your remotes and master station.

Just as there are indivuals who are polyglots, there are devices that functions over several protocols. These multi-protocol devices are able to successfully send and receive information from a myriad of devices.

Just imagine how much easier it is to install a new master station first, and then gradually replace the RTUs at you remote sites. A multi-protocol master should support your existing remotes; thus enabling you to promptly upgrade without replacing your remote devices all at once.

Expand Slowly yet Surely

Taking care of your bare minimum necessities was your first step. Now you should start increasing your alarm capacity and monitoring devices over the course of a few budget cycles.

Keep in mind that you don’t have to spend more than you can afford in one cycle; incremental upgrades works just as well as all-inclusive.

Plan Ahead

When planning to expand and/or upgrade your monitoring, it’s easy to forget planning for future needs and requirements.

In the long run, it’s easier and more budget-friendly to upgrade capacity systematically over a planned period of time rather than haphazardly increasing whenever you’re close to capacity. We also believe this helps prepare you for unexpected growth and gives you a good buffer in the event you need to monitor more than expected.

The Perfect-Fit Alarm Mediation Solution

Planning your upgrade and finding the best options for your unique network doesn’t have to be a process that you go through by yourself. We’re here to help. When you contact DPS Telecom, you’ll get in touch with qualified professionals that will help you find the perfect-fit solution for you.

We have several options for multi-protocol devices.

If you have smaller or fewer remote sites, then a NetGuardian RTU might be the all you need. Our RTUs, such as the NetGuardian 216 and the NetGuardian 832A, have multi-protocol capability. Here are some benefits of DPS’ remotes:

  1. Multi-protocol support

    Our remotes can support just about any protocol you might be working with right now. They’re compatible with SNMP, MODBUS, DNP3, TL1, E2A, TBOS, etc.

  2. High-capacity expansion options

    We have many devices that natively support anywhere from 16 to 80 alarm points, with expansion options that can support up to 256 points. If you need monitoring of more alarm points, our engineers will design an RTU with the capacity you need.

  3. Internal Web Interface

    If all you have is a few remote sites, you don’t need a master station to access and monitor your devices online. All our RTUs come with a pre-installed internal web interface; allowing you to manage and control your remote unit from any network connected device.

  4. Alarm notifications

    In addition to the Web Interface, you can also receive alert notifications after-hours. DPS Telecom RTUs can be set to send you SMS, email, or voice-call notifications. This way you and your techs will be aware of what’s going on at your remote sites; drastically reducing “windshield time”.

If you have more than 10 remote sites to monitor, relying solely on RTU notifications may start becoming overwhelming. Our T/Mon master station can bring you many key advantages, such as:

  1. Multi-protocol compatibility

    T/Mon is able to collect information from all kinds of equipment from many different manufacturers, supporting more than 25 different protocols. T/Mon lets you keep using your legacy remotes in the field, while also maintaining compatibility with the most modern protocols, like SNMP and DNP3. Master stations with this amount of flexibility allow you to upgrade your network at your own pace.
  2. Reliability

    Since hard disks are the least reliable element in most computer systems, T/Mon maintains a mirrored set of drives. Even if power and electrical supplies go down, T/Mon has two redundant power inputs.
    T/Mon also has complete server redundancy. You can deploy two complete master stations at two different locations. If the primary goes offline for any reason, the secondary will take over the remote alarm monitoring duties within seconds.

    Our master station also has strong security protections. You can enforce password rules and set individual access rights for each user.

  3. Filter nuisance alarms

    If you want to focus your attention on real threats and avoid alert notifications for minor alarms, then you can set up your T/Mon to ignore nuisance alarms.

    You can also configure an alarm’s severity to receive automatic alerts at different times of the day. Syncing your T/Mon to your technicians’ schedules is also a possibility, this way it’ll automatically follow them to know who is “on call” at determined times.

You should keep in mind that you don’t have to do away with any of your currently monitoring equipment when going through an upgrade; you should avoid vendors who tell you otherwise. You’ve invested hundreds of man hours – and resources – on your equipment that would be a waste to discard. And you should consider a vendor who believes in legacy support.

Start Planning your Legacy Migration Now

When it is time to replace, upgrade or expanding your legacy monitoring system, the right preparation will eliminate lost visibility and downtime. A systematic plan of deployment will ensure your monitoring solution meets your current and future needs.

At DPS, we’ve helped hundreds of clients successfully re-deploy their monitoring, and we also provide engineer-based technical support to ensure hassle-free operations.

Call 1-800-693-0351 or email us and we’ll be happy to design and perfect your monitoring infrastructure.

Morgana Siggins

Morgana Siggins

Morgana Siggins is a marketing writer, content creator, and documentation specialist at DPS Telecom. She has created over 200 blog articles and videos sharing her years of experience in the remote monitoring industry.