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Monitor Your Remote Sites with General-Purpose Remotes as Physical Alarm Collectors

By Andrew Erickson

August 19, 2021


Any remote site with important equipment demands good monitoring. Consider the important role of your operation, and all of the people it serves.

Now imagine everything that can go wrong:

  • Equipment can fail (telecom switches, microwave radios, fiber equipment...)
  • HVAC can go down, leading to overheating
  • Animals (big and small) can cause mayhem
  • Thieves and vandals can break in
  • Thousands of bizarre problems you'd never imagine

For all of these reasons, you must have remote monitoring of some kind in place. When bad things happen, you need to know about it immediately.

Unfortunately, not all monitoring is created equal. You have do your homework and make the right choice.

Fortunately, I can help you with that. Let's get started!

A NetGuardian 432 in a typical configuration, collecting physical alarms and sending to a T/Mon central alarm server
In this diagram from a DPS proposal, a NetGuardian 432 performs its role as a general-purpose alarm remotes. Specific input devices are not shown, because its general-purpose I/O can be used for remotely monitoring almost anything.

Built-in "integrated" monitoring can become a problem

Everyone likes a shortcut, but sometimes it comes back to bite you.

That's certainly true in remote monitoring when it comes to equipment with "integrated" alarm monitoring.

The idea is good. Someone manufactures a piece of equipment, and they build a monitoring suite into it for you. It may send alarms to a proprietary piece of software, and it might seem to work pretty well.

Later on, you'll likely discover the problems with integrated monitoring functions:

  1. The system was likely needed to "check a box" for the marketing team, so it may not be very well designed.
  2. Since it's only a small piece of a larger project, integrated monitoring probably hasn't received the same degree of product testing.
  3. Because it's produced by a manufacturer who doesn't exclusively design, build, and sell alarm monitoring systems, the design doesn't benefit from a long history of "battle scars" and learning.

Yes, it's possible to find a device with integrated monitoring that is actually quite good. Sadly, this tends to be the exception rather than the rule.

So, how do you increase your odds of establishing a world-class monitoring setup at your company?

You need a general-purpose remote that is independent, proven, and built by experts

In contrast to integrated monitoring, you can choose to install a physical alarm collector that is a general-purpose remote. That is, it's not produced by or aligned with any other manufacturer. It's built by a dedicated team to be the best possible monitoring device you can buy.

Advantages of a general-purpose remote for alarm collection:

  1. Its remote-monitoring qualities have had to survive on their own. With integrated monitoring, it's very possible for great equipment to drag a lackluster monitoring solution behind it. That can't happen with a general-purpose alarm remote. It has to stand on its own, so anyone surviving in the marketplace must be pretty good.
  2. You won't get drawn into silly turf wars between manufacturers. We've all seen it with competing streaming devices and streaming platforms. One manufacturer wants to fight another, so it intentionally avoids cross-platform compatibility. The same is true in monitoring. Fortunately, an independent monitoring-device manufacturer has no incentive other than to make a universally compatible system.
  3. Your device has been proven and honed for many product generations. An RTU (remote telemetry/terminal unit) that's been around for 10 years or more is going to be rugged. After that amount of time, a manufacturer either makes good products and continuously improves them - or has already gone out of business.
  4. You'll find clever innovations that just don't make sense within integrated monitoring setups. An independent general-purpose remote will often have mediation functions that wouldn't make sense if it came as a bolt-on to other equipment. In that scenario, its input device would be fixed, so there'd be no reason for flexibility. Consider SNMP mediation (see the diagram of the NetGuardian LT G2) as an example, where incompatible pieces of equipment can be made to talk to each other.
A NetGuardian LT G2 operating as an SNMP mediator/converter
As you can see from this diagram, general-purpose monitoring gear can sometimes perform clever functions. Here, a NetGuardian LT G2 that can both accept SNMP traps and send its own SNMPv3 traps has all the pieces necessary to act as an SNMP mediator/converter to enhance security with modern SNMPv3 encryption.

Physical alarm collectors to consider for your project

(Obviously, I have a bias toward DPS remotes. They're awesome. However, since you should always do your own due diligence before making any purchase, please feel free to review this list of other RTU manufacturers who make general-purpose alarm remotes.)

At DPS, we make physical alarm collectors that aren't influenced by companies manufacturing other equipment. Remote alarm monitoring is all we do.

Unlike some competitors who use intentional incompatibility and planned obsolescence to force your future purchasing, we view our role as helping you escape the trap of incompatibility.

You can purchase both RTUs and master stations from DPS, but you can also choose just one or the other. We use standard protocols like SNMP that are supported by thousands of device manufacturers worldwide.

You can also use DPS to free you from legacy troubles, incompatibilities, and discontinued equipment. Many of my articles are about specific examples of this, including the development of the specialized Audio Distribution Panel and monitoring upgraded Digitize PrismLX units.

To get you started on your project, consider several common DPS alarm remotes you can use to monitor your facilities:

  • The NetGuardian 832A G5: a flagship RTU with high capacity and expandability. This devices supports "DX" expansion shelves to add alarm, analog, and control capacity. You also get advanced IP security functions.
  • The NetGuardian M16 G2: a medium RTU that includes a fast web interface. This device is also available in a "Voice 16" configuration with an alarm dialer that will speak important alarms to you over the phone.
  • The NetGuardian DIN: a small-to-medium RTU that mounts on industry-standard DIN rails that you'll commonly install in small telecom cabinets. To see the DIN in action, take a look at my article on snow-melt monitoring and control at urban bus stops.

Call me to discuss your project

If you're really busy, you can't afford to spend hours and hours doing web research. If you're anything like me, you know that a few minutes with an expert are vital to get your bearings.

Fortunately, on this topic, that expert is me (or my colleagues at DPS who might also answer your call). Just give me a call to go over your project (559-454-1600). I can walk you through specific examples from my past projects and explain the basic concepts.

At that point (and perhaps armed with one of my info-packed proposals), you can more easily ingest information from websites and speak with vendors.

Give me a call: 559-454-1600

You can also email me: sales@dpstele.com

I look forward to working with you to create top-notch visibility at all of your remote sites.

Andrew Erickson

Andrew Erickson

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 17 years of experience building site monitoring solutions, developing intuitive user interfaces and documentation, and opt...