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Client Request for an RTU to Monitor 21 Power Circuits at IP Carrier Facilities

By Andrew Erickson

November 1, 2023

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I recently got a call from a long-time DPS client at an IP carrier. He's looking to monitor 100A and 200A circuits at over 100 remote sites.

I was excited to offer my assistance. He remembered our previous work together and now had new goals for a project on monitoring power. This conversation shed light on several valuable insights and best practices in the realm of remote monitoring.

Let's dig into my call notes and discuss some of the useful insights you can apply to your own remote monitoring projects.

Price and Scalability: Setting the Foundation

"Price for 'controller' (RTU)... Price per probe... Max probes per controller (some sites might need 2-3 controllers)"

When embarking on a remote monitoring project, it's crucial to have a comprehensive understanding of the costs involved. This includes considering the price of the Remote Telemetry Unit (RTU) as well as individual probes. Our client emphasized the importance of scalability. He suggested that various locations may require multiple "controllers" (their preferred term for RTUs).

By setting a budget and planning for growth, we can work together to make your project run smoothly and efficiently.

Integration and Communication: The Role of SNMP

"SNMP because we are IP carrier... We use CA Spectrum as SNMP MOM... T/Mon should notify CA Spectrum so that NOC can create a ticket to notify Engineering..."

Our client highlighted the importance of using Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) because of their IP carrier status. Furthermore, they mentioned their reliance on CA Spectrum as their SNMP Manager of Managers (MOM). At large companies like this client, there is often a need for integration between different monitoring systems.

Seamless communication between systems, like T/Mon and CA Spectrum, is crucial. It ensures that the right departments receive timely notifications, speeding your response efficiency.

Setting Effective Alarm Thresholds: Striking the Balance

"Alarm thresholds will be: Minor, Major, Critical at 60%, 70%, and 80%... For the pilot project, just 70% and 80% for Major and Critical will be fine."

The client's mention of specific thresholds for alarms resonated with the importance of precision in monitoring. Teams can ensure they receive notifications before issues become critical by setting clear boundaries.

It's vital to establish clear and effective alarm thresholds. These thresholds serve as the initial defense mechanism, promptly notifying teams of potential issues before they escalate.

Our NetGuardian firmware can handle 4 thresholds at the moment. However, DPS engineers can easily modify it to have 3 "high" alarms, especially on a project of this scale. Each alarm will have a different threshold.

Monitoring Modern Infrastructure: Adapting to Change

"On legacy gear, power draw only ever took place on the active power supply... Now, we're an ISP carrier... Now that it's load sharing on 100A breakers, there should normally be less than 50A on each breaker..."

Our client's shift from legacy gear to modern infrastructure as an ISP carrier created some unique challenges. This discussion emphasized the importance of adapting monitoring strategies to suit evolving infrastructure needs.

As technology and infrastructure evolve, so must our remote monitoring strategies. Being adaptable ensures we're always ahead of potential issues.

Data Retention: Balancing Real-time with History

"One month of history is fine... I'm really looking at real-time. Don't really need long history... Can we send syslog from T/Mon to a syslog server? That will enable long-term history logging."

While the client focused on real-time monitoring, he also touched upon the importance of historical data. This balance allows for immediate action while also enabling long-term analyzing and trend spotting.

Real-time monitoring and keeping historical data help with immediate insights and long-term analyzing.

Companies and agencies of all sizes commonly use syslog servers for long-term history logging. That's why we support both SNMP and syslog output from T/Mon master stations.

Environmental Monitoring: More Than Just Power

"Does ambient temp do humidity?... I don't have a visual from CA Spectrum to tell me the current building temperature... I want to set a threshold on ambient temperature to detect an HVAC unit that is 'slowly failing on us.'"

Beyond power, our client discussed the significance of monitoring environmental factors like temperature and humidity. These factors have a major impact on equipment performance and longevity.

Comprehensive remote monitoring extends beyond power alone. Environmental factors like HVAC are pivotal in ensuring optimal performance and preventing potential hazards.

Backup Power Systems: Your Lifeline in Crisis

"We've had instances of power outages... I want to ensure the RTUs have a backup power source, maybe a battery... How long can they last on backup?"

Our client's concerns about power outages emphasized the significance of backup systems. Power outages can cripple operations, making backup power for Remote Telemetry Units (RTUs) a top priority.

Having robust backup systems is not just an added advantage - it's a necessity. Ensuring that RTUs can function during power outages can be the difference between seamless operations and significant downtime.

Keep in mind that RTUs will also ensure your backup power sources (UPS batteries and generators) stay online in the first place.

User Interface: Making Monitoring More Intuitive

"Our team isn't too tech-savvy... The interface should be user-friendly... Can we customize the dashboard to show only the essentials?"

The usability of a system often determines its effectiveness. Our client highlighted the need for an intuitive interface, especially for teams that might not be deeply technical. The user interface should have everything each individual user needs to see - and none of what they don't.

A user-friendly interface helps users easily recognize and react to alarms, improving the efficiency and effectiveness of monitoring.

Automated Notifications: Your First Line of Defense

"We need SMS and email alerts... Some of our team members are always on the move... How quickly do the notifications get sent after an alarm is triggered?"

Immediate notifications can be a game-changer. The client wanted fast alerts through SMS and email for team members who are not at their desks.

Efficient and varied notification methods guarantee timely alerts to the appropriate individuals, empowering you to take swift corrective actions.

Remote Monitoring on the Go

"I travel a lot... Can I access the system remotely, maybe through a mobile app or a secure website?"

In today's fast-paced world, the ability to monitor systems remotely is invaluable. Our client asked about using mobile devices to monitor things from anywhere, showing the need for remote monitoring solutions.

Remote access improves flexibility and responsiveness, enabling people to stay updated and act from anywhere.

T/Mon and NetGuardians both have web interfaces. In the latest releases, these support TLS 1.2 for HTTPS security.

Security: Safeguarding Critical Data

"With all the cyber threats out there, how secure is our data?... Do you have encryption and regular security audits?"

In an era where data breaches are commonplace, our client rightly emphasized concerns about data security. Protecting sensitive information and ensuring the integrity of the monitoring system is paramount.

Prioritizing robust security measures, including encryption and regular audits, is crucial to safeguard critical data and maintain trust.

I once again reviewed our latest G6 RTUs and T/Mon security standards with this client. Most likely, his IT team will expect us to stand up to a security audit scanner at some point.

Adapting to Tomorrow's Needs

"We're planning to expand in the next two years... How easy is it to add more sites and integrate new technologies into the existing system?"

The client's forward-looking approach shows the importance of future-proofing. As organizations grow and technologies evolve, monitoring systems should be adaptable and scalable.

Invest in a monitoring solution that can easily add new sites and technologies for long-term usefulness and optimal performance.

The Road Ahead in Remote Monitoring with My Client

Our continued conversation with the client offered deeper insights into the evolving landscape of remote monitoring. Evidently, as challenges grow, so do the solutions.

At DPS, we're committed to staying ahead of the curve so we can help you best. We ensure that we always equip our clients with the best. We're here to help you upgrade or start a new project, providing guidance and support throughout the process.

If you're seeking a custom remote monitoring device or strategy, call DPS Telecom now. We're here to help you.

Call DPS at 1-800-693-0351. You can also email sales@dpstele.com to speak with a sales engineer.

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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...