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Monitoring Environmental Conditions Best Practices

Morgana Siggins
Morgana Siggins
Monitoring Specialist

One of the most important ways to reduce your network vulnerability is by implementing a remote monitoring system that can report environment conditions. This is especially critical if your remote sites are located within areas that can be brought down by factors, such as high temperature, humidity, flooding, fire and etc.

Since we have been providing environmental monitoring solutions for more than 30 years, it is important for us to let you know that deploying an effective system does not have to be a hassle. If you follow simple best practices you can protect your network and your investment.

There's nothing compared to the peace of mind of knowing whenever your network equipment is in danger - before small, preventable problems become bigger issues.


Important Features and Best Practices For Your Environmental Monitoring

When keeping an eye on the mission-critical equipment at your remote sites, it's critical to make sure that your monitoring system supports the following capabilities:

1. Live Analog Monitoring

When putting together a remote system to monitor your environmental conditions, the first thing you need to do is choosing an adequate sensor for each condition you want to monitor.

There are basically two different types of sensors that you could select from: analog and discrete.

Discrete sensors can only output information as an on or off indication. Think about the thermostat at your house, on it you can specify a determined degree that will separate an acceptable temperature from an unacceptable temperature.

On the other hand, analog sensors are usually way more preferable for use in environmental monitoring systems. They will provide you with a much higher level of detail than a discrete sensor. Analog sensors will let you know, for example, exactly how cold or how hot it is at your sites (normally within 1 degree and within the specified minimum and maximum temperatures measurable by the sensor).

So, with an analog sensor, you will be able to monitor the environmental situation of your sites at all times by simply checking the current conditions.

Commonly measured via analog input are:

  • Battery, rectifier, and generator voltages

  • Temperature

  • Humidity

  • Wind speed and direction

Since you probably can't always be watching a sensor, make sure that your environmental system is also capable of sending you notifications when critical thresholds are crossed. You should, at least, ne able to configure two thresholds. This will give you a good foundation for environmental monitoring, as you will be able to set up an alert for "major over" ("too hot" for example) and another for "major under" ("too cold" for example).

Better environmental systems, however, will provide support for additional thresholds, so you can set up both "major" and "minor" severities on both sides of your ideal range.

Depending on which environmental aspect you want to monitor, you should look for an environmental monitoring system with four-threshold analog inputs - this should include live monitoring of real-time levels.

2. Support For All Environmental Alarms

Environmental monitoring, as the name suggests, means any monitoring of the physical environment around your network equipment and servers. It is different of direct equipment monitoring, which involves only equipment failures and problems not related to any adverse environmental conditions around your equipment.

A large variety of unfavorable conditions can affect and take down your expensive infrastructure, and this is especially true at very remote locations such as a top of a mountain. Since your remote sites are so distant, it's even more important to implement a competent environmental monitoring system. Your remote facilities are unmanned and this means that you will need an automated system to monitor the critical environmental levels surrounding your mission-critical equipment.

Temperature is probably the most commonly monitored environmental level in both telecom and IT worlds. High temperatures are usually considered the biggest threat as all computer gear naturally generates large amounts of heat. If this heat is not reduced through venting or HVAC systems, then your equipment can be damaged or - at least - suffer a thermal shutdown that will lead to an interruption in service.

Temperature, however, is only one of many environmental factors that you need to monitor. Make sure that your environmental monitoring system monitors all your remote site environmental conditions. This includes humidity, flooding, power and even site security.

Humidity

Humidity monitoring, for example, is critical in climates where relative humidity can rise to nearly 100% of air's capacity to hold moisture. When the humidity in a site exceeds acceptable levels for the equipment deployed there (normally anything over 90% will cause trouble for most of the devices), your ability to keep your network online reduces considerably.

Excess humidity can cause the internal pieces of your gear to rust and degrade, possibly leading to short-circuiting. Too low humidity levels can make your equipment prone to static electricity, which can also shorten your equipment. That's why it is critical that you maintain humidity at moderate levels.

The quality of your environmental monitoring system will enhance the overall efficiency of your network. By choosing the right humidity meter, you will instantly protect your equipment. With so many different selections available in the market, it might be difficult to choose the right options for your business. Make sure your humidity monitor supports the following capabilities:

  • 24x7 system access

  • Customized alarm notifications (by text, email, voice call, and etc)

  • Adequate sensor coverage

  • Analog sensors

  • Advanced battery support for individual humidity sensors

  • Integrated monitoring technologies

Flooding

Another example of an environmental condition is floor water. Floor water is similar to humidity but a lot more dangerous. If you have a leak that lets in rain water or seasonal flooding at your sites, a floor water sensor should give you important intelligence about which sites have puddles of water on their floors.

An efficient floor water sensor would have about 4 metal contacts on its underside. These make contact with the floor. If a puddle of water connects any of these contacts (about 2 inches apart), the sensor will detect a small current flowing between the contacts (water is, of course, a good conductor if electricity).

Keep in mind that, different from monitoring temperature or humidity, there really is no reason to use an analog floor water sensor. It all comes down to your floor either has water on it or it doesn't.

However, if you face extreme cases where semi-regular flooding is expected and equipment racks have been installed above a certain minimum height, then you could use a float sensor to determine flood water levels. In this specific scenario, monitoring rising water would give you the required alert that your equipment is about to go underwater.

Power

The primary damage caused by a power outage is, of course, the network downtime that happens when your site go dark. Network downtime leads to lost revenue and frustrated customers or end-users.

That is why you need to have complete visibility of your remote site power supplies.

Make sure your remote system is able to monitor everything - commercial power availability, battery voltage levels, rectifiers, generators, and generator fuel levels. Also, your environmental monitoring system should tell you when the power has dropped below or surged above a set threshold. It should notify you or the correct techs when a problem has occurred.

Site Security

Your expensive, mission-critical equipment is kept in nondescript equipment huts or at unmanned remote sites. Your facilities or remote sites face the risk of vandalism and theft every day, simply because of their distant location, little to no human presence, and minimal security deterrents.

So, monitoring unauthorized entry to your remote facilities protects your network and protect your investments. Security monitoring normally includes door sensors, motion sensors and IP cameras.

Make sure you are getting the most bang for your buck, when purchasing a facility access remote monitoring system, be sure it:

  • Integrates with your existing gear
  • Has 'plug n play' capabilities
  • Keeps an access log
  • Alerts you when someone accesses your site, whether with permission or not

3. Integrated Support for Monitoring Your Whole Network

It's hard enough to maintain a single monitoring system. Do you have two? Do you have more than two?

There are many different reasons why you may have two or more incompatible systems. Older equipment normally accumulates itself in layers, with different systems being used to monitor different parts of the network. Or if your company has acquired another network, you may now be responsible for two different, incompatible networks.

However, you can't view your environmental conditions separately from your entire network. Therefore, look for an environmental monitoring system that can monitor your mission-critical gear, such as switches, routers, and microwave radios.

Integration is the best way for working with diverse network monitoring systems. Some of the benefits you can achieve by integrating your isolated remote monitoring systems are:

  • Tracking every alarm from every site on the same screen

    Whenever there's a problem at any of your sites, you'll know it in a timely manner.
  • Working with one consistent interface

    Every alarm notification is in the same format, which means you can define and enforce standard alarm handling procedures. Your personnel will immediately know what to do in case an alarm happens.
  • Monitoring all your sites 24x7

    Your integrated system should be able to send you notifications by email and text messages, but it also should feature web browser access - for all your alarms from all your equipment.

  • Cost-effectively integrate your existing remote telemetry systems

    Your integrated system should allow you to support your existing equipment and let you add new gear at any time. You shouldn't have to go through a forklift swap out.

You might think that integration is a hard task to accomplish, that it is too complicated to be done effectively, but you need to know that thanks to advances in software and protocol conversion make it easier than ever to integrate incompatible systems.

So, before you commit to buying monitoring equipment, make sure it will support your integration strategy.


The Bottom Line

Environmental conditions monitoring can be easily overlooked during the design of network alarm monitoring systems.

To have proper visibility over your mission-critical equipment deployed at remote sites, you need to accurate information about every element involved with your gear. This means keeping an eye not only on your base equipment, but also on all the equipment that supports it and, of course, the environmental conditions that all your equipment requires to function properly.

We have many clients starting with their very first monitoring project and they don't quite know yet all that they could and should monitor. So, to help them make informed decisions and have better network efficiency, we've put together the Fundamentals of a Network Alarm Monitoring System white paper.

This white paper will serve as a guide to give you information about how to implement an alarm monitoring system in your network. You'll learn what equipment you must monitor, how to design an alarm system that will meet your current and future requirements, and how to minimize transition costs.

Download your free PDF copy of the Fundamentals of a Network Alarm Monitoring System and protect your network with a perfect-fit solution.


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