Get a Live Demo

You need to see DPS gear in action. Get a live demo with our engineers.

White Paper Series

Check out our White Paper Series!

A complete library of helpful advice and survival guides for every aspect of system monitoring and control.

DPS is here to help.


Have a specific question? Ask our team of expert engineers and get a specific answer!

Learn the Easy Way

Sign up for the next DPS Factory Training!

DPS Factory Training

Whether you're new to our equipment or you've used it for years, DPS factory training is the best way to get more from your monitoring.

Reserve Your Seat Today

Plan Your Installation of Remote Monitoring RTUs, PLCS, and More

By Andrew Erickson

April 5, 2022


There is one concept that is critical to understand when you're rolling out monitoring gear:

You have to realize that it is not just the cost of buying the gear, but the total cost of ownership, that determines your success or failure.

Along those lines, the #1 most common misconception I find is people who fail to understand that:

Field Installation is Costly

Field installation is an additional expense outside of the purchase price of your gear. Surprisingly (for those newer to the industry), installation costs about as much as or more than the unit itself - depending on your region and the complexity of the work.

If there are multiple remote sites involved and/or multiple units per site, remember this will be required for each unit. At this point the true cost of the project starts to become evident.

But it's not just field installs that can get expensive...

Other Hidden Expenses Can Appear

TempDefender G2 RTU monitoring remote site sensors
An RTU can handle sensors just like a PLC, and usually a much larger quantity of them.

There are plenty of other dynamics that I see my clients unwittingly miss. Consider the distinction that comes into play when you're choosing between RTUs and PLCs:

Starting a New Alarm Monitoring System Project? Should You Select a PLC or an RTU?

There are two main types of alarm monitoring systems: programmable logic controllers (PLCs) and remote terminal / telemetry units (RTUs). Both have a network monitoring master which is a central controller / server in your system. Underneath it, there are a variety of devices that are out at remote locations collecting data issuing commands latching control relays.

Aside from their similar purpose, the alarm monitoring system you select for your project has a huge impact on the outcome of your project. PLCs and RTUs are vastly different in what they provide: size, capacity, amount of inputs/outputs, and user-friendliness. More importantly, the system you select will impact the longevity of the project and even who you need to hire to complete the project.

Unlike RTUs, PLCs are a blank canvas - they are not anything yet. An engineer specifically experienced in PLC programming or an independent contractor will need to be hired (or paid for as a third-party service or contractor). This specific skill set is costly.

Additionally, you will need high-quality tech support and in-depth product training, both of which are rarely included at no fee.

SCADA RTU and Master Station / HMI
As you can see, an RTU is a multi-function SCADA device where only straightforward configuration - and not actual programming - is required.

Purchasing Multiple Cheap PLCs can be a Problem

PLCs absolutely have a use in manufacturing, water treatment, and similar SCADA environments. When used inappropriately (like in many telecom scenarios), PLCs can get you in trouble.

The initial quantity of PLCs a client estimates they will need to successfully launch their project often increases prior to installation as the development and planning of the overall project progresses through different stages.

After the equipment is deployed and new needs arise within the first year, often more devices need to be purchased.

This quickly multiplies the cost of the entire project. This can be avoided by selecting a singular RTU designed to meet the unique needs of your project rather than purchasing multiple PLCs.

PLCs Have a Small Capacity and are More Challenging to Deploy

When selecting the correct remote monitoring device for yourself, it is critical to focus on the big picture. How will the gear I select adapt to the your needs long-term?

Does the capacity, inputs/outputs, and auxiliary capabilities match all the growing requirements you will have? PLCs have a small capacity and the expansion options are limited.

The only solution when the need to expand to meet your needs inevitably presents itself is to purchase additional units, pay for the programming of those units again, and pay for the installation yet again.

PLCs do not have an easy and intuitively designed web interface. They are not end user friendly. When an issue arises, outside technical support must be hired. If the end user wants to expand the functions, the user may have to purchase more PLCs to do a whole architectural rethink or at the very least they must contract again.

Programmable logic controllers are not ready to go as soon as they are purchased. They require someone to write programming code into them. The freedom to code yourself has the downside of missing important key details that comes with decades of knowledge programming alarm monitoring systems. A consultant for SCATA with PLC experience needs to be hired to effectively complete the project.

PLCs are typically smaller and cheaper which evidently equates to a small capacity. There are less auxiliary capabilities and they may only have a couple of outputs. Programmable logic controllers are a short-term solution due to a limited already established capacity.

This is a trap, not a solution. Selecting the right RTU for your unique project rather than multiple PLCs is the simple and logical solution for many projects. I can help you select the right RTU for your project.

Imagine a Network Monitoring System with a Huge Capacity that is Already Programmed by an Expert

RTUs, or remote terminal units / remote telemetry units have a substantially larger capacity than PLCs that allows for larger projects and growth. There are more inputs/outputs and auxiliary capabilities. The remote terminal unit already has everything you need coded into it. There is no need for an outside SCATA contractor or PLC engineer. RTUs are the long-term solution for your alarm monitoring system project.

Hidden Expenses in Licensing, Maintenance, and Tech Support

Beyond the RTU/PLC debate, there may be recurring licensing fees for montioring: annual recurring charges for each device you need to monitor. As the business world evolves, more and more systems are using the "as a service" model where you keep paying forever.

Firmware updates, getting trapped in only one protocol offered by the vendor, tune-ups, extreme weather conditions running up maintenance costs, the list goes on..

The cheap equipment you thought you were buying may end up costing you more than the equipment you originally knew was the best fit for your project - but was more expensive up front.

Work Smart, Not Hard

There is no reason to create a bundle from scratch. It may be appealing at first but it is actually just making the project a lot more complicated than it should be and important details will fall through the cracks.

There are so many variables with this route that it is almost impossible to get a realistic price for the life of the project. Working with a manufacturer solves this problem. All of the project details are clear and accurate. Exceeding your expectations becomes easy.

The Importance of Selecting the Right Device Manufacturer

When considering the total cost of ownership rather than just the cost of buying the gear, selecting a good manufacturer is key. If you pick the right manufacturer, they will be supporting you throughout the life of the project.

Here are some important questions to ask any manufacturer you consider:

  1. What is the core focus of your company?
  2. Where is your production facility located?
  3. Do you offer in-house technical support?
  4. Do you offer product training?
  5. How do you ensure the equipment's long-term durability?
  6. What temperature can the equipment stand up to?
  7. Where can I find client testimonials about similar projects?
  8. How many years of experience does the company have producing PLCs / RTUs?

Our core focus is on reliable and durable RTUs that provide custom solutions engineered to your specifications. We have one office in Fresno, California. This where we do everything from manufacturing our products to testing them to stand up to the toughest elements. The tech support guy, the sales rep, our engineering team, and the CEO are all in our Fresno office.

This is where we design, produce, test, and ship custom-built, high-quality RTUs that meet the specific needs of your project FAST. Here are a couple of testimonials from our clients:

"Thanks for the training provided during the 3rd week of September. I was surprised at the level of training provided. It was in-depth and thorough. Just as enjoyable was the interaction with the instructors both during classroom time as well as the afternoon and evening meal sessions. I thoroughly enjoyed the tour of your facilities. It reminded me of a time when most American companies were much more resourceful and self contained. It was a breath of fresh air to see a company able to actually take and make projects from the drawing board to the final product and be so self contained. Just the idea of working products at the component level is an idea which is all but obsolete in most companies" -G. Smith, Network Surveillance Technician, Pac-West Telecomm, Inc.
"Hospitality was great! Everyone at the plant seemed genuinely glad to see us and eager to hear how we were using the product and what issues we might have. Everyone we met seemed truly dedicated to the company and customer satisfaction with the product. From the receptionist to the factory workers, all were eager to answer questions and take care of any needs we had... I have to say that DPS has been the best vendor I have ever worked with in my 20 year history with the telecom business." -Mark Henry, NOC Tier III, Consolidated Communications

DPS Telecom RTUs Give Distinct Advantages Over Other RTUs

RTUs are all we do at DPS Telecom. It is our core focus. Our engineers continually develop and program our RTUs for every unique project and situation that our clients encounter. Over 20 years of proven designs allow for an exceptionally intuitively designed web interface that is very end user friendly.

Everything is made in-house at our location in Fresno, CA. We have an extensive testing procedure to ensure optimal quality and durability in all circumstances. We do thorough testing at our location and then we have it sent to an outside testing center to complete the process.

The other day, one of our clients said:

"It is negative 66 degrees here in Alaska and our NetGuardian 480 has been working perfectly for 8 years! Anything not extremely hardened just breaks down."

Our In-House Technical Support Team is Excellent and Gets Things Done ASAP

"DPS support didn't end with the sale. Your technical support personnel continue to answer our numerous questions and have been an invaluable asset as we implement new features and modify the system." -P. Shew, Communications Engineer, PNM Electric Services
"While the quality of your equipment speaks for itself, without a doubt the best part of working with DPS was your customer satisfaction. Your multiple phone calls to see if there was any support we needed, were above and beyond what we expected. It truly made the difference. Thanks again for the product and most of all, for the service and the support." -P. J. Renehan, Project Manager, MOTOROLA

I'll Make Your Project Easy

At DPS we do everything we can to make your huge comprehensive project feel simple and eliminate the hassle of hiring additional outside help. Our remote telemetry units already have everything you need coded into them by our experts based on over 20 years of proven designs. Your project with DPS will feel easy from the time you contact us to years after the project's deployment.

How to Plan Your Project and Estimate Your Budget

Between bids and board meetings, having accurate and thorough knowledge of the total cost of ownership is critical. Hidden costs can delay projects for months and years. At DPS Telecom, we are the manufacturer. We make the project simple for you. Just tell me what you're trying to accomplish. We'll thoroughly cover every detail to ensure your project exceeds your expectations.

Call Andrew at 559-454-1600 for free help planning your project's budget (he will reduce your headaches). You can also send us a quick email to sales@dpstele.com and we will get back to you within 24 business hours.

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...