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Prevent Service-Affecting Outages by Monitoring Your Sites Effectively

By Andrew Erickson

December 31, 2022

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There are four major categories of profit-eating problems in your network:

  1. Poor & Inefficient Infrastructure Maintenance
  2. Equipment Damage
  3. Service-Affecting Outages
  4. Wasteful Power Consumption

Next up? Let's talk about Service-Affecting Outages.

Service-affecting outages render you useless to your users

"Because we operate in a 911 environment, it is better to know early rather than later if something happens. If they're trying to dispatch Fire, EMS, or public safety to an event - and the microwave is down - it means the radios at that site can't be operated either."
-Fred Marvin, Steuben County Office of Emergency Services

While the first two causes we've talked about trigger increased costs, things are about to get much more interesting.

When you can't effectively monitor your network, you can't just write a bigger check to keep things running. When serious failures happen, that can actually disrupt your service delivery. This hurts revenue, incurs regulatory fines, or - in the case of public safety - puts lives at risk.

How do service-affecting outages cut into your revenue - or worse?

If you're in a competitive industry, it doesn't take much to upset your customers. This is magnified by the internet, where they can evaluate competing services and post negative online reviews about you.

Even in non-competitive industries, you're not immune. You may have to pay a contractual penalty if you have a service level agreement (SLA) with one of your business customers. If you can't keep up your side of the bargain (ex. 99.99% reliability), you may have pay back part or all of the premium they paid for dependable service.

If you're a natural monopoly (like a power utility), fines await you when you don't serve the public interest with adequate uptime.

Finally, public-safety radio systems and (to a lesser extent) general telephone services play a life-saving role during an emergency. If you can't keep your service online, you really can put lives at risk.

Why is the fallout from service-affecting outages larger than from other forms of waste?

Even if it's more expensive overall than a service-affecting outage, waste on the cost side of your equation doesn't happen all at once.

Wasteful truck rolls eat a little piece of your budget each day. Power waste is similarly continuous. Even expensive equipment damage, which does happen all at once, is a fairly private event.

Service-affecting outages are dramatic public events. Customers get frustrated. Negative news reports are published. If there was loss of life, you can be deemed responsible - whether legally or in the court of public opinion.

This dynamic means that service-affecting outages are much more likely to trigger a dramatic response from your management. "Cleaning house" is a way to reassure the public that action is being taken.

You don't want your career to end prematurely during post-outage fallout. So, how can you ensure reliable uptime and protect yourself?

How do you stop service-affecting outages before they ever start?

Unlike some of the other threats I describe in this book, "service-affecting outages" can have a wide variety of different causes.

All of those causes do, however, share a common root: poor visibility. You stand a good chance of stopping them if you just have good remote monitoring of some pretty basic things. Some of the most important items to monitor include:

  1. Equipment alarms
    These are easy. If your various pieces of equipment have alarm outputs, capture that data. Contact closures can indicate "Low Oil Pressure", "Card 7 Failed", "Power Offline", etc. Protocol messages can report similar data via Modbus, SNMP, DNP3, and other standards. Even if you only get a few summary contact closures ("major", "minor", "critical") from your device, that's tremendously better than monitoring nothing.
  2. Temperature, humidity, floor water
    Simple environmental sensors will track the environment around your equipment, since the equipment itself probably doesn't monitor these values directly. This is especially important because environmental threats can affect everything at your site at once.
  3. Doors and motion
    It really doesn't take much to protect yourself from unauthorized intruders. Simple door and motion sensors tell you if someone is at a site when they shouldn't be (including "inside jobs" that occur after normal business hours).
  4. Radio levels
    Whether radio systems are the core of your service (police/fire) or used for your data backhaul, they're important to monitor. Most will output analog data for "forward power" and "reflected power", for example. Bringing that data into your monitoring system will give you 7x24 situational awareness of this critical communications gear.

Let me help you prevent service-affecting outages

So, what's next? Let's have a phone call to discuss all of the tutorial information I gave you above. I'll help you apply it a chart a way forward.

Give me a call at 1-800-693-0351 or email me at sales@dpstele.com to get started.

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

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