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Top 5 Causes of Network Failures

Morgana Siggins
Morgana Siggins
Monitoring Specialist

Network downtime causes many problems, and all of them can be very costly. You can even be fined for every minute your network is down. If your network is down for longer than a few minutes, you can be facing a lot of money in fines, penalties, or SLA refunds.

Network failure can also lead to angry customers, which often leads to loss of revenue. No matter what industry you're in, this is bad business.

Thankfully, by getting to know what may cause network downtime is the first step to preventing network failure. So, let's take a look at what causes problems in networks.

1. Running Out of Fuel

While some companies use math to estimate fuel levels based on average fuel consumption, this isn't the best option. It's only a guess and does not factor in possible leaks. You could run out of fuel and not even realize it.

Do you have multiple propane tanks as back-up power sources at your remote sites? If so, having a SCADA system that monitors and controls your propane tanks is an essential step to ensure your sites are fully equipped in case of a commercial power failure.

A floating sensor may be all you need for low fuel alerts. However, if propane is your main fuel source, you'll likely need a more advanced analog sensor that can track usage rates. Both types of propane tanks sensors allow you to order more propane for your tank before it runs out.

Having backup generators to avoid downtime when there's a commercial power outage is a great idea. But, when your generator runs out of fuel, not only does your site lose power, but your generator motor burns up from running on empty.

Damage caused by generators running on empty can be devastating to your equipment. Motors that run on empty burn up and typically the damage is irreversible, forcing you to buy new, expensive equipment.

Adding simple on/off monitoring software to a generator helps you avoid preventable equipment damage and keeps your network online.

2. Running Out of Batteries

Your battery plants are a critical component of your network. If commercial power goes out, the backup batteries ensure that critical equipment keeps running.

You need the life span of your batteries to be as long as possible. Draining them completely not only shuts down your site, but also significantly reduces the total lifespan of that battery. Low voltage can even damage some equipment.

Therefore, it's critical to monitor the current charge level in your batteries. When necessary, you must also reduce the load on them to extend their run time. So, how do you extend the discharge time of your batteries?

  1. Backup to your backup

    You may also have a backup generator in case your batteries fail. This is a great idea, but as I said before, generators require fuel to operate. So monitoring the fuel levels is extremely important.

  2. Alarms

    Having a Remote Terminal Unit (RTU) that sends you alerts is a tool to monitor your equipment and to know when something is wrong.

    You could use an alarm to monitor the battery charge level.

    However, it's not enough to know that there is a problem. You have to be able to fix the problem in a timely manner as well.

    While alarms are great for notifying you or your techs that the battery charge is low, alarms can't do anything to fix the situation. This means that you have to have someone ready to receive an alarm and react at all times.

  3. Power Distribution Units (PDUs)

    A PDU allows you to remotely cut power to your devices from your central or home office. PDUs are helpful when you are trying to reduce the load on your batteries. They allow you to remotely turn off less-critical devices and conserve more power for mission-critical gear.

    While PDUs are extremely helpful for power-cycling your equipment, most are not able to respond to a power loss event automatically.

    Remote Power Controller
    The Remote Power Controller allows you to switch on/off and reboot your equipment from miles away.

    Although a PDU is a step in the right direction, your system should also include automated, intelligent decision making.

    With a Remote Power Switch device, this is a possibility. It combines PDU power-cycling with remote telemetry unit functionality to provide you a solution to battery power draining. By using analogs to measure battery voltage, the Remote Power Switch can systematically determine when to power down your less critical devices. This helps extend the charge on the battery to ensure that your most mission-critical equipment stays running for the duration of an outage.

3. Equipment Damage

Many remote sites house tons of expensive mission-critical equipment. Most of these sites will eventually face some sort of environmental emergency. Imagine the devastating effects of overheating or water damage to all of this valuable equipment. If you leave your network unmonitored, you're setting yourself up for unnecessary risk of an outage due to equipment damage.

With the right supervisory control and data acquisition system in place, you'll be prepared the next time you're equipment faces a threat - such as the following ones:

  1. Temperature

IT and server room equipment are designed to operate in a controlled range of temperatures. When it gets too hot, this equipment is at risk of a thermal shutdown (at least) or permanent damage (at worst).

With the right remote temperature monitoring system, you'll receive alerts when the temperature begins to rise. It's really important to invest in remote temperature sensors that can give you temperature readings in real time.This will allow for a quick response in case of an alarm.

  1. Humidity

Excess humidity can cause the internal components of your equipment to rust and degrade. Very low humidity can also seriously damage equipment. That's why it's critical to keep the humidity at a moderate level. You should have an environmental monitoring system that can notify you when the humidity is too high or too low, so you don't leave your equipment vulnerable to serious damage.

  1. Water damage

Leaking water can cause serious damage to your site. Preventing water to flood your equipment is easy – as long as you're warned about its presence in time. Having the right monitoring tool will alert you of the presence of water so you can prevent serious damage.

  1. Air flow

With more powerful processors being packed into smaller units, your equipment generates more heat than ever before.

One of the most efficient ways to cool your equipment is to design a system that optimally circulates the airflow around your equipment. This is why it's crucial to have airflow sensors in place – so you'll be the first to know if something is disrupting airflow to your equipment.


4. LAN Connection Going Down

If you have equipment connected to a router, and if you have no visibility of the condition of the LAN, you have no way of knowing your vital equipment is offline.

A standard remote can only detect whether its local connection is up. If the local connection is intact, but somewhere beyond this connection the network is down, it will still report a working LAN.

It's a smart idea to also have dial-up connection for your remotes. A primary and secondary dial-up path will give you visibility of your remote sites when LAN access is unavailable.

Get an RTU that is mainly a LAN-based remote, but also has an internal 33.6K modem, which can be used as a primary or secondary connection path.

5. Natural Disasters

You can't protect your gear against natural disasters. But, with a monitoring operating system, you can at least limit the damage that a natural disaster will cause - and improve your recovery time from the event significantly.

The problem is that natural disasters are unpredictable. The key then is to always be prepared. Having a real disaster recovery plan is the best way to prepare.

Your disaster plan should include:

  1. An analysis of disasters that could occur in your region.
  2. Monitoring 100% of your mission-critical equipment
  3. A prioritized list of the network systems that will be affected by a possible disaster.
  4. Established procedures for repairing critical systems under disaster conditions.
  5. An inventory of critical spare equipment and parts.
  6. Have an alternate data path for transporting alarms and information in case the primary path fails.
  7. Have a people plan, a series of critical employee and vendor numbers handy.

How Can You Avoid Costly Network Downtime?

The bottom line is that by knowing what the main causes of network downtime many of them can be prevented.

The way to do this is by monitoring your vital equipment. However, you can't trust just any alarm monitoring manufacturer with the safety of your most important gear. You need a company that is reliable with years of experience. A company that can support open protocols as well as legacy/proprietary protocols so that you can seamlessly integrate your old and new equipment.

It is not worth leaving your network at risk any longer. If you want to know more about our devices and how you can get a customized solution for your special requirements, simply give us a call and we'll be happy to help you.

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