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Top 5 Causes of Network Failures

Morgana Siggins
Morgana Siggins
Monitoring Specialist

Whether you're a phone service provider, internet service provider, or some other type of telecommunications company, it's your responsibility to ensure that your communication services are always operating correctly for your customers.

Network downtime will cause a whole list of 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 your network failures, you can take actions to avoid these problems. So, let's take a look at the most common causes of network downtime.

1. Running Out of Fuel

Running out of fuel is a big threat to your network.

Do you monitor your propane tanks? If not, how will you know when your fuels levels are low? While some companies use math to estimate fuels 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 you do, you know how difficult it is to manage all the tanks, along with all your other mission-critical equipment. Proper propane tank management and monitoring is an essential step to ensure your sites are fully equipped in case of a commercial power failure. What good is a backup if it doesn't work?

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.

What if you have backup generators to avoid downtime when there's a commercial power outage? This is actually a great idea. However, what happens 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 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.

However, what happens if your batteries deplete before commercial power is back on?

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 an RTU (Remote Telemetry Unit) 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, that only solves half of the problem. 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 device that allows you to remotely cut power to your devices from your central or home office. These devices 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. This means that a technician will have to manually toggle buttons in an interface in order to turn units off. Also, there are usually no analogs on a PDU to notify you of the remaining charge of your batteries.


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

    To really extend the charge of your batteries during an outage, you need a device that will systematically and automatically shut down less crucial devices when your batteries hit a critical low. While a PDU is a step in the right direction, your system should also include automated, intelligent decision making.

    So, imagine a system with a PDU-like device with an RTUs ability to monitor battery voltage. This would allow your system to track battery charge and automatically power down devices at key battery thresholds. This system will lighten the load on your whole team by automating several processes that previously required human involvement.

    With a Remote Power Switch device, this is a possibility. It combines PDU power-cycling with RTU 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

When a network outage happens, equipment damage might also be the culprit.

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 environment monitoring system in place, you'll be prepared the next time your equipment faces a threat.

The following are the 4 most common environmental threats that you need to protect your gear against:

  1. Temperature

    This is by far the most common risk at remote sites. IT equipment is 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 monitoring technology you'll receive alerts when the temperature begins to rise - so you can quickly respond. Having a quick response is the difference between network downtime and smooth operation.

  2. Humidity

    Excess humidity can cause the internal components of your equipment to rust and degrade - with the potential of catastrophic short-circuiting. 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.


    Monitor temperature and humidity using the D-Wire Temperature and Humidity combination sensor. This device can accurately report the live-analog values for temperature (+/- 2 degrees F) and humidity (+/- 4% RH).
  3. Water damage

    Leaking water, just like humidity, can cause serious damage to your site. If water is present around your valuable IT equipment, you need to know. Preventing water to flood your equipment is easily done - as long as you're warned about its presence in time. Having the right monitoring technology will alert you of the presence of water so you can prevent serious damage.

  4. Air flow

    Walking into your remote site can be like walking into a furnace. With more powerful processors being packed into smaller units, your equipment generates more heat than ever before. One of the toughest challenges facing operators is cooling all of this equipment. One of the most efficient ways to cool your equipment is to design a system that optimally circulates the air flow around your equipment. This is why it's crucial to have air flow sensors in place - so you'll be the first to know if something is disrupting air flow to your equipment.

4. LAN Connection Going Down

LAN failures are a serious problem. If you have revenue-generating 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.

Most RTUs offer only limited functions for detecting LAN connectivity. 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, the basic remote will still report a working LAN.

It's a smart idea to also have dial-up POTS (or cellular, or satellite...) 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 or an external cellular/satellite modem, which can be used as a primary or secondary connection path.

A good example of an RTU that meets this criteria is the NetGuardian 832A. One of the great things about this remote is that it's a LAN-based RTU that's still operational when the LAN is down. The NetGuardian 832A's internal modem and paging capability, ensure that it always has an alternate path to report critical alarm information.

This means that the NetGuardian can effectively monitor its own LAN connection. Many users have configured their NetGuardians to send a pager if the LAN connection fails.


The NetGuardian 832A connects directly to your LAN and also has an internal dial-up modem. The NetGuardian's dial-up connection can be used as a primary or secondary data path.

5. Natural Disasters

Monitoring your network can protect you from preventable outages. However, how do you protect your gear against natural disasters? The short answer is: you simply can't. But, if you plan ahead, 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. You never know when they will happen. The key then, is to always be prepared. Having a real disaster recovery plan is the best way to prepare.


Having network monitoring throughout your territory will tell you exactly when sites go down. It will give you visibility of your sites, even during evacuations.

Your disaster plan should include:

  1. An analysis of disasters that could occur in your region.

  2. Monitoring 100% of your mission-critical equipment.

    With each piece of gear you tie into a remote monitoring system, you improve your situational awareness. Also, make sure you're monitoring battery voltages and generator fuel levels. When a natural disaster happens, you're probably going to lose commercial power at many of your sites. If you know precisely how much backup power you have, you can use your technicians and fuel trucks in the best way possible, prioritizing the sites that need fuel first.

  3. A prioritized list of the network systems that will be affected by a possible disaster.

    Knowing what could go wrong and working out a priority list for fixing downed equipment will help you send technicians to the right sites, with the right equipment, in the right order, when disaster actually strikes.

  4. Established procedures for repairing critical systems under disaster conditions.

    Are your spares already databased with the appropriate information? Do you need to set jumpers on your analogs to measure current? Make sure you have a documented plan for setting up equipment quickly, and ensure that it's accessible (via IP preferably), so if something goes wrong, your people will know just what to do to get it fixed.

  5. An inventory of critical spare equipment and parts.

    Keep an inventory so you don't have to wait for a shipment to set your network straight. If your network covers a large territory, consider employing local parts depots, so your spares can get from storage to site quickly.

  6. Have an alternate data path for transporting alarms and information in case the primary path fails.

    In too many networks, the only data path for transporting network monitoring information is the network being monitored, When that network fails, you're stuck without the information you need to intelligently dispatch your technicians to get it fixed. An alternate data path ensures you can still get the information you need to fix your troubled network.

  7. Have a people plan, a series of critical employee and vendor numbers handy.

    With that, if your network suffers an outage, you waste no time getting a hold of the people you need to help you get back online.


    When Hurricane Rita struck Louisiana, Keith and his team saw their DPS remotes pass one of Mother Nature's fiercest tests. Even though the Cameron staff relocated to another central office, they still had to watch over their network. "We were still able to monitor all of our sites and pick up alarms," Keith said. "DPS monitoring allowed us to have an accurate overview of our entire network at a very critical time."

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.

We have all the experience and equipment you need to ensure that your network is operational, even when you aren't there. We offer perfect-fit solutions that are sure to help you prevent network downtime.

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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