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SNMP Best Practices for Upgrading Your Master Station

Think of how your business would run without any managers. Without strong leaders setting priorities, identifying challenges and recurring issues, and keeping individual contributors in line, you'd have ineffective communications and eventually, failed operations.

Telecom companies can think of their network and system management features in much the same way. If you're having trouble with your older RTU equipment - since legacy equipment often does not have modern functions, is no longer supported, or does not communicate in the protocol you're using - then you need a strong manager to read and convert protocols from these older devices. For your bottom line, upgrading your management system can be even more valuable than promoting a top performer.

Upgrading your master station in accordance with Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) best practices will help you stay efficient and productive. You will be able to still use your legacy devices by polling them through an upgraded master station and then manage communications further with a top-level SNMP Manager.

If you are struggling with old protocols and not receiving reliable automated system updates, it may be time to upgrade your master station.

If you are struggling with old protocols and not receiving reliable automated system updates, it may be time to upgrade your master station. Here are the best practices for ensuring that upgrade is a success.

Ensuring Compatibility with SNMP Protocol

This graphic describes best practices of how to ensure old devices, gear, or legacy SNMP devices are compatible with new SNMPv3 protocol via an effective master station.

SNMP best practices
The Master Station supports and converts the old or encrypted protocol to SNMPv3.

Often your old devices or gear are in the old protocol. These old SNMP-protocol-based devices need to convert to SNMPv3 (Version 3) from old SNMPv1 or v2c.

The Master Station shown above supports and converts the old or encrypted protocol to SNMPv3. Because most older equipment does not support legacy equipment (based on the old SNMP protocol v1 and v2c), a master station will take care of this conversion for you.

The Master Station - in the image above - sends the translated SNMP up to a top-level SNMP manager. An SNMP manager reads both converted protocols and also SNMPv3 directly.

As communications reach the top-level SNMP manager, all versions of the protocol are secure, SNMPv3. The ease of conversion from old protocol to new SNMP protocol is made possible by upgrading your master station so it can handle SNMP traps and legacy gear.

The Differences Between Legacy Protocols and Present Needs

As network technology for telecoms has developed, managing protocols have gotten more complex. You might have systems that are on SNMPv1 or SNMPv2, which worked fine at the time (and still work now). But in order to have your system running its best, you'll need to upgrade to v3.

Here are some of the key differences in SNMP versions.

  • SNMPv1. Version 1 of SNMP excelled as the first open, standard protocol. It was a big deal at the time. However, like many first attempts, it had flaws including multiple problems with trap and request handling. Later versions were created to address the glitches. It is important to note that many smaller RTUs still run v1.
  • SNMPv2C. SNMP v2c provides the capability to use an inform notification in place of traps. This ensures a confirmed delivery message or response to the master/agent that the message is received.
  • SNMPv3. Open, dynamic systems automatically need better security. That's the key to v3. Authentication ensures that messages are only read by who is authorized to read them. Encrypted payloads ensure privacy. Combined with v3's EngineID Identifier, telecom companies can feel secure about their networks.

The Trouble With Upgrades

We all love upgrades, at least in theory. The problem is that your system might be a mix of SNMP v1, v2C, and now v3. It is expensive and time-consuming to upgrade everything at once, even if that is the ultimate goal. So what can you do?

You can upgrade your master station in order to handle both the old and the new management protocols.

You can upgrade your master station in order to handle both the old (ex. SNMPv1/v2c) and the new management protocols (ex. SNMPv3). This will allow you to collect traps from all SNMP sources, but the earlier versions will travel across your network without encryption.

If you want to improve your overall network security, you can instead consider a multi-protocol master alarm system. This intermediary master station can convert the v1 and v2 protocols into v3. It can then "northbound" that data as SNMPv3, effectively (and securely) connecting SNMP devices into a central, managed control interface.

Here are the best ways to upgrade your master station:

SNMP Best Practices for Upgrading Your Master Station

Here's the thing: not every master station is made the same. There are a lot of master stations out there, but not all of them can handle the unique and intense needs of a telecom company. You have a lot of monitoring requirements, which is why you need the right master Station.

It begins by figuring out exactly what you need.

Ask The Right Questions

If you want the best results in your master station upgrade, you need to ask the right questions. You should conduct an internal audit to determine specific needs. Some questions include:

  1. What alarms do I need to collect?
  2. How many sites do I monitor?
  3. How many users do I need to support?
  4. What data processing do I need to do with my alarms?

The size and complexity of your system will determine the type of master station you need. For all but the simplest networks (which really excludes any significant telecom company), you'll need a master station that will handle a vast multitude of inputs.

You'll need something you can rely on as much as your customers rely on you.

Favor Reliability, Not Cheapness

Here's the good news: there are free SNMP managers. Here's the bad news: they usually are worth exactly what you pay.

By maximizing good niche solutions for small-scale operations, you can scale up using a system to meet your needs. And it's best to avoid free master stations, even well-crafted ones, that simply can't handle all you need them to. There are nine areas to make sure are operative in a master station.

  1. Comprehensive alarm descriptions
  2. Accurate alarm descriptions
  3. Complete identification of cleared alarms
  4. Cataloged history of cleared alarms
  5. Intelligent alarm filters
  6. Graphical alarm display with maps and photos
  7. System operator identification
  8. Multiple-user security
  9. The ability to monitor your entire network

The last one, of course, is the most important. If your whole network isn't monitored, you are still dangerously exposed. It's important to make sure the job is done right.

Get a Guarantee

We obviously want you to have a great relationship with your vendor. We believe that a handshake means something and that when a person or company says they are going to do something, they'll do it.

If you are working with a vendor to upgrade your master station, get a guarantee.

But, a guarantee never hurts. If you are working with a vendor to upgrade your master station, get a guarantee. Find someone who will stand by their work. Ask if you can test your system in the real world, and not just in the sales office.

We know that sometimes things work differently in the field. That's why you need to work with a provider who gives you a risk-free guarantee on your master station. If it doesn't work, you can return it. Anyone who doesn't extend a guarantee may not be offering the quality you require for your operation.

Upgrade Your Master Station Today

As a telecom company, you know the value of communication. People rely on you to get their business done and stay in touch with loved ones. They count on you and often have service agreements making sure they can count on you. You are expected to honor that trust.

That means you need to make sure your stations are fully monitored. You can follow SNMP best practices to manage everything, and a central master station to translate all SNMP versions. Managing communications is the best way to ensure uninterrupted business.

DPS Telecom has the experience and expertise to help companies who need the best SNMP managers. Our technicians will work with you to find the right station manager for your specific needs. Reach out and get a quote today!