Web-Based Monitoring Tutorial

Web-based monitoring equipment offers one major benefit over older gear: you can configure and use it via any computer with a web browser. Simply by typing in the IP address of your alarm remote or master station into your address bar, you'll have access to a clean and clear interface for configuration and monitoring.

Web browser interface with animated analog gauges
In this example web-based interface, you'll choose from several color-coded analog gauges to help you identify network threats quickly.

If you choose a monitoring device that's web-based, you won't need to worry about software installations. At best, those waste time. At worst, it can be really difficult at security-conscious organizations to get the right IT Department permission to install any software.

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Should I choose a monitoring device that's web-based ONLY?
Probably not. While the web interface is an important component, it's a good idea to find a remote that can send you alerts using other methods. It might send you an SMS text message, call you on your phone with voice messages, or report to a central master station using SNMP, DNP3, Modbus, or another industry-standard protocol. In short, web interfaces are a handy tool (and they're all that you need to manage a small handful of sites), but it's always a good idea to have alternative options.

What happens when your network grows? Will your existing remotes be able to communicate with a newly deployed master station, or will you just have to throw them away and buy something else? Web-based monitoring devices may be the best choice for your size today, but eventually you may need the flexibility to grow into a centralized monitoring setup.

How can I tell the difference between a good web interface and one that will slow me down?
The goals of any web interface should be clarity and responsiveness. You can't afford to wade through confusing menus, and the flexibility of web technology means there's really no excuse for poor design anymore. Step-by-step web-based configuration wizards are available in some of the top-notch monitoring systems. They'll walk you through all necessary setup processes one step at a time with clear explanations.

You also need a system that's fast. Underpowered devices might, technically speaking, have a web interface, but they might be too slow to run it effectively. If you click "Submit", but then have to sit around for 45 seconds, you're going to waste a lot of your precious time. You need a monitoring device that's fast enough to deliver web interface pages quickly.

What monitoring data should be available in the web interface?
In short, you should be able to monitor every piece of collected data via a good web-based monitoring interface. Although the list will vary based on the equipment you've chosen, common items to look for include:

  • Discrete alarm inputs
  • Analog inputs (displayed with a numerical value and/or an animated gauge, thermometer, etc. as appropriate for the sensor type)
  • System alarms (software alarms generated by the monitoring device itself, such as connectivity failures, reboot notifications, backup reminders, and hardware failures)
  • History logs indicating key events, including discrete alarms, analog threshold alarms, device polling stats, and automated notifications sent via email, phone, etc.

What things should I be able to configure and control via web?
Just as a good web interface allows you to monitor all of its collected data, it will also allow you to configure all relevant settings and execute control functions via the same web-based screens.

Configuration includes:

  • Giving names/descriptions to all discrete and analog alarm inputs. "Alarm Point 6" doesn't really mean anything, but "AC Power Failure" certainly does
  • Setting up thresholds for analog voltage/current inputs that will trigger alerts when crossed (major under and major over at minimum, minor under and major under are also helpful in assessing urgency and dispatching technicians efficiently)
  • Assigning severities (typically critical, major, minor, & status) to discrete alarms and analog thresholds
  • Changing the unit's name, FROM email address, IP address, etc.
  • Setting up email/text notifications
  • Setting up voice dial-out notifications

Is web access secure enough to use in sensitive corporate and government networks?
If you're running web-based monitoring equipment internally on a secured LAN, you may already have the full security layer that you need. But what if you want to access your monitoring device on the external Internet?

While some organizations have policies against any external access at all, others will allow it but require you to use a device that supports HTTPS (SSL) encryption. Since it requires more powerful hardware and superior engineering, only some manufacturers offer support for encrypted HTTPS connections to their web-based interfaces.

Whether you need encryption or not, it's always a good idea to choose a monitoring tool that requires at least a password (if not a username/password combination) to log in. While it does serve as reasonable protection against hacking and malicious programs, password protection also protects your lower-level staff members from accessing a web-interface without adequate experience and accidentally causing a major incident.

Recommended web-based monitoring tools:

  1. NetGuardian 216 G3 (Web interface demo video)
  2. NetGuardian 832A
  3. TempDefender IT

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