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An introduction to Monitoring Fundamentals strictly from the perspective of telecom network alarm management.

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Choosing the most Effective Alarm Monitoring Solution

Alarm monitoring, either of unmanageable network elements or environmental conditions (temperature, power, humidity, water damage, etc.), alerts you to potential or current problems. These site alarms are often overlooked when planning remote sites, but they can lead to major outages. Alarm monitoring and reporting, via pager or to network management systems, can provide you with vital information and reduce downtime by alerting the correct personnel for each type of failure.

When choosing an alarm monitoring solution, it is important to make sure the following features are included:

  • Alarm collection and device management: Never settle for partial alarm monitoring equipment. Get multi-protocol support for every alarm monitoring appliance in your network, along with discrete alarms, analog alarms, ping alarms, and redundant path reporting.
  • Alarm sorting and analysis: Make sense of alarm cascades with automatic intelligent alarm sorting, filtering, processing, and trend analysis.
  • Alarm presentation and notification: Send detailed alarm descriptions and correction instructions to NOC and field techs via pager notifications and web interfaces.

T/Mon NOC is a full-featured alarm master for upto 1 million alarm points

Here's a practical checklist of items essential for an alarm monitoring system, which can be used to rate the systems you are evaluating.

Crucial alarm monitoring functions-

  • Control relays: Many common site problems, from power outages to high temperature alarms, can be solved by quickly turning on a generator or an air conditioner. Remote operation of site devices is the best way to eliminate unnecessary site visits and it's a lot faster than going in the truck.
  • Live analog monitoring: You cannot adequately monitor battery levels, temperature, and humidity with one-threshold contact closures. Look for support for analog inputs, including live management of actual analog values.
  • Multi-protocol support for your existing devices: Make sure your next alarm monitoring system collects alarms from all your existing devices, including your older legacy gear. You can get rid of all your specialized consoles and monitor your network from one screen.
  • Back-up dial-up reporting: Do not rely on your primary network to bring back alarms. If anything goes wrong with your transport, you will lose your telemetry data just when you need it the most. Look for an alarm monitoring system that supports dial-up alternate path reporting.
  • SNMP support and ping alarms: Consolidate all your management on one system if you are responsible for both telecom and IP equipment.

Key alarm presentation and notification functions-

  • Web interface: A Web browser makes sure all your field techs can access your alarm system, from any computer at any location.
  • Pager and e-mail notifications: Pager and e-mail notifications let your field techs respond to alarms while they are still in the field, speeding repairs and reducing windshield time. Look for an alarm monitoring system with SMS support, which can send detailed alarm notifications to alpha pagers, cell phones, and PDAs.
  • Alarm correction instructions: Detailed instructions included in alarm notifications ensure that system operators, without extra training, will know precisely what to do and who to call if an alarm happens.
  • Detailed alarm notifications: Summary "major/minor" alarms do not give you enough information to make dispatch decisions. Look for a network alarm monitoring system that includes detailed diagnostic information in each alarm.

Essential alarm sorting and analysis functions-

  • History and trend analysis: Identify problem areas and eliminate recurring problems with an alarm monitoring system that keeps a complete alarm history that's exportable for trend analysis.
  • Custom combination alarms: A low battery is not a serious problem, and neither is a failed generator, but they are pretty serious when they occur at the same time. Look for an alarm monitoring system that can spot critical alarm combinations.
  • Nuisance alarm filtering: Even the best NOC staff stops taking alarms seriously if they are bombarded with status alerts, oscillating conditions, and unimportant alarms. Look for an alarm monitoring system that filters these out.
  • Root cause analysis: Finding the underlying cause between alarm cascades can take hours of patient detective work. Look for a system that can automatically correlate repeated combinations of alarms.
  • Alarm sorting: A large, complex network can create a cascade of alarms. Some are unimportant, but others are critical. Look for an alarm monitoring system that can automatically sort and prioritize this flood of information for you.

DPS Telecom builds customized alarm monitoring solutions to fit your specifications. Whether you have small, medium or large remote sites, we can build to your needs.