Section III: How to Plan Your Alarm Monitoring Upgrade

n the previous sections, you've seen what equipment you should monitor and what features a good alarm system should have. So you should have some sense of what would be the ideal alarm system that will give you the best possible visibility of your network.

The question is, how do you get from where you are to where you want to be? It's very rare for a company to be able to suddenly leap from their current alarm monitoring to their ideal system. Budget restrictions and the cost of installing equipment mean you can't usually get everything you want in one budget year.

Here are some strategies that will help you find a smooth, gradual upgrade path that will let you transition to a new alarm system over several budget cycles:

• Define your immediate monitoring needs: What are the essential alarm monitoring capabilities that you must have today? What critical equipment do you absolutely have to monitor right now?
Keep in mind, your definition of an immediate, essential need might be different that someone else's. For example, if you have the staff to keep an eye on an alarm screen 24/7, you might not need pager notification. But if you need to manage critical network assets during unmanned after-hours and weekend times, paging is an essential capability.

• Start slow, then expand: Once you've taken care of your bare minimum needs, you can add more alarm capacity and more monitoring capabilities over several budget cycles. You don't have to spend more than you can afford in one budget year, but you'll gradually move toward your ideal system.

• Use protocol mediation to incorporate existing equipment: The first stages of your upgrade can be easier and more cost-effective if you can install a new alarm master first and then gradually replace RTUs at your remote sites. An alarm master with multiprotocol support can support your existing remotes, so you can immediately add new presentation capabilities without replacing all your remote site equipment.

• Keep your future goals in mind: While you're planning your expansion, think about what your monitoring needs are likely to be 5, 10, 15 years down the road. It's easier and more cost-effective to add alarm capacity in a controlled way in the immediate future than to rush a new deployment through when you've exceeded your alarm capacity.

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