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An introduction to Monitoring Fundamentals strictly from the perspective of telecom network alarm management.
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The design of your Network Operations Center (NOC) is massively important for your organization. It's your central nerve center where you monitor and control all of your remote sites.
In our visits to DPS clients, we've seen a wide range of different NOC designs. Big companies have massive NOC centers, while small ones have smaller NOCs. Still, every design is aimed at achieving a few standard goals:
Total visibility of every important alarm at every remote site
Clear presentation for users that makes alarms easy to understand (ex. maps)
Filtering of different alarms for different staff
Push alerts to staff that are outside of the NOC
These previous universal goals take different forms for different organization sizes. At major multi-state telcos and power utilities, we've seen movie-grade control centers that you might expect at NASA.
It's common at large agencies and companies to have 8-12 workstations in front of a massive video wall. Each workstation might have 6 screens of its own. In a large network operations center design like this, a large NOC team can manage 100% of the sites in multiple states.
When we go to smaller regional telcos, utilities, or transit agencies, the principles remain the same at a smaller scale. We've seen small operations centers with 1-3 workstations and a few TVs on the wall. These TVs tend to display an alarm list or map interface.
At smaller centers, the focus shifts to push alerts. That's because the NOC may not operate 7x24. Also, even a few people going out into the field can represent a major (or total) loss of NOC staff. For that reason, the alarm master (or RTUs directly in very small networks) need to take over the dispatching role normally handled by human NOC personnel.
In large-scale network operations centers, a 7x24x365 dedicated dispatch staff will always be available to interpret and filter alarms. Anything requiring a truck roll will be assigned by a human operator to a dedicated field technician.
Independently of how big your company is, all NOC centers will have the master station as the core of the network monitoring performance.
Your RTUs at your remote sites collect information about your mission-critical equipment. After gathering these data, the RTUs will report it to the alarm master station in your NOC. This will give your NOC technicians important details about any alarms and issues.
The alarm will be displayed within your NOC and in emails or text messages to appropriate NOC engineers.
In other words, your alarm master is the heart of your NOC data center because it can aggregate alarms from RTUs and equipment from your remote sites, providing a central location to display all alarm information. It also alerts NOC and field techs of any problems that put your network performance at risk.
When you get a competent master station, you are able to specify how it will show the information, customizing your system to make your network management system as efficient as possible.
Your NOC center the important link between the detection of a network issue and the implementation of a solution, normally in the form of dispatching the right tech to the right site and with the right tools.
This means that your mission-critical equipment heath in the hands of your NOC. So, you need to be able to choose the right tools to handle that kind of job. Your master station should, at least, have the following features:
Intuitive web interface
The first step when choosing a master station is to make sure it has a convenient and intuitive interface. Since your techs will always be looking at your master's screen, you don't need them wasting time trying to make sense of what an alarm means when they could be doing something about the issue.
When your network uptime is at risk, every single minute counts. So, time wasted in your NOC surveillance means more expenses for you and a higher chance to miss problems.
Your master station should give you a user-friendly interface and fast, detailed notifications.
Integration of all alarms
Your alarm master needs to be able to integrate all the alarms throughout your network into one unified monitoring system. Otherwise, it will be difficult to keep up with all the screens of multiple incompatible systems.
Filter nuisance alarms
Your master should also be able to intelligently filter your incoming alarm messages to keep your staff focused on the important alarms. You can set up simple rules that your master station will use to show or hide each new alarm message. It should still log all inbound alarms received at your NOC, this way you can still review all alarms received after an incident.
Your NOC center is a critical part of your alarm monitoring operations. This is where important decisions network management decisions are made. These decisions aim to safeguard your mission-critical equipment.
If you think that having a NOC center is a very expensive investment, know that there's a way out. The T/Mon Master Station can give all the previous features (and more) without blowing up your budget.
If you want to learn more about it and want to learn how you can get started designing your perfect-fit NOC center, give us a call. Our team of experts can help you with your monitoring solutions while helping you avoid common pitfalls.