How Do You Monitor It?

Part 1: The Basics of Network Alarm Monitoring
Part 2: What Do You Need to Monitor?
Part 3: How Do You Monitor It?
Part 4: How Do You Monitor It? (Continued..)
Part 5: How to Plan Your Alarm Monitoring Upgrade
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Now that you have an idea of what you should be monitoring, your next consideration is the nuts and bolts of how you are going to monitor it.

General Principles for Selecting What to Monitor

In the perfect alarm system of your dreams, you'll have an alarm for every single factor that can affect network operations, but you'll never spend extra money on alarm capacity you don't need. In the real world, time and budget constraints usually mean you have to set priorities and carefully select which alarms you're going to monitor.

When choosing network elements to monitor, keep these principles in mind:

  • Paranoia is your friend. Think about everything that can possibly go wrong, because - guaranteed - someday it will.
  • The more detailed your monitoring, the smaller your windshield time and repair costs. Precise diagnostics help you send the right tech with the right tools to the right site.
  • It's OK to start small and scale up. If you get an alarm system that can be upgraded, you can start monitoring your most critical network elements now, and gradually add more monitoring over several budget cycles.
  • Plan for your needs for the next five years. Your network and your monitoring needs will grow, and an alarm system that can't grow with them will be obsolete as soon as it's installed.

There are three phases to alarm monitoring: acquisition, transport and presentation. Let's look at each phase in order.

Acquisition: Getting Alarms Out of Your Equipment

There are three kinds of alarm inputs: contact closures, analog inputs and protocol inputs.

  • Contact Closures
    Contact closures are also called discrete alarms or digital inputs. A contact closure is a simple on/off switch that produces an electrical impulse when it's activated or deactivated. Contact closures are the simplest kind of alarm input, so they're often used as a kind of lowest-common-denominator means of getting some kind of alarm from any kind of equipment.
  • Analog Inputs
    Analog inputs accept current or voltage level inputs over a continuous range. They're the ideal kind of alarm for monitoring things like temperature and battery charge, where it's important to get an actual, physical measurement of the condition in real time.
    Here's where having a quality alarm system really counts. Some alarm systems simulate analog alarms with "threshold" alarms. For example, you might get a low-battery alarm if the battery voltage drops to -48 volts. But that information by itself is meaningless. After the voltage crosses the -48 volt-threshold, does it stay there (indicating that the battery is merely low) or does it continue to drop (indicating that the battery is being rapidly drained)? With threshold alarms, you have no way to tell.
    DPS Telecom alarm equipment features analog alarms that report live, real-time analog values, giving you true visibility of these kinds of alarm conditions. Additionally, DPS analog alarms support four user-configurable thresholds (Major Under, Minor Under, Minor Over and Major Over), to provide best-quality notification of changing events.
  • Protocol Inputs
    Protocol inputs are electrical signals formatted into a formal code that can represent much more complex information than contact closures or analogs. There's a wide variety of protocols for transmitting telecom alarm data. The most common telemetry protocols are open standards like SNMP, TL1, ASCII and TBOS, but there are also manufacturer-specific proprietary protocols. SNMP, TL1 and ASCII are simply ways of encoding ordinary written text for electronic transmission; these protocols are human-readable, if you know the code's terminology and operators.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5: Plan Your Alarm Monitoring Upgrade
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