How to Select an Alarm Monitoring Center
Make sure your alarm monitoring center supports these essential functions:
- Alarm collection and device management: Don't settle for a limited alarm monitoring center. Get multiprotocol support for every monitoring device in your network, plus 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.
Checklist: Alarm Monitoring Center Essentials
Here's a handy checklist of essential features you should look for in an alarm monitoring center. Print this checklist out and use it to rate the alarm monitoring centers you're evaluating. If an alarm monitoring center can't meet these basic requirements, cross it off your list.
Critical alarm collection and device management 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 can't adequately monitor battery levels, temperature, and humidity with one-threshold contact closures. Look for support for analog inputs, including live monitoring of actual analog values.
- SNMP support and ping alarms: If you're responsible for both telecom and IP equipment, consolidate all your monitoring on one alarm monitoring center.
- Back-up dial-up reporting: Don't rely on your primary network to bring back alarms. If anything goes wrong with your transport, you'll lose your telemetry data just when you need it the most. Look for an alarm monitoring center that supports dial-up alternate path reporting.
- Multiprotocol support for your existing devices: Make sure your alarm monitoring software supports alarm collection 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.
Essential alarm sorting and analysis functions
- Custom combination alarms: A low battery isn't a serious problem, and neither is a failed generator - but they're pretty serious when the happen at the same time. Look for an alarm monitoring center that can watch many different alarm inputs and spot critical alarm combinations.
- Nuisance alarm filtering: Even the best NOC staff stops taking alarms seriously if they're bombarded with status alerts, oscillating conditions, and unimportant alarms. Look for an alarm monitoring center that filters these out.
- History and trend analysis: Identify problem areas and eliminate recurring problems with an alarm monitoring center that keeps a complete alarm history that's exportable for trend analysis.
- Alarm sorting: A large, complex network can create a cascade of alarms. Some are unimportant, but others are critical. Look for an alarm monitoring center that can automatically sort and prioritize this flood of information for you.
- Root cause analysis: Finding the underlying cause between alarm cascades can take hours of patient detective work. Look for an alarm monitoring center that can automatically correlate repeated combinations of alarms.
"All the network monitoring systems I make are backed by my no-risk, money-back guarantee. If you buy my equipment and you're not satisfied for any reason during the first 30 days, simply return it for a full refund. If my product doesn't solve your problem, I don't want you to have it."
- Bob Berry, CEO, DPS Telecom
Key alarm presentation and notification functions
- 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 don't give you enough information to make dispatch decisions. Look for an alarm monitoring center that includes detailed diagnostic information in each alarm.
- Web interface: Everybody knows how to use a Web browser. A Web interface makes sure all your field techs can access your alarm system, from any computer from any location.
- Pager and e-mail notifications: Pager and e-mail notifications let your field techs respond to alarms while they're still in the field, speeding repairs and reducing windshield time. Look for an alarm monitoring center with SMS support, which can send detailed alarm notifications to alpha pagers, cell phones, and PDAs.
This is just a checklist of basic monitoring functions. If you want to find an alarm monitoring center that meets and exceeds your requirements, let us know.