(This article is intended to provide an introduction to remote site monitoring. It should be helpful to you if you have recently become involved in or responsible for this important area of contemporary network operations.)
"Remote site monitoring" involves tracking the status of equipment at distant locations.
A network, in this context, simply means any collection of equipment working in conjunction to provide some kind of revenue-generating service.
Railway companies have rolling stock, right-of-way assets and infrastructure equipment and facility that is a 'network' working in conjunction to provide transport services. The protection of this equipment is paramount for Railway companies to safely deliver freight and passengers to their intended destinations on schedule.
Utility companies have line assets, substation facility and equipment, and an increasing infrastructure reach all the way to the customer meter. For utility companies to provide good electricity, water, etc. service, they must effectively monitor the networked systems that are involved in providing that service.
Phone and cellular companies have multiple levels of central office facility, a wide variety of call management, and routing equipment and roadside (right-of-way) assets (i.e. BTS cabinets). If the phone company cannot keep its network online by establishing an effective remote site monitoring system, it will not be able to keep its customers happy, and they will quickly defect to a competitor.
In each of these cases, a collection of equipment is involved in providing services. This equipment is usually deployed in a large number of geographically dispersed locations, commonly referred to as "remote sites". Monitoring this equipment, and the remote sites that contain them, is an important part of providing services at these types of companies.
Although the technical specifics vary between remote site monitoring systems, they all share a common general topology.
Remote devices, commonly known as RTUs or remote telemetry units or remote terminal units, are deployed at each remote site to collect system alarms from the equipment stationed there, and also to monitor the surrounding environment for critical factors (temperature, humidity, physical intrusion, etc.).
After all this alarm data has been collected at each remote site, it must be aggregated in order to be presented to a human operator. This job is handled by a central master station. These master stations necessarily have much more processing power than the average remote device, although they may not have the same level of protection against industrial environments (they are typically deployed in offices rather than remote huts and cabinets). Master stations commonly feature redundant architecture, and simultaneously running a redundant pair of master stations is an industry best practice for superior remote site monitoring.
With both of these device types working together, human operators are able to accomplish remote site monitoring. They have a good situational awareness across perhaps thousands of square miles containing remote sites. If a problem arises at a site, an appropriate response can be issued to ensure that a particular remote site problem does not fester until it becomes a widespread network outage.
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