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If you think that network monitoring is just secondary equipment, talk to Bill Russell. The network operations manager for Texas Lonestar Networks says that reliable network monitoring equipment, backed by quality tech support, is an essential requirement for a successful network.
"Remote surveillance equipment has got to be up," said Russell. "It has to be there, and it has to be reliable. Network monitoring has to be going 24/7, because you have to be proactive about trouble in your network. You have to be able to see and repair problems before they cause network outages."
Russell should know. He's in the business of delivering reliable network transport and reliable network surveillance. Texas Lonestar Networks provides network transport, remote monitoring, and network maintenance services to 38 member telephone companies throughout Texas and parts of New Mexico and Oklahoma.
"Basically, we sell transport," said Russell. "We can give our member companies cut-rate pricing on long-distance and Internet access because of the combined purchasing power of our 38 member companies."
The member companies of Texas Lonestar Networks includes private networks, local carriers, long distance carriers and CLEC providers, all operating through an extensive interconnected network, whose backbone is an Alcatel network of approximately 180 nodes.
Russell emphasized that his member companies don't just need access to a network - they need access to a reliable network, including remote surveillance and maintenance support.
"We also sell network surveillance and network maintenance. That's very important to our member companies," said Russell. "Almost all of our members are small independent companies that don't have after-hours coverage. We're their after-hours coverage."
Texas Lonestar Networks' remote monitoring services have brought a much higher level of network reliability and customer satisfaction to the member companies.
"The success has been that we're able to tell member companies what problems they're experiencing before they hear about it through their customers. For example, we've had power alarms at repeater sites, and the member companies gets the call from us, and they get to the repeater, before the batteries are down and the customers call to complain," said Russell.
"We've also been able to pinpoint fiber cuts. We can pinpoint the problem and have a single truck roll instead of sending someone searching up and down the highway," said Russell.
Client satisfaction has been so high that Texas Lonestar is now able to offer additional services to the member companies. "The satisfaction has been great. We've been signing some member companies to the enhanced surveillance package," said Russell.
"Currently the surveillance we provide is on their unregulated facilities and equipment. In the enhanced surveillance package, we'll offer surveillance of their internal regulating networks, which is their local telephone service and all of their infrastructure. Most of our members don't have any type of surveillance on that equipment. Our techs can pinpoint the trouble to the node and dispatch repair personnel. It will save the member companies having to deal with repair calls in the middle of the night, and they'll know the repairs are done right," said Russell.
From the beginning, Texas Lonestar Networks has exclusively used DPS Telecom network monitoring equipment. Russell's staff uses a T/MonXM WorkStation and two NetGuardian units to monitor the network. Russell said that the reliability and client support have been valuable to maintaining the quality of Texas Lonestar Networks' remote surveillance.
"The system works fine. We have never had a problem with the NetGuardians," said Russell.
Earlier this year Russell had one problem with his T/MonXM WorkStation, but the problem was handled quickly by DPS Telecom Technical Support.
"The one problem we had with the T/MonXM was a failed hard drive. Ron [Stover, DPS's chief of Technical Support] had a new one sent to us overnight and walked me through the process of replacing the hard drive, restoring the database, and rebooting the system," said Russell.
"The hard drive failed on a Thursday. It was back in service Monday or Tuesday. It only took two business days, not counting the weekend."
Over the weekend, Russell relied on the stand-alone local monitoring abilities of the NetGuardian units.
"The NetGuardians are set up for pager notifications, so the two NetGuardians took the place of the T/MonXM. With the paging, and the ability to Telnet into the unit, the NetGuardians kept us running," said Russell.
"Our experiences with DPS tech support have been really good. We've always gotten positive results. The end result was to fix whatever we needed to fix," said Russell.
DPS Telecom Technical Support has also helped Texas Lonestar Networks through installations of new equipment. "Tech support is very helpful, when installing new equipment, even if you're installing equipment types you've used before in a new place," said Russell.
Texas Lonestar Networks is planning an expansion of their monitoring system. A third NetGuardian will soon be deployed to monitor a new section of the network, said Russell.
Russell added that he is now recommending DPS Telecom equipment to the member companies of the Texas Lonestar Network.
"DPS reliability is a big factor in why I've been recommending DPS to our member companies. Why look somewhere else if you're satisfied with what you've got."