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Central Office Technician
Paul Bunyan Telephone
Before he came to DPS factory training, Derek Willis didn't know what his T/Mon NOC could do. In fact, he didn't think it could do very much. But factory training showed him the T/Mon NOC's full capabilities, and now he's excited about using what he's learned to improve his company's remote monitoring.
"I can't wait to get back and work on monitoring now," Willis said on the last day of his DPS Telecom Factory Training Event. "We'll really be able to neaten up our alarm network. I'm really looking forward to getting back to work."
Willis, a central office technician with the Paul Bunyan Telephone Cooperative in Bemidji, Minnesota, wasn't always this enthusiastic about monitoring. But until recently, Paul Bunyan didn't really have remote monitoring.
"Until three months ago, we just had some Sensaphone dial-up things, and we never really did anything with them," Willis said. "For us, monitoring is something that happens nights and weekends. During the day, it's not a big deal if the network is monitored or not. Somebody's always at the CO, and if there's an alarm they can call up a field tech.
"From midnight to 8 AM we forward our customer calls to another phone company that monitors our alarms," Willis continued. "There's also areas where there were no plans for monitoring-until I came to factory training."
Three months ago, Paul Bunyan took a proactive step to improve remote monitoring by installing an IAM-5 and NetGuardian remotes. Willis said that he thought the IAM-5 was just another monitoring system. But he admits that was due to inexperience and not taking full advantage of the information resources DPS Telecom provides to support the IAM-5.
"We've had the IAM-5 for a very short time, only about two or three months," Willis said. "My first impression of it was not good." Willis was frustrated by not having a chance to work with the IAM-5 to really learn it thoroughly. "My boss made a flow chart for me on programming the NetGuardian, and that was that. I didn't know what else there was to do. I followed his chart. That's not how I like to learn things," Willis said.
When Willis' department first set up their IAM-5 three months ago, they didn't have the help of DPS Telecom installation service, so they weren't able to make full use of T/Mon's advanced features. For example, Paul Bunyan was using discrete alarms to monitor equipment that could be better monitored with ASCII alarms.
Many kinds of telephony equipment have two kinds of alarm outputs. The first are basic major-minor discrete alarms. The second are text messages encoded in the American Standard Code for Information Interchange (ASCII), the most common text format. These ASCII alarms are text messages that contain highly detailed descriptions of alarm conditions.
Equipment that supports ASCII alarms will output ASCII text through a read-only printer (ROP) port or craft port. The original purpose of ASCII output was just to print an alarm log, but T/Mon can monitor ASCII output and convert the text stream to standard T/Mon alarms. T/Mon ASCII alarms keep the highly detailed ASCII alarm description, but can also be used with T/Mon's other advanced features, like pager and e-mail alarm notifications, derived alarms and controls, and nuisance alarm filtering.
Using discrete inputs instead of ASCII has caused problems with nuisance alarms. "In our UWSE switch, system operator checks produce major alarms. Several times a night the switch does a system operator check and it causes a major alarm. So right now we don't have the monitoring turned on at night. We haven't had any big outages on it yet, but if it happens, someone's going to ask, 'Why don't you have that alarm monitoring on?'" Willis said.
Willis said that Paul Bunyan should have been using T/Mon's advanced features, but he simply didn't know his IAM-5 supported them. "I had no idea there was an ASCII module that we should be using. We have 175-200 digital loop circuits that report to the IAM-5 through just discrete alarms. If we get an alarm at two o'clock in the morning we don't know if we should roll the truck or what. To me, the $100 Sensaphone we had hanging on the wall before did the same thing," said Willis.
Willis changed his mind about T/Mon after attending one of the DPS Telecom Factory Training Events in April. Factory training gave Willis an in-depth understanding of T/Mon's true capabilities that he couldn't get on the job.
"I'm totally happy with how the training went. I would have loved another couple days on ASCII or SNMP. I had heard of SNMP, but I never knew what SNMP was until I learned it here. I'm not at all scared about SNMP now," Willis said.
"Chris and Jason [DPS instructors Chris Hower and Jason Schmuck] were very knowledgeable, and they never make you feel like you're slowing things down. They could probably talk circles around us regular telephone guys, but they kept it to terms that we could understand. In some training classes I've been to, you don't dare ask a question, but they never gave that impression," Willis said.
"And being able to talk with some of the guys that designed my alarm system was great," said Willis. "They didn't have to pop in the classroom and introduce themselves, and ask where everyone was from, but they did."
Knowing more about how T/Mon works and what it can do has given Willis a mission - to go back to Paul Bunyan Telephone and make their monitoring more effective.
Willis means to change things by putting to use what he's learned about ASCII processing. "ASCII is the big thing I need to work on. My main objective is to monitor more with ASCII. With the UWSE switch, if we were using ASCII alarms, we could filter out those nuisance alarms," Willis said.
ASCII will also support more detailed alarm descriptions. And the IAM-5 will be able to send that description directly to a field tech's pager.
"I'd like to see very detailed alarm descriptions on my pager, and I think the other techs in my CO department want the same. I want to know exactly where I'm going and what I'm going to be doing. I also don't want to get to work and get in trouble because I didn't respond to an alarm," Willis said.
Like Derek Willis, you too can learn how to improve your network monitoring at a DPS Factory Training Event. DPS factory training is the best way to get more from your monitoring - a practical, hands-on course where you'll learn from the same engineers and technicians who designed and built your network reliability management system.