Remote site management can feel like a fairly intimidating topic, especially if it's not the only aspect of your job. It's probably not something you have to do all the time.
If you've never worked with it before, it can seem a little bit complicated and scary. But, truthfully, it's quite simple when you start breaking it down. All you need is a good foundation that you can start building on as you plan out your project and figure it out what all your options are.
So, do you have a new remote site management project, but don't know how to get started?
Let's go over the top three best practices that you can use.
A protocol is really nothing more than a language that two computing devices use to talk to each other.
In a remote site management context, this usually means that you have boxes out at each remote site, called RTUs, and these RTUs will collect various data from sensors and ping connected to other equipment.
And they need to send a message up to a central master station, which is going to collect all the data and put in some kind of an intelligible report or screen for you, or send alerts to people.
So, the term "protocol" that we're talking about here is a communication between RTUs and a master station.
It's highly unlikely that you have only one protocol. You probably not going to be able to say "We're going to have an SNMP manager. It's going to collect SNMP messages - and we're done." You may also have DNP3 or Modbus, or dozens of other protocols. You most likely have a few protocols - maybe three or four - that are going on at your various remote sites. Therefore, if you want to collect everything, you need to think about all of them.
It's really important that you collect all of your information, and have it up on one screen. Also, you can have your central alarm master server sending out messages as emails or text messages.
You need to have the complete picture. You don't want to have one master station for only 40% of the remote sites, because your master doesn't support the other equipment with other protocols. So, the bottom line here is that you don't need a different system for each protocol - you can have a single multi-protocol master station.
The T/Mon is a good example of an alarm master for your general protocol mediation solution.
It can mediate alarms in 25 different protocols to SNMP, and it can mediate alarms to other protocols as well, such as ASCII, DCP, E2A, TABS, TBOS, and TL1.
T/Mon can do all this because of the power of its internal database - it has one common database for all alarms. All alarms T/Mon receives, whatever their source, are immediately written to one common format.
Once an alarm is in the T/Mon database, it's immediately convertible to SNMP or any other of T/Mon's 14 output protocols.
So, in a nutshell, what can T/Mon do for you?
With support for 25 protocols and hundreds of different devices, T/Mon will support all the monitored equipment in your network.
T/Mon provides a single, one-screen view of all your monitored equipment. It will tell you 100% for certain whether anything has gone wrong with any of your monitored equipment, so you can be absolutely sure there are no secret problems anywhere in your network.
You can forward alarm output to multiple targets, so if you need to, you can monitor a large network of different devices with T/Mon, and forward all the alarms to several SNMP managers.
You can filter alarms for the needs of different users. You can select which alarms are forwarded to your SNMP manager, which alarms can be viewed locally on the T/Mon, and which alarms are just logged to a history file for recording and later analysis.
At every level of your organization, people can see the information they want without being bombarded with nuisance alarms.
T/Mon doesn't just support legacy protocols - it also supports legacy transports like dial-up, RS-232, RS-422/485, 202 modem, FSK modem, and PSK modem.
If you're like most people, spending money on remote site management equipment can feel a bit like buying car insurance. You go month, after month without any kind of incident, yet you're paying these bills over and over again.
Why I am doing this? What's the purpose of this? What's the value?
However, if you do have a major accident - bringing a huge expense - I'm sure you'll be glad that you invested in that insurance ahead of time.
Remote site management is no different. People sometimes see it as just a wasteful expense for the organization.
"Why do we need this? The system works fine without it." "We haven't had an incident in years. Why do you want to spend money on this?"
Your valuable network equipment is exposed to several environmental threats that can have crippling effects on your response system. Temperature, humidity, water damage, power outage, and even airflow all pose serious threats to your equipment.
Never underestimate what a major incident is going to cost your organization. There's equipment damage, embarrassment in from of your customers, lost revenue if they leave for a competitor, you can have government fines, bad press - all kinds of problems that quickly add up.
If you're a big organization, you could be talking about hundreds of thousands or a million dollars from a significant incident. In even a smaller company at just one remote site, you might have $100,000 or more worth of equipment in that site (in fact, you probably do).
So, for example, think about what a small incident like overheating - if it leads to something like a fire, and you have major equipment damage - and what kind of an expense that represents.
However, by using the right monitoring system, you'll always know the status of your important gear. If your servers begin overheating, you'll know instantly and can dispatch technicians to fix the problem before your network goes down. Or, if you lose power to a remote site that houses critical emergency response systems, you need to know instantly so you can get the power back before your backup power runs out.
When you're looking for RTUs that could be $500, $1,000, or maybe $2,000 or $3,000, those prices are a relatively inconsequential spread. You should always aim for quality. The right monitoring system is like making a wise investment: you put in a little upfront, then sit back and enjoy the rewards of your savvy decision.
Obviously, don't throw your money away either. Do your research and compare your options, this way you won't spend more than you need to - always focusing on quality most of all.
Now that you've realized just how great your savings could be. The first step is to choose the right system.
Too many monitoring solutions fail to see the big picture, and leave out critical features. These limited systems will only give you a false sense of security, but in reality, you're just as exposed as you are with no monitoring system at all.
Take some time to learn the essentials, because arming yourself with the right information will protect you from making costly mistakes in the future. It's essential to understand what features are important in a monitoring system and how to go about implementing it, so you can the most out of its benefits.
When purchasing monitoring equipment, you want to be sure that you are getting the best. For that, only purchase equipment from a manufacturer that tests their product above and beyond what is necessary. It must not only function properly day-to-day, but also under the most extreme conditions.
Look for remote site management manufacturers that tests:
Power Cycling with extreme temperature stress.
Tests are extremely good indicators of equipment quality, but they can't match 100% the conditions and stress your equipment will face. Proven design is the ultimate test and the greatest proof of quality.
Your monitoring system is your window to your network. You can't afford to buy a system that doesn't follow quality best practices.
If there's one thing that people tend to overlook when it comes to purchasing remote site management, it's probably ease of use, because there's no set specification for how easy something is to use. It's not like capacity or processor clock, it's not something you can just slap on the side of the box. It's really more about that overall experience, how clear it is, how easy it is to train new personnel.
I can almost guarantee, if you're the one doing this research, you probably are going to be involved in the setup of the device. So, you really need to take into consideration - when you sit down and power your gear for the first time - how intuitive your user experience is.
Are the menus clear? Is it obvious to you how you can add a new device? Is it going to require a lot of clunky manual operation or is it automated as much as it can be? When it comes to train new people, is it going to be easy to train them?
A master station can actually have lots of advanced functions and multi-protocol compatibility, but those things aren't useful if they're hidden behind a confusing interface. Older systems in special can be clunky, hard to navigate, and can cause you to miss a critical alarm.
So, you need a system that features a clean display, is easy to use, and is streamlined to optimize your monitoring capabilities. The more streamlined your system is, the better chance you have at increasing site visibility and reducing outages and missed alarms. Plus, it makes training new techs easy and simple.
Imagine if there was a more streamlined master web browser interface, which allowed you to view, set and edit your users, devices and alarms, all in one place. You could see which alarms have been triggered, who silenced them, as well as reports that show alarm trends. You could set user privileges, set up text alerts, and see each device that your master is connected to.
Still using our T/Mon example, this master has a very simple user interface. The updated T/Mon web browser makes it easy to monitor and edit alarms. You can even continue monitoring as you edit from your web browser. You won't have to take your T/Mon offline to make any changes.
Plus, you can take advantage of an array of features to make managing your alarms even easier using a web-based intuitive editing utility. The user-friendly, graphical displays include front and back panel images, device-specific databasing, group management, floating help boxes, and point and click menus.
The user-friendly graphical displays - rather than only text-based lists - make it easy for any tech, regardless of experience, to be able to use it. Which makes training much easier. It also virtually eliminates missed critical alarms.
Remember: ease of use pays off immediately, when you first get a piece of remote site management equipment, and then continuously, as you keep training new staff. So, be sure to think about that as you're planning your remote site management purchasing.
At this point, it goes without saying that you need the power of monitoring technology to protect your network and give you peace of mind.
Many solutions tend to fail because they are not programmed to show you the big picture. They fail to incorporate the critical design features to make the right product that can get the job done. Skimping on the quality and the features of a system costs you an arm and a leg in the long-run.
Don't wait any longer. Every extra minute you leave your network vulnerable increases the risks of a critical outage. So, you don't want to cut any corners in guaranteeing your network security. You know what's possible with the right monitoring system:
Quality design that won't let you down.
Detailed alerts that can reach you anywhere, so you're never left guessing about what's going on.
Easy to setup and use, so you don't waste valuable time monitoring your network.
Fortunately, getting a remote site management system that follows these best practices doesn't have to be a hassle - and it doesn't have to send you over budget either.
Imagine how much easier your job will be when you can spend less time worrying about monitoring your critical equipment and more time on your other projects. You and your team will see big gains in productivity by deploying the right monitoring solutions. Not to mention that by using a good monitoring system, your customers will be happy knowing that you're a proactive company that doesn't cut corners when it comes to providing them with reliable service.
In order to choose the right system, you first have to know what you should be looking for. This will help you avoid costly mistakes and common pitfalls that doom many monitoring projects.
Our experts can help you make an informed decision. We can answer your questions, design a custom monitoring solution, and even provide you with a free ROI analysis. So, contact us today to get started protecting your network.
Morgana Siggins is a marketing writer, content creator, and documentation specialist at DPS Telecom. She has created over 200 blog articles and videos sharing her years of experience in the remote monitoring industry.
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