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An introduction to Monitoring Fundamentals strictly from the perspective of telecom network alarm management.

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8 Pitfalls to look for when selecting equipment that is designed to bring multiple network systems (protocols) together

There's an old adage: "Nobody gets fired for buying IBM". It refers to the glory days when IBM was the choice in personal computers and how by recommending them, one was fairly certain that they would not lose their job because they choose an unknown vendor with an unproven track record.

While times (and IBM) have changed, the concept still holds true: Generally speaking, we're better off selecting a product from a vendor who has a proven track record and satisfied client base.

And so is the case with network monitoring equipment. Most likely, you've been tasked with having to recommend a monitoring solution for your remote sites. Assuming for a moment that all things [remote telemetry units] are equal, here's what you should look for in a vendor:

Years in business / size of company

In the network alarm monitoring industry, there really are no 800-pound gorillas (a "Microsoft" if you will). Instead, you'll find several small to mid-sized companies offering a variety of solutions. Naturally, you're going to want to determine the stability of these companies. A good indicator is the age and size of the company, so go ahead and ask!

Testimonials / install base / referral lists

A natural question when selecting a vendor is "Who uses your product?" What you're probably hoping to hear are the names of companies you've heard of before (justifiably so). You should make the prospective vendor prove it... ask for testimonial letters and a list of references that you can call.

Experience developing custom solutions

Let's face it, no two networks are alike - alarm inputs, protocols, transport layers, operations support systems - the combination of such devices is unlimited. At some point during your network monitoring deployment, you will most likely need something customized for a "perfect fit" into your network. Make sure the company you select has the engineering resources and past experience to develop that perfect fit solution.

Money back guarantee

This sounds pretty obvious, but look for a company that is willing to back up their products in writing. We take these guarantees for granted on purchases made from the home stores, so why should it be different for your business critical equipment? You should be able to get your money back if the equipment does not perform as promised.

A complete solution

There are three basic layers to consider when developing your network alarm monitoring solution: 1) Alarm collection 2) Alarm transport and 3) Alarm presentation. Without all three in place, you network monitoring solution is incomplete. Does the vendor you're considering provide solutions for all three layers? If not, have they asked about the layers they don't provide to make sure their equipment is fully compatible?

Custom application drawings before a commitment to buy

At one point or another, we've all received a two-page fax quote for purchase we are considering. That might be fine for a reorder of copier toner, but what about a network build-out that could run into hundreds of thousands of dollars? Do you really want to select a company that takes very little time in preparing what they perceive you will need in your network? Make sure your prospective vendor is willing to create an application drawing that clearly communicates what you are trying to accomplish with your alarm monitoring.

Stability in an unstable environment

It's no secret that the telecommunications industry (and the economy as a whole) has been in a downward spiral since turn of the century. VC investments are slowing down, budgets are shrinking, and companies are merging or calling it quits altogether. So you might consider the history and stability of the company you are about to do business with by asking these questions:

  1. An alarm master that does not support multiple protocols.
  2. A vendor that does not have the engineering resources to support non-standard interface protocols.
  3. A vendor that does not have the ability to do a site survey and determine a solution based off of an evaluation of my network.
  4. You end up $250K into your installation & nothing works (and no refund!)
  5. You select a system that has never been tested in YOUR network.
  6. You select a system that does not come with a money-back guarantee.
  7. You are proposed a buy-it-all-at-once solution instead of an incremental solution.
  8. You are proposed a system that does not have engineering flexibility.