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InterBel Loses Alarming After 5ESS to Metaswitch Migration - T/Mon And NetGuardians Fill the Void

InterBel Telephone provides phone and internet services to customers in northwestern Montana. They manage approximately 3500 access lines, 3 fiber rings, 1 central office, and 26 remote sites.

Tom, Marty, and Rob of InterBel
Tom Rasmussen, Marty Sosa,
and Rob Little of InterBel

InterBel retires their 5ESS switch, loses their alarm monitoring

InterBel had been using a 5ESS switch, which collected alarms for the equipment around their SONET ring. "The 5E switch itself had alarm points. We monitored the alarms right on the switch," said Rob Little, Plant Manager.

"When we lost the 5ESS, we lost the alarms. We went to the MetaSwitch and had to pick up that functionality in our network with RTUs," said Little. "DPS NetGuardians were the solution for that."

"It has given us the chance to be proactive when it comes to outages in our system."

The Right Alarm Monitoring Solution Becomes Obvious

InterBel's Montana Service Area

When it came time to replace the 5ESS switch, Sosa called on past experiences to come up with a new solution. "Where I worked previously, we deployed virtually all DPS equipment," said Marty Sosa, Central Office Supervisor. "One of my co-workers couldn't speak enough good about DPS, so I ended up ordering a boatload of equipment."

"From that experience, I knew that DPS is a good company. It's the company I'd want to work with if I was setting up alarms. So I made the recommendation at InterBel to look at DPS," Sosa explains.

InterBel uses a third-party service, called VisionNet, for monitoring functions. "Also, because VisionNet has a T/Mon, it made sense for us to look at DPS."

"We started with the NetGuardians and VisionNet was monitoring our alarms for a period of time," said Little. "Then we went to a T/Mon. We started monitoring our own alarms, and having VisionNet monitor alarms after hours and on weekends for us."

T/Mon Increased InterBel's Monitoring Capabilities

The T/Mon, DPS Telecom's master station, is a robust, single platform, monitoring solution that can manage all your equipment in one location. It simplifies your monitoring, making it more effective.

Now that they have deployed the T/Mon, it has become a critical piece of InterBel's network. "We use the T/Mon itself to monitor all of our access equipment," said Little. "It has given us the chance to be proactive when it comes to outages in our system."

"[T/Mon] also monitors some of our ISP equipment, but it's pretty minimal. Its just ping type stuff right now to make sure the interfaces are online." said Little.

"It was really insightful for me to see how things are configured, how they work, and how you put it all together."

T/Mon helped InterBel achieve better visibility and control. Now, they are looking to use it for even more monitoring functions. "Tom and I came to Factory Training to get more alarms from the ISP end of it, coming on up into the T/Mon," said Little. "Right now all we are doing is pinging. We'd actually like to monitor processor usage and stuff like that."

Interbel Topology
During business hours, InterBel monitors their NetGuardians and Zhone Access equipment using a NetGuardian. For after-hours monitoring, they rely on VisionNet and their T/Mon

Factory Training Gave InterBel Hands On Experience

Rasmussen and Little attended DPS Telecom's four-day training course, which covers several major protocols, DPS products, and monitoring best practices. "There are a lot of things we learned," said Rasmussen, SP Supervisor. "But, neither of us have really been in the back end of the T/Mon or the NetGuardian."

The training course features hands-on experience, so that students become familiar with how the DPS equipment is designed. "It was really insightful for me to see how things are configured, how they work, and how you put it all together," said Rasmussen.

"Training went well and I've got all my questions answered."

"Understanding how it's all put together allows me to manage my central office ISP better because I know the equipment and how it works," said Little. "That's the advantage."

Factory Training also gave Little and Rasmussen the confidence to test new features that they had never utilized. "Now we aren't afraid to change stuff," said Rasmussen. "We have the knowledge of how it's configured."

Plus, the training environment gave them the opportunity to talk directly to those who build and design the equipment. "The hospitality was great. Everyone is really friendly and seems willing to go out of their way to help you if you have any questions." said Little. "Training went well and I've got all my questions answered."

Now, InterBel Plans to Extend Monitoring to Remote Sites

With Factory Training done and a new understanding of how the equipment works, InterBel is looking to expand their fleet of DPS equipment. "I plan on adding more equipment, especially out at Wolf Prairie, which is a remote site that is very remote," said Little. "Our territory is around 1100 sq miles. It's out in the middle of nowhere."

To limit truck rolls and to ensure that they have a backup power supply at their most remote site, InterBel wants to keep an eye on fuel levels. "We're putting T/Mon out at the farthest location. We want to look at the propane tank there," Sosa says.

Propane levels aren't the only thing that InterBel's is looking to improve on. "We also have a lot of interest in the Entry Control Unit," said Rasmussen. "Our current door system is cumbersome and the software isn't very good for it."

"When you are programming the doors, you physically have to go to each door and program it," said Rasmussen. "It would be nice to have something centralized."

"Its been a pain because the software always breaks," said Little. "When I need to get people access to doors, I can't do it."

DPS Tech Support: A Dying Breed

"Tech support a big thing in today's markets. In my experience, service at most companies is going south," said Little. "And DPS seems to be keeping theirs where it needs to be, which is very good."

"It helps relieve a lot of frustration," said Rasmussen. "As a technician, if you've got tech support that you are working with and they do a good job, you have more confidence for future projects."