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Plan Your Monitoring Architecture Design In Three Steps

By Andrew Erickson

December 3, 2019


Do you want to monitor processes and equipment at your remote sites in real-time, but you're not too sure what equipment to use to cover your bases?

Planning your remote monitoring system can be very hard, especially if you've never done it before. Finding the balance between capacity, interface, and features can be overwhelming.

There are a lot of things you should think about when developing your visibility strategies, but let's break down this process into 3 straightforward steps to help you choose an excellent remote monitoring system.

1. Deciding What You Want to Monitor

Your first step in system designing your monitoring system is to figure out what you want to keep an eye on. Deciding what you need to monitor is important, so start off with your site count.

How many sites need to be monitored? And at these sites, what equipment do you want to pick up information from? Are you monitoring environmental levels and need temperature and humidity monitoring devices?

Some of the things you can monitor and get information from are generators, fuel levels, UPS battery backups, site access, and even environmental sensors - such as temperature, humidity, smoke, and presence of water.

To know your monitoring capacity, you'll have to calculate your requirements for each of the following alarm points:

  1. Discrete points

    Discrete points provide the open/closed, on/off, yes/no type of alarm reporting.

  2. Analog inputs

    Analog inputs provide information about a range of conditions at your site. They're useful for environmental monitoring, such as temperature and humidity sensors, wind speed, fuel levels, etc. You'll have 4 threshold alarms: major under, minor under, major over and minor over, based on these reference values your Remote Terminal Unit (RTU) will notify you of a problem.

  3. Ping targets

    Ping targets are a set of alarms useful in network fault monitoring. If a ping reaches its target and returns to the RTU, then the remote will know that the connection is still alive, and not alarm be triggered. This is useful in the general preventing of network failure.

  4. Internal points

    Internal points will alert you about issues with the RTU itself. If you're experiencing problems with your own remote, then you probably won't be notified about other events at your site.

To decide how many alarm points are necessary, go to your remote sites and evaluate everything you've got.

However, before selecting a remote, don't forget to take into consideration your long-term monitoring goals. Your network can be expanding or can go through some unexpected growth, and then you'll have more alarm points you'll need to monitor. It's important to allow some room for reasonable growth.

Having all this information is great, but how are you going to get that back home? This is where we get into our next step.

2. Backhaul your Information

In simple words, backhaul is the way all your information will be getting back home to your centralized master station. Once alarm data is collected from your remote locations, it needs to be transmitted over a data network to your master. This process can be done via IP, fiber, cellular, satellite, etc. Your method of transport will depend mostly on what's available at your remote sites.

Knowing what protocols your equipment "speaks" is a very important point as well. A protocol is the computer communication language used to report alarms. Your RTU and master must share a common protocol to communicate. Examples are SNMP, Modbus, DNP, and etc.

Buying a remote that has multi-protocol and multiple-transport capabilities is very useful to make sure all your devices can have an efficient communication exchange.

After your centralized master station has all this information, the way you want to be notified is our next step.

NetGuardian 832A back panel accepts LAN, serial, and dial-up connections for maximum compatibility at network sites
In this back panel, you can see that the NetGuardian 832A accepts LAN, serial, and dial-up connections for maximum compatibility at network sites.

3. What are your Preferred Notification Methods?

Now that your master station has all the data about your equipment, knowing how you want to be notified is your next step.

Receiving detailed notifications from your monitoring tools is the first step to defending your system - the only way you can prevent any critical network outage is with the right information. Your monitoring gear should be able to send you detailed and actionable alerts.

The most common way to be view notifications is through some sort of graphical interface. The best RTUs will give you a map view of your sites, and if an issue occurs a light will start blinking. Another option is having a list display, similar to an email, so if something goes wrong a new line will pop up.

These options are great when you're in the office, but you can't always be at your desk waiting for alarms to come in. During after hours, other ways of alerts are necessary. Some of them are email notifications, SMS, or voice calls. It's important that your centralized master station is able to filter what's important - that needs to be translated into a call at 3 AM in the morning - and what simply can wait until Monday.

Talk to a Monitoring Expert to Purchase a Monitoring System that Acts as your Hand in the Field

As you came up with a list of all the requirements for your remote monitoring system, you realized that your network is very unique. Now what?

We'd be glad to help you pick out the correct equipment to make the perfect-fit solution for you. At DPS, we believe that the right telemetry system accommodates all your specific needs. You shouldn't have to lose alarm visibility because your vendor can only give you over-the-shelf products.

Since we're a full-service manufacturer based in the US, we have control over our own production. This is why we're able to develop a monitoring solution that will meet and exceed your specifications.

Our NetGuardians offer a number of different notification types, customizable to fit your needs, so you can keep track of your site from wherever you are. They also provide you ways to deal with alarms as they occur. You'll be able to respond quickly to problems, preventing costly site visits for fixing minor problems.

Also, in terms of the master station, our T/Mon is a good example of an open network management system. It includes an intuitive interface that displays alarms as clickable icons on Microsoft maps. Without any recurring fees, the T/Mon follows the highly valuable (but often ignored) industry best practice of supporting multiple open protocols.

For these reasons, and many others, I recommend our NetGuardian series of RTUs paired with the T/Mon, so you can feel like you have capable techs at your sites 24/7.

Andrew Erickson

Andrew Erickson

Andrew Erickson is an Application Engineer at DPS Telecom, a manufacturer of semi-custom remote alarm monitoring systems based in Fresno, California. Andrew brings more than 17 years of experience building site monitoring solutions, developing intuitive user interfaces and documentation, and opt...