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Top 3 Mistakes When Managing Remote Systems

Morgana Siggins
Morgana Siggins
Monitoring Specialist

Service reliability matters now more than ever. Research has shown that there are 3 main factors that cause customer churn: a better deal, service reliability, and customer service.

You can attract new customers through bundled service offers and promotional discounts, but they'll take their phone number and run to the next best deal offered by your competition if you don't provide consistent, reliable service.

After price, reliable service is what matters most to customers. Providing the most reliable service is the best way to differentiate yourself from the competition. And Network Reliability Management is the fundamental tool for doing this.

However, most executives are bound to make three classic mistakes with their network reliability strategies.

These mistakes can sabotage real value, preventing you from realizing the huge benefits from network alarm management and the reliability it can bring to your communications and data network.

Let's take a look at these three fatal mistakes and the secrets to avoiding them.


Mistake #1: Trying To Get By With an Inadequate Monitoring System

The network alarm management systems many companies use simply were not designed for today's operating conditions. The business climate in which telecom companies operate has changed utterly in the last decade. This new business environment demands standards of network reliability that older systems can't meet.

Think of the issues you confront now that didn't exist just a few years ago:

  • Fierce competition

  • Number portability

  • Consolidations and mergers

  • Staff reductions

  • Loss of experienced staff

  • Relentless pressure to keep uptime at five 9 levels

Six signs you're relying on an inadequate alarm monitoring system

If the following six danger signs describe how you're monitoring your network, you're in trouble - a system that has any of these weaknesses will not give you the visibility you need to maintain competitive standards of network reliability.

  • You're using built in scan points to monitor your switches - if the switch goes down, so does your visibility of the cause of the problem.

  • Only using minor, major, critical summary discrete alarms from network elements - summary data can't help you pinpoint problems for rapid correction and root cause analysis.

  • No power or environmental monitoring - external factors can shut down your network without warning.

  • No analog alarm data for trending and analysis - you ca't anticipate and prevent problem from occurring.

  • No intelligent counters or qualifiers to filter nuisance alarms - a numbing barrage of meaningless alarms will distract your staff's attention from critical events.

  • No ability to perform, much less automate root cause analysis - essential to enable faster service restoration times, minimize SLA penalties, and reduce downtime costs from service outages.

An Aging Alarm Management System is a Threat to Your Network

The chief problem with older network monitoring systems is that they are inadequate for maintaining network reliability in today's challenging operating environment and hypercompetitive marketplace.

But there are other problems associated with using an older monitoring system:

  • Maintaining an older system is difficult, and it becomes more difficult the older it gets.
  • Physical faults accumulate, equipment starts to break down, network visibility gradually declines, and finally a serious network threat goes unrecognized, and you lose hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars of revenue.
  • Many older systems are no longer supported by the manufacturer. If your system breaks down, you may find that it's impossible to get spare parts or guaranteed repairs.
  • Often, new remote telemetry units aren't available for older systems, so network deployments are fixed - the reliability management system can't extend to meet the needs of a growing network.

Improved Network Reliability is a Competitive Advantage

You can't secure the network reliability you need with an inadequate, aging system. You need to upgrade, but perhaps you're reluctant to change your system - not because you're blind to its faults, but because you think upgrades are more trouble than they're worth.

After all, your existing system is deeply embedded in your network. It's going to cost a lot of money and a lot of man-hours to replace it, and replacement is going to disrupt your network for months.

You might not want to change your system, but remember that many of your competitors are in the same boat as you. Like you, they urgently need to upgrade but they're reluctant. Many telecoms are not investing in network monitoring equipment. But they're the ones with failing service levels, fleeing customers, and declining profits.

This is an opportunity for differentiation, to retain old customers and attract new ones while your competitors are losing theirs.

Yes, there are pitfalls to upgrading. You're thinking that a system-wide replacement is expensive. And you're right. Forklift swap outs bleed budgets - but most vendors won't tell you that.

An inadequate or aging monitoring system simply cannot provide the visibility or reliability your customers demand.

But there's a better way to upgrade your system.

You Can Upgrade Your Network Reliability Management System Without Forklift Swapouts

The major pitfall of upgrading is making the upgrade hard when it can be easy. It's not an either/or proposition.

An upgrade doesn't have to mean tearing your network out by the roots. You can immediately achieve a better level of visibility and reliability by just replacing your master, the central alarm collection and processing point, and leaving your existing remotes where they are.

The master station is the weakest point of an older system. If it dies, the entire system is gone. That's the component that most urgently needs to be replaced. But the master is also potentially the strongest point of your reliability management system.

That's where intelligent alarm processing can be applied to your network alarms, extracting the most useful, actionable information from what your remotes are telling you - the information your staff needs to know in order to determine the root cause of network faults quickly, effectively take corrective action and keep your network running.

A new master can immediately take your existing monitoring and your existing remote telemetry units to a new level of effectiveness. Not every vendor can help you overcome an inadequate or aging monitoring system. But if you're armed with the right information, you can separate the vendors who do from the ones who don't.


Mistake No. 2: Not Integrating Incompatible Monitoring Systems

Few companies have just one network monitoring systems - many companies are burdened with two or more incompatible systems. No one plans it this way, but incompatibilities are a legacy of past decisions.

Companies accumulate incompatible monitoring systems in two ways:

  1. Inattention: No one thought about integration in previous build-outs, and newer monitoring equipment was laid on top of older equipment.

  2. Mergers and acquisitions: When two telecoms merge, they seldom have identical, or even compatible network monitoring systems. It falls on technical staff to somehow create a coherent whole of the two systems.

If you have to work with multiple network monitoring systems, you already know all the headaches that are involved:

  • You don't have one screen that clearly indicates the total health of your network.

  • Your staff has to monitor two or more screens to view the whole network, distracting their attention and increasing the chances that a serious threat will go undetected.

  • You can't automatically correlate and process alarm data from your entire network.

  • Your training costs are doubled.

  • Your maintenance and repair costs are doubled.

Making Integration Work

So how can you make integration succeed? You have three basic choices:

1. Accept the situation as it is, keep running multiple incompatible systems, and cope as best you can with all the difficulties that involves.

In the short run, this is probably the easiest solution. But it's hiding from your problems, not solving them. And accepting the status quo will be a hard decision to justify if system incompatibilities result in poor network visibility or network downtime.

2. Take the obvious, but uneconomic, solution - select one network management platform, and replace all incompatible equipment.

But replacing equipment that can still be useful is a waste of money. Many companies have hundreds of thousands of dollars invested in legacy equipment. Replacing legacy gear with equipment that does the same job is spending money while gaining nothing.

The dominant partner in a merger is likely to try to impose its practices and technology, but this fails to take into account the wide variation in alarm monitoring quality. How can you be sure that you're choosing the right system as your standard-are you just going to decide that what you're familiar with must be the best?

3. Or you can take the best course of action - combine your incompatible network monitoring systems into one integrated alarm management platform.

Your past experiences with system integration may have been frustrating. But if you think integration can't be done - or if you think it's too complicated to be done effectively - you need to know that recent advances in software and protocol conversion make it easier than ever to integrate incompatible systems.

Even if your older equipment uses legacy protocols that are no longer supported, you can combine all your network alarm systems into one modern platform.

But there is one difficulty - finding the right platform that will integrate all your systems. Not all monitoring equipment vendors can do this. Even if you buy from a company with an established reputation, you may not get the system that's right for your network. You might end up with an expensive platform that still requires extensive customization and programming before it can ever be of any real value or benefit to you or your network.

Before you commit to buying equipment, make sure it will support your integration strategy. Integration is the best strategy for working with diverse network monitoring systems.


Mistake #3: Deploying a Network Monitoring System Without Expert Advice

I see all too many companies make this mistake - trying to design, purchase, build, install, and configure their network alarm management system without the help of expert advice.

If you're not familiar with the technology, it can seem deceptively easy - just look on the web, find a few vendors, compare a few features, add some configuration and you're done, right?

It seems that simple at first. It's only afterward when you try to use your home-built system under real-world conditions, that you discover problems - problems that your business can't afford.

An inadequate network monitoring system can cripple the reliability of your network, reduce the value of your product, and lose you customers. The business stakes are high - far higher than the initial costs of purchasing network monitoring equipment.

4 Reasons Do-It-Yourself Deployments Develop Serious Problems

Here are some of the issues you may face with a do-it-yourself network monitoring implementation:

1. Implementation time is drawn out

It's going to take longer than you think.

Network monitoring is a highly technical subject, and you have a lot to learn if you want a successful implementation. And anytime you are trying to do something you've never done before, you are bound to make mistakes - mistakes that extend your time and your budget beyond their limits.

2. Resources are misused

You may think that implementing a new system means replacing your old one. Many people do - and that's why legacy gear gets thrown out when it could be integrated into your new system. And integrating instead of replacing can save you hundreds of thousands of dollars.

3. Opportunities are missed

If you install a new network monitoring system today, you're committing your company to that system for as long as 8 to 10 years. A new installation is a chance to inexpensively add monitoring capabilities that will see your company well into the 2020s.

Many telecoms design what they think is a state-of-the-art monitoring system - and then find that their technology is actually a generation behind.

If you don't add advanced capabilities now, you may find in the near future that your system's limited capabilities mean you either have to concede to your competition or invest in the network reliability system you should have gotten in the first place. Either way, it's an expensive mistake to make.

4. Significant damage to the network and business operations

Your network monitoring system is essential to your business. It's what stands between you and serious damage to your network and the business operations that depend on it. Even small oversights in your monitoring implementation can result in significant service outages, extensive system damage, or revenue loss.

Everyday, telecoms try to create a network alarm monitoring system without expert guidance - and sooner than they think, they experience the serious consequences I've outlined. They don't get the network visibility they require, and the result is an expensive loss of time, money - and sometimes customers, who can be very unforgiving of outages caused by insufficient visibility.


The Technology That Underlies Network Reliability

The previous three issues are the common mistakes telecom executives make with their network operating systems. Unfortunately, there are a lot more potential pitfalls out there.

Instead of putting your energy, effort, and money into fixing fatal mistakes after the fact, it may be time to take a more careful look at how you can protect yourself with a network monitoring strategy that saves aggravation.

Remember the vital role that network reliability plays in your business. It's all about avoiding customer churn. Remember the three main reasons why customers switch providers: price, network reliability, and customer service.

If you stay competitive on these three fronts, you've eliminated the causes of over half of your customer churn rate.

As a trusted remote monitoring solutions provider, we can affirm that network reliability is the most effective for retaining customers. If you don't differentiate yourself from the competition, you'll lose the customers you acquire through price cuts to the next provider who offers an even cheaper offer.

Providing reliable network services is the best way to differentiate yourself, and network reliability management is the technology that underlies all reliable telecommunications service.

If you are ready to take the next step to assure your network reliability, call us today and let's get started.


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