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What is Network Fault Management?

By Morgana Siggins

January 20, 2020


In order to prevent network downtime and equipment failures - as well as recover in a timely manner when these events do happen - it's necessary to have an efficient network fault management system.

The ISO Network Management Model lists fault monitoring as one of the five key functional areas of network management and defines it as the ability to "detect, isolate, notify, and correct faults encountered in the network."

network monitoring system
The network fault management process system refers to the use of a system that monitors a network 24/7.

We've been providing network fault management systems for more than 30 years, so we know that those four things require a robust system for remote telemetry. Even the most experienced network administrator can't be everywhere at once, and, often times, some network sites will be left unmanned altogether. So, to detect faults that otherwise would go unnoticed, a network fault management system must also act as a remote telemetry system - this way faults be detected and notified to the appropriate technicians before equipment breaks or extended network downtime.

Let's know more about all the concepts of a network fault management system.

What Role Does Network Fault Management Play in Companies?

Network fault management refers to the activities, methods, procedures, and tools that pertain to the operation, administration, maintenance, and provisioning of your networked systems.

  • Operation deals with keeping your network (and the services that your network provides) up and running smoothly. It includes monitoring the network to spot problems as soon as possible, ideally before users are affected.

  • Administration deals with keeping track of your resources in the network and how they are assigned. It includes all the "housekeeping" that is necessary to keep your network under control.

  • Maintenance is concerned with performing repairs and upgrades - for example, when your equipment must be replaced, when a router needs a patch for an operating system image, when a new switch is added to a network.

  • Provisioning is concerned with configuring resources in your network to support a given service. For example, this might be setting up your network so that a new customer can receive voice service.

What Types of Functions Network Management Systems Perform?

Functions that are performed as part of network fault management include:

  • Active monitoring
  • Fault managemen
  • Controlling, planning, deploying, and monitoring the resources of a network
  • Network planning
  • Configuration management
  • Security management
  • Network performance management
  • Root cause analysis

How Can an Efficient Management System Enhance a Network

Deploying an effective network management solution is a crucial component in protecting your valuable resources. A high-quality solution can improve the quality of your network management infrastructure by:

  • Integrating all your alarms to a single screen

    An effective alarm system will integrate all your alarms to one screen, so you always know exactly what's going on in your network.

  • Tracking COS and standing alarms

    An excellent network management system will include a Change of Status (COS) screen that provides immediate notification of new events in your network management system. This Standing Alarms screen displays all your current alarms.

  • Supporting your existing equipment

    For that, make sure that your system has the capabilities to support all your existing equipment and numerous protocols, including ASCII, DCP, DCM, E2A, FX8800, SNMP, TABS, TBOS, TL1, and TRIP. A quality system will also poll third-party equipment, including: Badger, Granger, Larse, NEC, Pulsecom, and Teltrac.

Benefits of a Network Fault Management System

Using an integrated management system with remote monitoring for all your network applications will:

  • Create substantial savings in initial expenditure, operational, and maintenance costs.

  • Save your investment in legacy remote monitoring systems by extending their working life.

  • Provide advanced features like after-hours monitoring and automatic notifications at low cost.

  • Leverage your existing monitoring system to provide better monitoring now and an upgrade path for the future.

  • Spread equipment upgrade costs over several budget cycles, since both your current systems and new monitoring equipment are supported by the multiprotocol platform.

Network Fault Management Tools

Network management tools are the management equipment that provides assistance as you work to keep your mission-critical network online. They help keep your expenses in check. It also is very common for network management tools to increase your revenue by improving service reliability. If your service is online nearly 100% of the time, your customers don't have much reason to consider switching to a competitor or simply canceling service.

Network fault management tools fall into two basic categories. On one hand, you have RTUs. On the other hand, you have master stations.

Remote Telemetry Units (RTUs or Alarm Remotes)

RTUs are monitoring devices that detect network status using a series of "alarm inputs" and relaying this information either directly to remote technicians or to a Network Operations Center (NOC). This enables the appropriate personnel to take action before a minor fault becomes a major one.

These RTUs support both binary sensors, which check for binary function (for example on or off, open or closed), or analogs, which display a range of values by measuring and referencing voltage or current. Analog sensors are used for measuring things, such as temperature or humidity (environmental data) that could be useful to remote technicians.

To isolate and correct fault, it is necessary for RTUs to have a number of controls, sensors that allow the user to operate certain equipment remotely, giving technicians a number of options to deal with potential faults without having to travel to their remote sites. With controls, a technician can lock and unlock doors, power-down or reset equipment. It's important to remember that controls don't replace technicians, but rather equip them to effectively handle those problems that shouldn't require a visit to a remote site.

The most common method for direct alarm notifications in network management scenarios are email messages (either sent to your smartphone or to your desk during normal business hours) and phone messages (either a text message or a synthesized/recorded voice message).

Master Stations

Master stations also need to play their part in your collection of effective network monitoring tools.

Provided that your network is large enough to justify a central master station, your alarm remotes will typically report via a standard protocol. If you have a smaller network, you'll probably want to purchase alarm remotes that can notify you directly without the need for central master at all.

While most RTUs can be used alone, accessed using their web interface, it may benefit you to manage your fault detection system with a master station as your network and fault detection needs grow. Make sure that your master station is an SNMP aggregator, an interface for managing all of your RTUs through a single interface. This organizes alarms and notifications and gives network administrators a comprehensive view of the health of their network.

Your master station will be central player, and only one is typically required (multiple can be useful for either redundancy, multi-tiered monitoring of massive networks, or both). Alarm remotes, although much smaller and less expensive than your central master, are much more numerous and durable. That's because they must be deployed at your remote sites, which can experience some very extreme conditions depending on your local geography.

Therefore, a master station that can display alarms on a map reduces the training requirements you have for your staff.

One thing to keep in mind is that one of the most important features of a central master station is the ability to provide you with situational awareness, especially during a crisis. A master station with a user-friendly, intuitive interface is especially helpful. Understanding an especially formatted list of alarms, even if they are conveniently color-coded, is much less intuitive than viewing alarms on an overhead map of your network's region.

Learn How to Implement a Network Fault Management System

A network fault management system is key to guard against expensive downtime and otherwise preventable equipment failure.

However, if you've just been put in charge of purchasing, selecting, or recommending a network management system for your organization, it's natural to have many questions in mind. Where to start? What to look for in remote monitoring equipment? Which features are essential, and which can you live without? How can you make sure your network is fully protected, without spending budget on equipment you won't use?

We're an experienced and trusted monitoring systems manufacturer, so we've hard and answered all these questions from many of our clients. So, to help you experience a smooth network fault management system implementation, we've put together the Network Alarm Monitoring Fundamentals white paper.

This white paper is designed as a quick guide to how you can answer these questions yourself. We are not going to tell you "just but this system and everything will be fine." Having provided custom monitoring solutions for more than 30 years, we know that every network is different. A one-size-fits-all system won't provide the specific coverage you need and may cost more money than you really need to spend. With this guidebook, you'll get the info you need to implement an alarm monitoring system in your unique network.

Download your free PDF copy of the Network Alarm Monitoring Fundamentals white paper and get fast specific answers to help you create an effective system that's customized to fit your network.

Morgana Siggins

Morgana Siggins

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.