How to Select Alarm Monitoring Systems
Make sure these essential functions are included in any alarm monitoring systems you consider:
- Alarm collection and device management: Don't settle for limited alarm monitoring systems. Get multiprotocol support for every monitoring device in your network, plus discrete alarms, analog alarms, ping alarms, and redundant path reporting.
- Alarm presentation and notification: Send detailed alarm descriptions and correction instructions to NOC and field techs via pager notifications and web interfaces.
- Alarm sorting and analysis: Make sense of alarm cascades with automatic intelligent alarm sorting, filtering, processing, and trend analysis.
Checklist: Alarm Monitoring Systems Essentials
Here's a handy checklist of essential features you should look for in alarm monitoring systems. Print this checklist out and use it to rate the alarm moniotirng systems you're evaluating. If a system can't meet these basic requirements, cross it off your list.
Critical alarm collection and device management functions
- Multiprotocol support for your existing devices: Make sure your next alarm monitoring system collects alarms from all your existing devices, including your older legacy gear. You can get rid of all your specialized consoles and monitor your network from one screen.
- Live analog monitoring: You can't adequately monitor battery levels, temperature, and humidity with one-threshold contact closures. Look for alarm monitoring systems that support for analog inputs, including live monitoring of actual analog values.
- Control relays: Many common site problems, from power outages to high temperature alarms, can be solved by quickly turning on a generator or an air conditioner. Remote operation of site devices is the best way to eliminate unnecessary site visits and it's a lot faster than going in the truck.
- SNMP support and ping alarms: If you're responsible for both telecom and IP equipment, consolidate all your monitoring on one alarm monitoring system.
- Back-up dial-up reporting: Don't rely on your primary network to bring back alarms. If anything goes wrong with your transport, you'll lose your telemetry data just when you need it the most. Look for alarm monitoring systems that support dial-up alternate path reporting.
Key alarm presentation and notification functions
- Detailed alarm notifications: Summary "major/minor" alarms don't give you enough information to make dispatch decisions. Look for alarm monitoring systems that include detailed diagnostic information in each alarm.
- Alarm correction instructions: Detailed instructions included in alarm notifications ensure that system operators, without extra training, will know precisely what to do and who to call if an alarm happens.
- Pager and e-mail notifications: Pager and e-mail notifications let your field techs respond to alarms while they're still in the field, speeding repairs and reducing windshield time. Look for alarm monitoring systems with SMS support, which can send detailed alarm notifications to alpha pagers, cell phones, and PDAs.
- Web interface: Everybody knows how to use a Web browser. A Web interface makes sure all your field techs can access your alarm monitoring system, from any computer from any location.
Essential alarm sorting and analysis functions
- Alarm sorting: A large, complex network can create a cascade of alarms. Some are unimportant, but others are critical. Look for alarm monitoring systems that can automatically sort and prioritize this flood of information for you.
- Custom combination alarms: A low battery isn't a serious problem, and neither is a failed generator - but they're pretty serious when the happen at the same time. Look for alarm monitoring systems that can watch many different alarm inputs and spot critical alarm combinations.
- Root cause analysis: Finding the underlying cause between alarm cascades can take hours of patient detective work. Look for a system that can automatically correlate repeated combinations of alarms.
- History and trend analysis: Identify problem areas and eliminate recurring problems with a system that keeps a complete alarm history that's exportable for trend analysis.
- Nuisance alarm filtering: Even the best NOC staff stops taking alarms seriously if they're bombarded with status alerts, oscillating conditions, and unimportant alarms. Look for a system that filters these out.
This is just a checklist of basic functions to look for in alarm monitoring systems. If you want to find alarm monitoring systems that meet and exceed your requirements, let us know.