We received a letter from a correspondent who was surprised by our claim that there is a difference between basic and advanced alarm monitoring. "What does advanced monitoring do that basic doesn't?"
We thought this was a fair question, so we wrote the following reply:
Basic alarm monitoring will provide simple status reports. Some systems are very passive. If a technician is monitoring the console, he can examine the state of each alarm point. If he is not present, the system will not notify personnel of changes in state. Nor do personnel have the means to poll or ping equipment, or control relays remotely. Many alarm monitoring systems use proprietary protocols and interfaces that are incompatible with other equipment.
Advanced alarm monitoring incorporates change-of-state alarms and analog environmental alarms. It also involves notification of support personnel by phone and e-mail, control relays, derived alarms (alarms based on logical formulas processing from different alarm sensors). It can support multiple protocols and interfaces.
Advanced alarm monitoring uses data processing to provide better alarm information and complex automatic responses to emergency situations. Advanced alarm monitoring won't just tell personnel there's a problem. It will locate the problem, provide useful information about the problem, and if possible, correct the problem automatically.
To give a concrete example: A basic monitoring system can tell you a generator is down. A more advanced system will automatically switch to a backup battery if the generator goes down. A truly advanced system will also check if the backup battery is good or bad. It will differentiate between the minor alarm of a down generator OR a bad backup battery and the critical alarm of a down generator AND a bad backup battery. It will respond to the critical alarm by alerting support personnel.
Having some alarm monitoring is better than having no monitoring at all. But it's even better to have the best alarm monitoring possible. Advanced alarm monitoring features like these can make the difference. Without them, a minor incident can grow into major downtime. Monitoring is a crucial edge to have in today's competitive industry.
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