SNMP Monitoring In The Smartphone Age - Best Practices

Your network covers a large geographic area. It's likely that you have to manage a large territory with a smaller team than ever before. That means you're out in the field for a good part of the day.

T/Mon mobile web interface on Android, iPhone, and BlackBerry smartphones
In this example of a smartphone-compatible SNMP manager, T/Mon's web interface is accessible on any smartphone with a web browser. Android, iOS/iPhone, and BlackBerry smartphone examples are shown above.

How can you be expected to maintain network visibility when you're not in the NOC center? Fortunately, choosing the right SNMP equipment will turn your smartphone into a complete terminal for SNMP management.

Here are 5 best practices for establishing a smartphone-friendly SNMP setup:

  1. Choose an SNMP manager with a smartphone-compatible interface.
    The best way to keep control over your managed SNMP devices while you're out of the office is to use an SNMP manager that offers a fully functional interface for your smartphone. This can be a dedicated smartphone app, but web browser interfaces tend to offer the same advantages without the hassles of installing, updates, and OS incompatibility. Just make sure that any web interface that you'll access on your smartphone is properly scaled for its smaller screen. You don't want a clunky "zoom and scroll" window into your SNMP system.
  2. Set up automatic notifications of new SNMP traps.
    A web interface is a great tool, but some problems are severe enough that you should be notified immediately when they occur (rather than waiting for the next time you check the web interface). This can take a few different forms. You can get email, text messages, or even an automated voice call sent directly to your phone. When certain SNMP traps are received, your SNMP manager should be able to alert you in these ways. These alerts can also be generated by your SNMP RTUs directly, but it's better to use your SNMP manager if possible. It's easier to manage that way, and your SNMP manager can pull together more information to send you more useful alerts.
  3. Use automatic notification messages that support acknowledgment.
    Automatic notifications are a good tool, but they can create some problems in a large network. What if multiple people are notified of the same problem? How will the others know when another technician is already working on the problem? Alerts that support acknowledgment are the solution. Once an alert is acknowledged, that alarm will vanish from the list of currently standing alarms. Acknowledgment can be through a link in an email, a simple reply (ex. "ACK") to an SMS text message, or any similar method.
  4. Schedule and assign alerts so they're sent only to the right person at the right time.
    Different types of SNMP alarms should be sent to different people (security team vs. electrical team, etc.). Even the same SNMP trap received at different times of the day or week should probably be sent to different on-call technicians (everyone has to sleep sometime, after all). A good SNMP manager will allow you to schedule certain categories of alerts for different people at different times. That way, the right person on your team is always notified, and no one else is saddled with an unnecessary distraction.
  5. Escalate alerts that are never acknowledged.
    Sending notifications of new SNMP traps to only the best possible person's mobile phone is a great solution - until there's a problem, that is. If that one person is busy, asleep, or otherwise distracted, your single point of failure has just failed. To avoid this scenario, your SNMP manager should be smart enough to escalate an alarm to a manager or supervisor if it is not resolved (or at least acknowledged) in a timely manner. This is the perfect medium of minimum distractions and maximum visibility.