Situational Awareness in Your Monitoring Center

by Josh Tafoya, Technical Trainer

If you have a technical background, you get used to knowing certain things. Simple things like the operating system on your computer, or less simple things like the version of the operating system on the servers.

Having a technical background myself, these are things I just know without having to look them up. I can tell you right away the version of Windows on my work desktop, on my personal laptop, and on my personal desktops at home. I can also tell you my model of printer and scanner, wifi router, and a hundred other little details. Details that rarely come up.

Of course, many in the alarm business don’t necessarily have a technical background. Any number of us got into the business as operators, and when it was discovered that we had people management skills, or organizational skills, or sales skills, we moved up in our organizations. Therefore, because it was never strictly necessary to our jobs, we didn’t pay attention to the servers or the receivers. Somebody else took care of that for us.

A while back, I discussed the need for an I.T. staff. But another thing you will find invaluable is some level of situational awareness in your monitoring center. If you are in a leadership role at your organization, there are some things it helps to know about your alarm automation system.

  1. Server information. (If not committed to memory, at least document it somewhere you have access to it – a notecard in your wallet or notes in your phone)
    1. How many servers
    2. Names of servers
    3. Roles of servers
    4. NEVER NEVER NEVER passwords for servers (if it’s written down, it can be taken from you)
  2. How to access said servers
    1. At the console in the server room
    2. Remotely from your desk (still at the monitoring center, just not in the server room)
    3. While away from the office
  3. Receiver information
    1. Names of receivers
    2. Quantity of receivers
    3. Line/DNIS layout of receivers
  4. Configurations of system
    1. Active servers (which servers are in use, and which are on standby)
    2. Active/Standby Roles (if needing to failover, which other configurations are possible)
    3. The process for doing both controlled failovers and emergency failovers
  5. Backups
    1. The location of physical backup media (tapes, discs, or drives)
    2. The days and times when backups are conducted
  6. Contacts
    1. Contact info for key Monitoring Center staff
    2. Contact info for telephone/internet/power providers
    3. Contact info for Bold Technologies, both during support hours, and outside of normal business hours.

Everything I’ve listed should be something that is available to the owners and managers of monitoring centers. As I mentioned, it’s a lot of information, so it can be written down, rather than committed to memory.

Many of the things listed don’t change without a capital investment, such as the number of servers present in your network. However, some things can and do change. The active servers may, and should, change every month.

Which is your active server right now (the one where the Broker is running?) When was the last time your organization did a controlled failover from one server to the other? When was the last failover that you, as a manager or supervisor, were involved in?

If you’re not sure of the answer to the above questions, it may be worth the time to get a little more situational awareness in your monitoring center.