How do you know if your monitoring service provider will be ready to answer the call when an unexpected disaster strikes? Whether it be a temporary event, such as an internet outage or equipment problem, or a prolonged event with far-reaching consequences, such as a major natural disaster or pandemic, you need be confident that your monitoring provider is prepared to handle all situations.
That’s why it is critical to examine your monitoring service provider’s approach to redundancy and resiliency.
What is Redundancy?
Broadly speaking, redundancy is the duplication of critical systems so that if one system fails—which could be a computer server, an alarm receiver, or the infrastructure of a service provider – there is a secondary or tertiary system in place. For monitoring centers, there are a multitude of critical systems that require redundant configurations: automation platform servers, networking switches, communication paths, and power sources, just to name a few.
The concept of redundancy can also be applied to the monitoring service provider holistically. A handful of monitoring providers maintain a secondary, redundant facility, typically in a distinct geographic location from their primary facility. Having this secondary facility allows for business continuity even if there is a major disruption of service at one location.
What is Resiliency?
While redundancy is a key point, the concept of resiliency is of equal or greater value. Resiliency is the capability to quickly and elegantly shift services and operations of a failed component—be it a piece of equipment or service provider—to the redundant backup. Within a monitoring center, an example of a situation where resiliency comes into play would be being able to expeditiously, or better yet, automatically, re-route calls or signals from a failed circuit to a functioning one.
Cold, Warm, and Hot—What’s the Difference?
When defining redundancy and resiliency, the concepts of cold, warm, and hot redundancy are often mentioned.
Monitoring centers that use cold redundancy have backup services or locations, but these backups are not “spun up,” meaning they are not kept in a ready state condition, and monitoring center personnel must manually start them when needed. Once these backup systems are running, manual physical or technical configuration changes are required to replace failed components with working ones. An example of cold redundancy would be having a spare alarm transmission receiver on hand, but not plugged in or attached to the network. While cold redundancy is cost-effective, it means significant operational downtime when there is a failure of any kind. In short, a monitoring center utilizing cold redundancy is not resilient.
Warm redundancy is defined as having backup systems and services ready at the time they are required. Unlike cold redundancy, providers in a warm redundancy state keep duplicate equipment running and configured at all times. Monitoring center personnel, however, must still recognize if there is an issue that needs attention and must then manually switch or cut over services to backup systems. Warm redundancy is more resilient than cold redundancy, but should a failure occur, there will likely be a period of service disruption.
Hot redundancy is the most resilient approach when designing redundant systems. In a hot redundant configuration, all critical systems are not only duplicated, but the backup systems are kept running and connected in such a way that they will automatically cut over in the event of a failure. Another way to achieve hot redundancy is through load sharing. The monitoring center can elect to spread the load of signals and connections across multiple servers, providers, or locations. In the event any one piece is not functioning properly, the other systems will seamlessly take over with no interruption of service. Hot redundancy requires both a large initial and ongoing financial and labor investment to properly implement and maintain.
How has Affiliated Achieved Redundancy and Resiliency?
Affiliated is proud of its industry-leading facilities and has built the most redundant and most resilient monitoring service available today.
Affiliated provides monitoring services from two completely redundant, geographically independent locations in Houston, Texas and Union, New Jersey. All monitoring services are provided in load sharing, hot redundant fashion, so that even a major disruption at either of our monitoring facilities will not impact our ability to quickly and accurately respond to customer events. Each facility has two completely independent generators and two completely independent uninterruptible power supply (UPS) systems. All critical services are multi-redundant, many with three or four backup systems. Our service vendors, including telephony and internet providers, are duplicated at both locations, with connections entering and exiting our facilities from distinct areas.
Our resiliency also extends beyond our facilities. Our extensive wide area network allows us to provide monitoring service from anywhere—not just our monitoring center facilities— allowing us to be nimble in difficult circumstances. Our intensive training and continuing education programs ensure that our monitoring agents are cross-trained across specialties and disciplines, meaning that every alarm will be handled correctly every time. This operational flexibility and excellence has even been recognized by our primary industry group, The Monitoring Association (TMA), receiving the TMA Five Diamond central station designation.
What Should I Focus On When Choosing a Monitoring Partner?
- What issues have impacted the monitoring center’s uptime? If so, why did it happen and how long did it take to correct?
- Is the monitoring center’s redundancy hot, warm, or cold?
- What kind of backup systems are in place? Are they tested regularly?
- Is the secondary monitoring facility geographically independent and hot load sharing all activity?
- What standards or certifications does the monitoring provider follow?
Reach out to us with additional questions
Our dedicated team of account managers and system engineers would be happy to speak with you about how we’ve consistently achieved 100% availability across all of our services or answer any questions you may have about redundancy and resiliency at the monitoring center. Contact us at (800) 296-9000 or click here to submit an online form.