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environment monitoring system

Environmental conditions – such as temperature, humidity, and air quality – have a significant impact on the performance and lifespan of electronic equipment. Data center network infrastructure, automated industrial machines, and other expensive and business-critical devices typically require a specific range of conditions in order to avoid failure. However, they’re frequently installed in remote or hard-to-access locations with little human interaction, which can make it difficult to monitor and maintain the environment.

An environment monitoring system gives operators the ability to view the conditions in remote facilities in real time without leaving the office. That means organizations can proactively address environmental concerns before remote equipment fails, preventing business interruption and extending the lifetime of expensive machinery.

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Why you need an environment monitoring system

Enterprise networks are large and highly distributed; critical infrastructure is hosted in remote data centers, branch offices, manufacturing sites, and other locations with little-to-no IT support presence such as remote oil pipelines, offshore oil rigs, and satellites. That means network administrators can’t physically see if a device has been tampered with, hear if the fans are running too hard, or feel that the network closet is too humid. Without a way to remotely monitor for environmental risks, organizations often don’t know there’s a problem until it’s brought a critical device offline.

An environment monitoring system uses a variety of sensors to collect data on the temperature, humidity, air quality, and other conditions in remote environments. These sensors report back to the monitoring software, giving administrators the ability to see and respond to changes. In essence, environmental monitoring provides network teams with a virtual presence in the remote facilities that house critical infrastructure.

Environment monitoring sensors are also used in conjunction with SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) systems that manage high-level machine automation. SCADA computers are operational technology (OT) controllers that are often used to control automated processes in dangerous and hard-to-reach environments such as water treatment plants, oil and gas pipelines, and even the International Space Station. Some environment monitoring systems can integrate with SCADA solutions to enable real-time data collection on conditions underwater, inside pipelines, and in other environments that humans can’t safely access.

What to look for in an environment monitoring system

A robust environment monitoring system should include the following features:

Cloud management

Since environment monitoring sensors are typically deployed in remote and hard-to-reach areas, it’s important to consider that operators may not access the monitoring system from the same LAN. In addition, an environmental emergency could occur at any time, including in the middle of the night or while an admin is on vacation. Cloud management access ensures that network teams can monitor and respond to environmental threats quickly and from anywhere in the world.

Enterprise-grade security

However, if the monitoring system is accessible from the public internet, it must be protected by enterprise-grade security features to mitigate the possibility of a breach. Even with an entirely on-premises system, steps must be taken to prevent a malicious actor from gaining access to sensitive and proprietary data from the monitoring platform. A secure environment monitoring system supports advanced authentication methods like RADIUS, integrates with SAML 2.0 solutions for SSO (single sign-on) and 2FA (two-factor authentication), and includes additional security features like data encryption and secure boot.

Vendor freedom

The administrators and operators who manage remote equipment have a lot of tasks and responsibilities. Business requirements are growing more complex every day, while the Covid-19 pandemic and recession cutbacks are forcing everyone to do more with fewer resources and staff. A vendor-neutral environment monitoring system can easily integrate with other hardware and software solutions, providing a single unified platform for admins to log in to. This simplifies remote management and ensures comprehensive coverage, reducing the risk of issues slipping between the cracks.

Plus, a vendor-neutral monitoring system supports the use of third-party and custom automation solutions. That means administrators can use the automation and orchestration tools they’re most comfortable with to automate management and remediation tasks. Not only does this make their jobs easier by reducing manual workflows but also ensures that environmental issues are addressed quickly, even when a human technician is unavailable. When a critical device is overheating, fast remediation times often make the difference between a minor performance hiccup and a complete network or plant outage.

Out-of-band management

Sometimes, even with the most robust environment monitoring solution, a device will still fail and need to be recovered. However, if that device failure brings down the LAN, the environmental sensors and on-premises monitoring system won’t be reachable on the main network. That means administrators won’t be able to see which device failed or what environmental conditions caused that failure, let alone fix the problem, without dispatching an expensive and time-consuming truck roll.

Out-of-band (OOB) management uses serial consoles with redundant network interfaces to provide continuous management access to remote equipment. An OOB serial console directly connects to remote devices including environmental sensors, SCADA computers, and servers. Administrators can then remotely access the serial console via a dedicated internet connection (often cellular LTE) and monitor, manage, and orchestrate all connected devices without relying on the primary ISP or LAN connection.

Using OOB management in conjunction with environment monitoring allows administrators to continue viewing and troubleshooting remote devices even when the network is offline, reducing the need for on-site repairs. If remote troubleshooting reveals that a problem must be fixed in person, technicians can be dispatched with the exact tools and parts they need, decreasing the risk of further delays and speeding up the time to recovery.

Key features of an environment monitoring system
  • Cloud management portal that admins can access from anywhere in the world
  • Enterprise-grade security features like SSO, 2FA, and secure boot
  • Vendor-neutral platform that supports easy integrations and automation
  • OOB management to ensure 24/7 access and reduce recovery times

Why choose the Nodegrid environment monitoring system

Nodegrid rolls up environment monitoring, out-of-band management, and end-to-end infrastructure automation in a single platform. Nodegrid’s environmental sensors collect valuable data on conditions in your rack, with the ability to monitor for physical tampering, temperature, humidity, smoke, airflow, and dust & particulates. Connecting these USB sensors to a Nodegrid serial console or integrated branch gateway router gives you a powerful environment monitoring system with fast, reliable, and secure OOB management.

The Nodegrid platform provides complete vendor freedom, with the ability to directly host third-party solutions such as Docker containers, security solutions, and automation playbooks. This gives administrators a single pane of glass from which to manage every aspect of the network architecture. They can use Nodegrid to orchestrate automated workflows, view environmental and security monitoring data, deploy and maintain infrastructure, and so much more.

Nodegrid’s vendor-neutral hardware and software allow you to create a fully integrated and highly customized platform containing all the tools and solutions you need to monitor, manage, orchestrate, and troubleshoot remote devices.

Ready to learn more?

To learn more about Nodegrid’s environment monitoring system, contact ZPE Systems today.

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