The Terminal Switch – A Great Solution for Out of Band Management and Monitoring Network Equipment

In most remote network management applications, the main purpose of a terminal switch is to provide an avenue for out of band management of important network elements located in off-site data centers and remote network equipment racks; when normal network access is not available or impractical, a terminal switch enables network administrators to communicate with remote network elements without the need to travel to the remote network equipment rack. But in addition to the vital out of band management capabilities provided by a terminal switch, a high quality terminal switch can also include monitoring and alarm features that help administrators to be better informed regarding environmental conditions and significant events at the remote network equipment site.

When a terminal switch includes monitoring and alarm functions, network administrators and tech support personnel can then use the terminal switch to keep track of factors such as rack temperatures, lost communication, excessive invalid access attempts, power supply instability, device failure to respond to ping command and other criteria that help administrators to keep a closer eye on the remote network equipment site. In this case, the terminal switch would typically include a number of alarm features, which allow administrators to define specific threshold trigger levels for temperature, invalid access attempts and other factors, and then automatically generate notification messages whenever a monitored event or condition exceeds defined threshold levels.

For example, if the terminal switch includes a ping response monitor or ping-no-answer alarm, the terminal switch can then be configured to regularly ping a user-defined IP address and then immediately send notification when the terminal switch determines that several successive ping commands to the address have failed. In this case, the administrator is allowed to define a threshold count level for failed ping commands that will generate an alarm (e.g., three failed ping commands in a row), and then select a protocol for alarm notification. Ideally, the terminal switch should allow administrators to choose between several different notification protocols in order to provide compatibility with a wide variety of different users. For example, a terminal switch might support the ability to provide alarm notification via email, text message, SNMP trap, Syslog message, or any combination thereof.

When the terminal switch supports the ability to monitor factors such as rack temperature, invalid access attempts, communication problems, power supply instability and other factors, this allows network administrators to respond quickly to potentially hazardous conditions at the remote site, and also helps administrators to plan for additional infrastructure, such as cooling needs or power supply needs, at the remote network equipment site.

Although it’s pretty common to find a terminal switch in many remote network equipment installations, in many cases, the terminal switch is only used to provide out of band access to console port command functions on remote network elements when normal network communication is not available. The out of band management capabilities provided by a terminal switch can indeed be a lifesaver when a device at a remote site malfunctions and disrupts network communication, but a full featured terminal switch with monitoring and alarm capabilities can also help to provide network administrators with a much clearer picture of noteworthy events and trends at the remote site without the need to physically travel to the site in order to check conditions in person.

Often, half the battle of managing network devices at off-site data centers and remote equipment cabinets is the simple fact that it’s sometimes difficult to be able to tell exactly what’s going on at the remote site. A high quality terminal switch that provides monitoring and alarm functions helps network administrators to be kept up to date regarding conditions and events at the remote site, allowing administrators to react quickly to small problems before they turn into large problems, and also providing the administrator with important tools for diagnosing problems when the do occur.

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