Knowledge Base / News
Just as many other organizations experienced, 2020 was filled with unexpected hardships and lots of readjusting and adapting to new ways of life and business. For AVTECH, we transitioned our workforce to working remote and in the process learned a lot about how to remain efficient, successful and most importantly- safe. We spent a considerable amount of time reflecting upon our internal processes and recently met with our IT Manager, Sean Bowker, to share with others what we learned from the challenges of last year.
At the beginning of the pandemic, we held a Q&A session with Sean to discuss the initial transition to working remote, how Room Alert was helping us internally and how we were planning for the future. After several months of working remotely, we held a follow-up Q&A session with Sean to further discuss new information we gathered since our initial transition to readjusting in the pandemic. Here we dove a little deeper into Business Continuity Planning, what worked vs what didn’t and planning for the future.
Today we’re sharing a third conversation we had with our IT Manager, Sean Bowker, to discuss what we know now. We are currently a full year into the COVID-19 pandemic, so we want to share lessons we have learned, as well as how we’re planning to continue stronger than ever. Here are some helpful insights that hopefully provide information you can apply to your own businesses, facilities and organizations.
Q: Our Room Alert PRO Line provides advanced layers of security and protection, specifically for use in Banking, Government (Military), Telecom and other highly secure facilities. How has the Room Alert 32S benefited us in our own data centers and server rooms?
A: Like many IT managers, we’ve set things up to provide redundancy and avoid single points of failure. The server room at our headquarters is not at the level of a Microsoft or Google data center, but we want to be sure to protect the equipment there. We have a handful of Room Alert monitors installed in and around the server racks and throughout other important parts of the building. Each of these units push to RoomAlert.com, are managed through an installation of Room Alert Manager, and have been configured to send email alerts themselves. Using the additional security available in the Room Alert 32S, we have greater confidence that unauthorized users are prevented from accessing the device as well as hijacking data being sent between the Room Alert and any remote servers.
Q: After working remotely last summer, how are we planning this year for warmer months in terms of fresh air cooling, AC management and iBoot products for remote power control?
A: Luckily, there isn’t much that requires attention. Our fresh air cooling system operates year round. We’re able to see this when we look at reports in RoomAlert.com and Room Alert Manager showing recent temperature history. The cooling system cycles on and off and we can see the changes in temperature over the course of the day. Also on those days when we do visit the office, we do check out the server room to make visual checks of the equipment. As we proceed into spring, heading into summer, we’ll run tests, artificially increasing the temperature sensor readings and checking to see that the fresh air cooling cycles appropriately and that the backup air conditioner is automatically powered on based on the increase in heat. With these systematic tests, we have confidence that the server room temperature will be kept under control whether or not staff are on site.
Q: How has Room Alert Link helped us prevent downtime when we’re going long periods of time where no one is on-site to check our environmental conditions?
A: Using Room Alert Link, not only can we easily update the firmware on the Room Alert Monitors installed in our server room, but we can be sure that if either a Room Alert Monitor itself went offline, or possibly part of the network, then we’re notified within seconds. Part of our network maintenance involves periodic reboots of switches. When the switches that the Room Alert Monitors are connected to are rebooted, we essentially test Room Alert Link and the related alerts. The alert notifications are in our inboxes and on our phones before the switch is halfway through its reboot.
Q: How are we using the Room Alert 32S to toggle light towers to give us visual status?
A: At this time, we utilize one light tower mounted inside of our server room and one light tower mounted outside, within view and earshot of several offices. Both of these light towers are connected to a Room Alert 32S managed through Room Alert Manager. Most of the time, the light tower has the green light on. Then based on three levels of escalation, the other lights as well as the audible alarm are triggered.
In Room Alert Manager, we utilize an escalation of actions. If the temperature goes above the first threshold, the yellow light is activated and some emails are sent. There’s nothing critical at this point, but we’re paying attention. If the second temperature threshold is crossed, the red light is triggered, alert notifications are sent, and we start powering down non-critical systems. If there is still an increase in heat where the third threshold is crossed, the audible alarm is triggered, more alert notifications are sent, and all systems are powered down.
Q: How has making firmware updates easier helped us during these months of working remote?
A: Having the ability to update Room Alert firmware through Room Alert Link provides more flexibility for applying firmware updates to the devices. I can either trigger the update directly through our account at RoomAlert.com or through the local Link interface. Link automatically downloads the latest firmware from RoomAlert.com and applies the file to the Room Alert monitors, so it is an extremely helpful and easy-to-use feature, especially when working remotely.
Q: How has the development of Room Alert Manager improved our ability to prevent downtime and increase productivity?
A: Room Alert Manager replaces Device ManageR as a locally installed piece of software that can centrally manage any number of Room Alert Monitors on a network, allowing sensor history to be logged, and alert actions triggered based on sensor readings. Device ManageR was a great application, and Room Alert Manager is largely based on it, but Device ManageR used a Flash-based interface and the underlying code structure was more than a decade old. To move forward, we elected to develop Room Alert Manager from scratch, using an HTML interface and modern code. Since Room Alert Manager was initially released and updates have added to its functionality, we’ve been migrating alert functionality from Device ManageR to Room Alert Manager. Not only is its performance remarkably improved over that of Device ManageR, but its interface can easily be pulled up on a smartphone, so it’s not necessary to be on a computer to check things out.
Q: Any other overall thoughts now that we’ve been working remote for a full year?
A: We have adjusted to working from home, accessing applications over VPN connections, and communicating with each other through Microsoft Teams. However, we continue to remain proactive and monitor the status of the pandemic, the infection rates, the vaccinations, etc. There is a missing piece to the company equation. The comradery of working side by side with other members of the team, being able to quickly illustrate concepts on a whiteboard in shorthand and not awkwardly adding shapes and arrows to a drawing in Paint or other program during a shared desktop session, having an impromptu pizza party, these attributes help make up the working chemistry of a company. We do our best to have group calls at lunch time and socialize, but we are anxious for things to get back as much as possible to the old normal and leave this new normal behind. February 2021 is now wrapping up, and remote work has allowed us to avoid closing for one or two recent snowfalls, but like most people, we’re all ready for this chapter to conclude.
We hope you find this Q&A helpful and has given you a few ideas on how you can enhance your own environment monitoring and business continuity planning with Room Alert from AVTECH.
|Current S models||Current E models|
|Room Alert 32S||Room Alert 32E|
|Room Alert 12S||Room Alert 12E|
|Room Alert 3S||Room Alert 4E|
|Room Alert 3E|
|Room Alert 3W|