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USB 101 Part 4: Champagne Fault Tolerance at Beer Price

Dec 02, 2014

Sensor Cloud lets you know when site network or power outages stop communication.

Most readers will remember the Great Northeast Blackout of 2003 when New York City and a huge swath of the US and Canada lost power.  It was a Thursday, August 14th when “a seemingly routine procedure enacted by the Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator set into motion a chain of events that would affect 55 million people in the Northeastern United States and Canada.” Link to Source  By the time the cascade of failures ended 55 million people in Northeast US and Canada lost power.  The error caused the failure of 508 generating units in 265 power plants.  Millions of people were stranded in NYC where traffic controls, subway and train service was shut down.  The spread stopped a little after 4:00 PM and was restored to areas beginning late that evening.  It wasn’t until Saturday morning that most people had power but several customers had to wait several days for electricity to be restored.

Satellite image composite showing 2003 blackout area in Northeast US and Canada

I was not affected by the 2003 outage but I do remember the first significant US blackout on Tuesday, November 9th that affected almost all New England states, New York and New Jersey as well as the province of Ontario in Canada.  Over 30 million people were without power for up to 13 hours was again caused by human error when a transmission line protective relay was set too low, tripped and caused overloads on trunk lines that were still operating, taking them down. (Link to Source) Urban legend that the blackout caused a surge in the birthrate in the affected area was debunked in 1970 when a statistical study by a demographer at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill showed it to be untrue. Anecdotes continue to promote the idea and likely will for the next few decades as those who remember have passed into memory.

What does this have to do with a USB temperature monitoring and alerting device?  Everything.  Hopefully we won’t see a swarm of widespread outages but discrete outages occur daily if not hourly.  I recently had an unexplained outage at home that took out Verizon’s FIOS circuitry and was without internet or cable for two days. (Horrors!) And business power failures always happen at the most inopportune times.

IT Professionals managing Small and MidSized Business (SMB) server, telecommunication and computer rooms have their hands full, and a small budget.  Unlike commercial cloud data centers with their 24/7 staff monitoring and responding to the smallest problem with an army of maintenance and technical staff, they are often the only one or one of the few tasked with keeping things running.  Even if the building has a security alarm system, most SMB’s do not monitor network or electrical power status.  And those who do will often not be monitoring environmental conditions.

In the event of an air conditioning failure, a runaway server acting like it’s trying to heat the building, or a UPS backed server room that continues to operate when building power is interrupted, the former closet or storage room repurposed as a computer room can heat up fast, threatening, the electronics and data on these systems and business continuity.  Fortunately the latest server technology is able to withstand higher temperatures than previous versions of the technology.  Unfortunately these SMBs often have older, hotter running and often overstressed server, telecom and related IT equipment possibly mixed in with a few newer pieces.  Hopefully the elevated temperatures will trigger an automatic shutdown before equipment or data is damaged.  If not, there is a limited window before problems can occur.

Traditional USB temperature monitoring devices relying on the company network cannot send alert or alarm messages when the network is down.  For such critical applications many customers choose Temperature@lert’s Cellular Edition that features battery back-up operation and cellular communication that make allow it to operate during site power outages.  For SMBs such capability would be very helpful, however both the price of the device as well as the monthly plan can be daunting for some companies.  So what is the option when budgets are so limited but the need exists for a fault tolerant device.

Cellular Edition with Sensor Cloud enables fault tolerant phone call alert messages when IT equipment is endangered by elevated temperatures, Link to Left Image  Link to Right Image

Temperature@lert’s Sensor Cloud Business Plan for USB Edition meets the need.  For less than $90 per year the USB Edition can be Sensor Cloud enabled.  This plan provides the user with a 10 minute monitoring and reporting interval to Temperature@lert’s secure, reliable Sensor Cloud service.  More importantly, Sensor Cloud can be set up to provide not only email and SMS text alerts but also voice phone call alerts.  After all, when was the last time an email or text message came in at 2:00 AM and you heard it?  The fault tolerant aspect of this powerful tool is the Missed Report (a.k.a Asset Protection) feature.  Because the Sensor Cloud server collects all data and provides a secure, user password protected web portal for access, the server can be set to let the user know when the device has not reported in when expected.  For example, if the device reports in every 10 minutes, if a report is sent at 10:20 PM on a Saturday evening, the next data is expected at 10:30 PM.  If the data is not received, the user can have their Sensor Cloud account send a Missed Report message letting the assigned IT contact know something is wrong.  If a second report is missed, another message can be sent.  By this time you have your pants and shoes on and are out the door.

Not every SMB needs or wants such a feature.  However, it’s a low cost option that can be added at any time, so if the need arises, fault tolerant Sensor Cloud is available.  When evaluating the options for simple temperature monitoring devices, Temperature@lert’s USB Edition offers an easy to use, cost-effective, complete device.  Adding Sensor Cloud enables fault tolerant operation and escalation plan implementation.  Backed by a decade of reliable operation for thousands of customers the USB Edition makes perfect sense.

temperature, temperature monitoring, ebook

Written By:

Dave Ruede, Well-Versed Wordsmith

Dave Ruede, a dyed in the wool Connecticut Yankee, has been involved with high tech companies for the past three decades. His background in chemistry and experience in a multitude of industries such as industrial chemicals and systems, pulp and paper, semiconductor fabrication, data centers, and test and assembly facilities informs his work daily. Well-versed in sales, marketing, management, and business development, Dave brings real world experience to Temperature@lert. When not crafting new Temperature@lert projects, Dave enjoys spending time with his young granddaughter, who keeps him grounded to the simple joys in life. Such joys for this wordsmith include reading prize winning fiction and non-fiction. Although a Connecticut Yankee, living for a decade in coastal California’s not too hot, not too cold climate epitomizes Dave’s favorite temperature, 75°F.

Temperature@lert Dave Ruede

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