Once your P25 network is up and running, how should you manage it? The complexity of Public Safety communications is increasing, so network management requires significant experience and knowledge. Who will manage it? What should you monitor? How should you prepare for major events? Find out in this P25 Best Practice guide.
Managing a P25 network requires significant, up-to-date experience and knowledge, as the complexity of Public Safety networks continues to increase. The primary responsibility for system management rests with the system owner, usually a government agency, assisted by equipment vendors and local technical support providers.
These are not hard and fast rules. These recommendations are based on Tait experience and the informed opinions of industry players who have attended our round-table workshops and shared their best advice, based on hands-on experience working through typical P25 network challenges.
P25 Network Management
The cornerstones of P25 network management are:
- Network maintenance – maintaining operations of your system at the expected level
- Network optimization – making your network operate better
- Major event preparedness – being prepared for emergencies and events
- Network security – protecting your network from physical or cyber attack
Managing a P25 digital radio system is very different from managing your old analog system. The demand for sophisticated network management techniques and processes among Public Safety organizations is only beginning to emerge. This area of Public Safety operations will have to change significantly within the next few years, and adapt to the digitalization of older analog technology.
Monitoring a P25 radio system is very different from monitoring an analog system. The P25 radio network is made up of numerous components, which must communicate with each other.
Broadly, the components can be classified in three tiers:
- system-level components (e.g. network controllers)
- site-level components (e.g. base stations)
- subscriber-level components (e.g. portable and mobile radios)
In contrast to analog systems which often contain proprietary equipment and interfaces, open-standard P25 communication networks are generally IP-based. They utilize components (such as switches and routers) that make use of standard transport protocols (such as TCP/IP), and also include built-in IP monitoring that conforms to the standard Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP).
A variety of SNMP-based tools, from the simplest to the most sophisticated network management applications, can monitor all the components of your P25 network.
Proactive monitoring of Public Safety Systems is not common. Back in the days of software-free radio systems, not much could go wrong. As long as there was power at the sites, power amplifiers did not burn, and antennas were not damaged by lightning, your system was probably in good shape. Should anything go wrong, your subscribers would quickly tell you that their channel was not working. As a result, many people in charge of digital radio systems do not give monitoring a sufficiently high priority.
Dedicated 24/7 resource can be expensive, but your network should be monitored, regardless of size, using the approaches matching your needs and capabilities. Alternative methods to 24/7 Network Operations Centers (NOCs) include:
- system monitoring terminals at dispatch centers,
- automatic page or text messages to technical or administrative personnel in case of an alarm,
- ad hoc monitoring by local service providers (internal or external).
So while you don’t need 24/7 staffing if you have a good alternative system in place, simply maintaining the status quo for the many under-monitored systems is no longer viable.
As networks become more complex and interconnected, a virus brought into a dispatch console can cause serious issues for your entire network.
Your P25 network should be monitored regardless of its size, with management methods and resources that match your organization’s needs and capabilities.
So that begs the question, what should be monitored?
The elements of the network that should be monitored are:
- RF Equipment
This is but a brief explanation of Managing your P25 System, the full version of this resource is available for free. Download your copy today.
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