Regardless of the industry, your business depends on data. When it comes to ISPs and CATV operators, most business processes cannot run without access to up-to-date information about the network accessible to all employees. A network inventory system provides you with the most recent information about the network, gathered in one place. Let’s find out what are the benefits of implementing this solution.
With a network inventory system, you have access to information about all elements of your network along with their attributes. The data describes the network in both the technical context (devices and field infrastructure) and the logical context (their correlations and where elements like cables, pipes, etc.) and allow you to create a network that efficiently provides services to clients.
In the network inventory system, you can view your data on a map in a geographical context – the location shows who is within the network range. The system allows you to view the services and take the infrastructure into account. It also allows you to see what resources are used to connect the customers.
This variety of features makes the network inventory system useful for many departments of your company. The information stored can be used in operational processes, e.g. planning, building, and maintaining the network, as well as in sales or marketing activities.
One database – the entire network information in one system
Where do you keep information about your network? Before the implementation of a unified system, network data usually consists of schemas, plans, and projects stored as paper documents, AutoCAD or Visio files, and Excel spreadsheets. Let’s not forget the employees’ notes and information stored… in their own memory.
Finding and accessing actual useful information from all of these sources can be hard, and in many cases, there is a risk of losing the data entirely. With one unified database you can access all network information, and, to give just one example, you can easily track your services or cable routing across the entire network.
Unified description – network information comprehensible to everyone
In the network inventory system, all elements of the same type have one set of attributes (e.g. for a fiber optic cable: the number of fibers it contains, their color, attenuation, cable optic length, installation length, etc.). The only variables are the values for each attribute. The modeling method is the same for every node, and schemas for different parts of the network have the same description logic and operate on one set of network elements.
The infrastructure is modeled in the same way, regardless of the time of its creation – thanks to this, all the information about the system is unified and clear to the user.
Quick access to information
Assembling useful information from several sources can be difficult and time-consuming. Sometimes it turns out a piece of data is missing, and we only find out about it after having browsed many documents and files.
A network inventory system significantly reduces the time of accessing information and prevents errors or inaccurate data. Searching for devices, cables services, etc. is done in one request and instant response is provided. Network inventory gives you comprehensive, unified information on physical infrastructure and services.
Conveniently, you can access your network data also via a browser, meaning anyone in your company holding permission, can access the information using a laptop or a mobile device with access to the Internet.
If more employees in your company need safe access to network data, find out what NetStork WEB has to offer.
Better control and usage of network resources
Building a network is a big investment so using its full potential is crucial. If you have your entire network mapped in the network inventory system, you can see which resources are used to provide services to your customers, and which are unused.
You have full control over the occupancy of your devices, cables, and radio band. With this information, you know precisely if and where you might need to add a device when your customer base grows, or easily find an unused element that you can relocate where it’s needed. You won’t expand your network unless it’s necessary.
The lack of free resources results not only from the lack of physical elements but also from a network configuration that isn’t optimal.
Without the right tools, it is impossible to quickly trace all the relationships and see to what extent individual fibers, in each fiber optic cable, are occupied. Knowledge and control over the occupancy of the built network allow you to consciously achieve a network usage level of up to 90% without the need for further expansion. Statistics show that without a network inventory system, network utilization reaches an average of only 70%.
Quick verification of customer connection
To connect a new customer to the network, you need to know whether it’s possible and the building is within network reach. Otherwise, you need to build a new fragment. It’s not a problem if it’s only a matter of pulling a cable from the terminal block or fiber from a box – the costs of such operation usually fall within the budget.
It gets more complicated when you have to lay the cables over multiple poles or lay a fragment of an underground route – the costs are obviously higher, and you need to know that before signing a contract.
When you have a network inventory system, verifying this information only takes a couple of minutes, or even less when it’s automatically generated by the system.
If a piece of information is missing, you need to check the technical conditions in the field. Services that exist nowadays have various types of splitters and multiplexers and therefore, knowledge about cable occupancy is not enough. A technician has to check the actual state of the network in the field. When using an inventory system, on average 85-95% of cases can be verified without the need for a field visit – a huge saving of time and resources.
Your service sales are planned better
A salesperson wants to acquire as many customers within the already-built network as possible. With a network inventory system, they can check the network range to plan and target the sales activities.
With easy access to network data, the sales agent knows exactly which buildings can be connected and can identify buildings that are not accessed by other operators’ infrastructure. These buildings can be added to the system and be included in the next investment plan.
When a salesperson focuses on customers that are within your network range, it results in better usage of your resources and a higher ROI. It also allows you to reduce the costs of contracts with customers outside of your range. Expanding your network should always be aligned with your development plan and carried out only when you are sure that the capacity of your network has been saturated.
Better control over leased fibers, cables, and pipes
The network inventory system allows you to model your own network as well as networks of other operators. For instance, if you have a potential customer, who is outside of your network’s range, but another operator has cables that you could potentially use, you can model those cables and mark the fibers leased from the third-party operator in the system.
With all the information about leased elements stored in the network inventory system, you have control over the usage and end date of services and can better plan the further expansion of your own network (laying your own cables).
If you are using a third-party network, you need to model it (along with all leased elements) to efficiently manage the costs of your services. Usually, with the network inventory system, you can reduce the number of unnecessary leases by up to 15%.
Finding and fixing outages faster
In the case of a fiber optic outage, detailed information about the location is crucial. Without system network inventory, locating the faulty element can take a lot of time, while your customers are cut out.
Using reflectometer measurements, you can quickly locate points affected by the network outage. The network inventory system also informs which parts of the network are cut off so you can see whether it’s possible to switch your customers to different cables to provide them with the services they have been deprived of due to the outage.
If you know the distance to the outage site, it takes no more than 2 minutes to show it on the map in the inventory system. If you can switch customers to other resources, the downtime can be reduced by up to several hours. This results in higher service quality and satisfied customers. In the case of business customers, this means lower fees they are obliged to pay due to the service unavailability.
System costs and return on investments
While the cost of the network inventory system is relatively low and the implementation can be done fast, the process of feeding the data into the system can be tricky, regardless of the size of your business. This is why it is important to take into account all the potential costs related to this process.
However, if you already have a network inventory system and quick access to complete information about the network infrastructure, then it is the benefits (that we have describes earlier) that take the lead. The scale of benefits depends on the operator, the network, implemented data maintenance processes, and the willingness to use them as widely as possible. Feedback from the users shows that the cost of a network inventory tool usually pays back within 6 months to two years, counting from the time the system was launched and fed with data.
A network inventory system can benefit the operator in many ways, resulting in:
more efficient use of network resources
time savings of employees maintaining the network
faster location of outages and shorter service cutoffs
faster planning of network expansion
easier supervision of network expansion works
a more efficient sales process
A network inventory system – is it worth it?
Is a network inventory system a must for an operator? Absolutely yes!
Implementing a network inventory system is a time saver for telco and CATV operators: designers, GIS specialists, or field technical teams in charge of network maintenance as well as your sales team.
With access to up-to-date data about the network, you can quickly answer questions regarding the distance from the connection point to the customer, the location of the infrastructure in the field, the number of customers affected by the failure, the availability of dark fiber or the project costs in a given area. All this allows for more efficient customer service and will translate into higher work efficiency, and greater profits for your company.