Product Review: RF Code Sentry for Data Centers

For IT professionals, one of the hardest parts of the job is having “eyes and ears” in remote or “lit” places, such as branch offices, wiring closets, or remote data centers. When you are in the same location as the device, it is easy to understand the dynamics of the environment, but not so easy if you are not. Complicating matters further, IT professionals often have to place equipment in locations that were never designed for use due to construction constraints; These often do not have the necessary HVAC, power or other facilities required by the IT infrastructure.

For example, when I worked in the company’s IT department, I was in charge of our network but because the company was in an old historic building, I was restricted in where I could place our switching equipment. In this case, I had to convert small offices into wiring cabinets, each holding a pair of Cisco Catalyst 6500s, some servers, and other equipment. These rooms were very hot but too noisy for me to leave the doors open. Because of where they are, I haven’t been able to put in large conditioning systems. This caused the equipment to be shut down periodically, especially on hot days.

Managing these types of websites in the past was very difficult, but recently, RF . code About a new product called sentry That makes this task much easier. To validate the RF code claim, I reviewed the product, and here are my findings. All scores are presented on a 5-point scale, with 5 being the best.

Hardware Design

The Sentry is a compact and lightweight device with a thermal camera built in the middle. The device can be powered by either AC power plug or Power Ethernet (PoE). Network connectivity uses Wi-Fi or Ethernet ports built into the back of the unit. It can be easily attached to a wall, but its octagonal shape allows it to sit on top of a desk, server, or other flat surfaces on the site.

Overall, it is a well-designed device that is easy to install, operate and connect to the network.

Hardware design score: 5

Initial order

The product was relatively easy to set up and was done with a file Online portal. Once the basic account is set up, it’s time to add Sentry devices. This was done using the “Create a site” icon at the bottom of the screen. The configuration requires a unique identifier for the location, such as “San Mateo Branch” or “Boston Data Center”. I was installing the device in my home office, so I used “Acton, MA.” The next field is “Address”, and when one starts typing, the portal automatically fills in the site. My home office is located a very short road in a small town in Massachusetts, so I was pleasantly surprised that their database found the address.

Once the site is configured, the RF Code Gateway generates a QR code that the camera is pointed at on the Sentry. There was an audible tone when the camera scanned it and the device was connected. From there, the options were straightforward, including how to connect the device (wired or wireless) and choosing a DHCP or static IP address.

I’ve tried removing the site and walking through the setup process again, but there seems to be a problem deleting the site. Although there is a “Delete Site” option, it does not actually delete the site. I asked Sentry and they told me this was no longer a problem, but I couldn’t get it to work. This is a minor issue because I don’t see many clients doing this once they are done with setup.

Once the devices are configured, the RF Code Gateway contains a map showing the locations of the sites.

The configuration process was easy and simple although not being able to generate an exact address may be a problem for some organizations.

Score for initial configuration: 4.5

User Management

As one would expect, the RF token allows multiple administrators to work with Sentry information. Under the management menu, there is an option “Manage Users”. Under this option, the admin has the option to create another admin or a ‘read only’ user. Once the user is created, the administrator can decide which metrics the user is notified about. The options are:

  • Humidity
  • a movement
  • tampering / tampering
  • The guard currently
  • Room temperature
  • thermal imaging

User can choose “Select All” or “Select None”, as well as for faster management. The only option to receive notifications is by email, and although everyone has a mobile email in general, SMS notification would be a useful alternative. The company informed me that SMS push service is being developed, which is a good mobile option. Additionally, the ability to send alerts during specific time periods or daily windows will allow companies to allocate on-call alert engineers in exchange for making them “all or nothing.”

Setting up users is very easy and provides flexibility for hierarchical support. The only addition that would improve it would be to create more options for what users see.

Score for user management: 4

policy management

On the portal’s admin page, users can manage alert limits for various metrics being measured. Motion, Tamper, and Sentry cannot be configured offline, as one might expect because those do not have degrees of variance. For example, the Sentry is either turned off or not. The other three metrics contain policies that can be configured within a domain. For example, humidity can be set to normal (20-80%), strict (30-70%), relaxed (15-85%), or off. Room temperature and thermal imaging have normal/strict/relaxed/off ranges to choose from.

Ideally, the user should have the ability to create a custom threshold for the alert. In the initial configuration, it makes sense to choose a preconfigured range, but over time, companies should have the ability to customize the alert at a subtle level.

Score for Policy Management: 4.5

Ongoing Operations

Once the device is set up, the processes are straightforward and simple. There is a map showing the locations. When a site is selected, at the top in a large font, the key metrics are shown. In my lab, thermal imaging showed 74.8 degrees, room temperature 71.7 degrees and humidity 26%. It also offers a great graphic with easy-to-understand icons of different colors to help understand critical issues. For example, the violation of humidity is displayed as a red icon of a house and a drop of water. Below the list of icons is a date range so that administrators can visually see when the event occurred.

There is also a calendar icon that allows the administrator to go back in time and see when events occurred. If there are no events, the day will be blank, if there is only information, the day will be colored blue with the number of alerts, and if there is a critical alert, such as the temperature is too high, the day will be colored red, the number of alerts displayed.

There is also a Live Video icon that when clicked gives a near-instant view of what the camera is seeing. In my testing, there was a 2-3 second delay in movement in front of the camera and when I saw it on the screen.

The biggest issue I had with the operational dashboard was the frequency of alerts being sent to my email. When an alert is triggered, an alert is sent every few minutes. With critical alerts, I can see the need for this but with events, like motion detection, it would be helpful to have the ability to suppress the event for a certain number of minutes.

For example, if someone is working on the site, there is no need to send alerts as the engineer on site creates the alerts. This can easily be achieved via SMS responses or with a basic email response. However, with infrastructure management, more information is better than less, so an over-reporting error is better than an under-reporting.

The dashboard was simple and intuitive, and enabled me to get my eyes and ears off the ground although a custom configuration would improve usability.

Grade of running operations: 4

Summary

The RF Code Sentry is an excellent remote monitoring device, especially for a first generation product. With a list price of $800, it provides a low-cost way for IT administrators to manage remote sites. Before I became an analyst, I worked in corporate IT and would have found it very useful in branch offices and wire closets. I often had to rely on local administrators who were often at the lower end of the technical range, or I would need to drive to the site myself.

The product only took a few minutes to deploy and configure and started sending alerts almost immediately. Since the product has just been released, RF Code has created an excellent product to build more features on and I expect the company to have a fast and consistent dispatch of new features.

Improvements I’d like to see:

  • Granular configurability of policy management
  • More alert options like SMS or SMS
  • Time of day alarm for different users
  • Better accuracy in location information or the ability to add a location manually
  • The ability to zoom in and out on the camera

ZK Research Overall Score: 4.4

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