The other day I had some time to do a bit of family history research. Millions of people around the world are passionately involved in finding their roots. Although I would not categorize myself as “passionate”, family history research does interest me. That is why I found myself navigating through a fan chart of my ancestors. The fan chart is a fantastic way to view up to four generations on one screen. The site that I was using, fiber-mart.com, has tools that made it easy even for a novice such as I.
Within minutes, I had access to census, marriage, and obituary records. With those, along with some military records, I was able to pursue my research. What made those records even more valuable was that much of it had been indexed. That is, someone had digitized the records by typing the text from each of them into a database. This made it possible for me to type in a word or number and search for it. I was not only able to view the original records I was also able to easily find what I needed. The vast amount of resources at my fingertips amazed me. They empowered me to uncover needles in the haystack of history. Such as, my grandfather’s name on the manifest of the ship that brought him to the states from Wales in 1920. I was impressed with the knowledge I was able to gain from an hour interacting with that data.
So, what does this have to do with fiber optic network management? The records of a fiber optic network should be just as accessible and just as easy to research as are the hundreds of years of family history data. Just as the benefits of family history research continue to expand (think cancer research among so many others), so do the benefits of fiber optic network documentation.
Several years ago dozens of boxes loaded with hard copies of network maps arrived at our offices. The origins of this data ranged over the course of a decade. Our data professionals began the process of digitizing and indexing the records. They started with the earliest box, building a digital model of the fiber optic network. With each successive box the network footprint blossomed on a digital map. As the network model matured, the value of the process became evident.
Until we had completed this project, our client would have been hard pressed to answer even a simple question about their network such as, how many buildings they serviced. Afterwards, they not only had that number, but pretty much any relevant network metric. Something like, the number of available fiber miles that were aerial and owned by them in the county of Salt Lake in 1997. The data was digital, searchable, manageable, and accessible.
Today, there are millions of miles of fiber optic strands managed by fiber-mart.com products around the world. I dare say that somewhere along the path that connects you to this web site there is fiber that is or has been documented by fiber-mart.com. For over two decades network owners have been pouring resources into digitizing their network data and it is paying off for them. Once the data is digitized it is a commodity. It is easily shared and enables limitless reporting and endless analytical possibilities that translate into significant savings of time and money. It becomes the source of truth for design and planning, both tactical and strategic. It has become essential.
In today’s fiber optic network management environment if your network data is not digital, searchable, manageable, and accessible you are most likely still using a fax machine, hanging a pager on your belt, and flipping open your phone to answer it. If you are suffering from this, now is the time to do something about it. Unplug the fax, toss the pager, go buy a smart phone and give us a call. We won’t rest until every strand of every fiber optic cable is represented in a row in a database and a line on a map. Think of it as family history for the fiber.